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Managing smells that your Bokashi One bucket may produce

Written by Bokashi Composting Australia on July 5th, 2016.      20 comments


I am using my first Bokashi One bucket, which I bought very recently from your website. I have been adding kitchen scraps – mainly veggie and fruit and bread scraps, and hardly any meat or fish at all. It is now about three-quarters full, and I’ve just got the first batch of juice from it. The juice was very pungent – verging on unpleasant. Is that normal? I have been keeping the bucket in the kitchen, but each time I take the lid off to add more food scraps it gives off quite a strong smell that is not very pleasant in the kitchen. It’s not rancid, just a strong decomposing food smell. Is that normal? I live alone, so I don’t generate a lot of food waste. Given that, does it matter how long it takes to fill the bucket before I pass on the contents to my friend to use in her large compost bin? I don’t have space to bury it in my three courtyards. I am using the juice in my little courtyard and pot plants to help them thrive in small spaces. Is it okay to keep the bin in the garden instead of in the kitchen?


Pungent smells are not a good sign. What does the waste look like inside the bucket? Is there any mould? If so, what colour is the mould? If you have white mould growing in your Bokashi One bucket, this is actually a fungi and is a good sign. More of this white fungi is produced when conditions are warm. White fungi is a sign that the waste is fermenting rather than putrefying, which is what is supposed to happen in the Bokashi One composting system. 

If you see green/blue/black/grey mould, this is actually a sign of putrefaction, which is not what should be happening. As long as you are keeping the lid on tight, the drain is correctly in place so the food and liquid separates and you are sprinkling Bokashi One Mix on top, then you are doing everything correct. 

If your waste is putrefying rather than fermenting, then the problem will most likely be with your Bokashi One Mix. Let us know if that is the case and we will replace it for you. Bokashi One Mix is full of beneficial microorganisms. The mix inside the bags has been dried, which makes the microbes dormant. Once they are exposed to air, heat or moisture, they will activate again. 

If a bag of mix has been incorrectly stored or exposed to extreme temperatures, it is possible for these microbes to be destroyed, meaning the mix would be ineffective. This is not a common occurrence, but it could occur if, say, the mix was left in a hot courier van over the weekend on route to its destination.

Strong smells can also be due to high temperatures, which is something that is obviously quite hard to control in very hot weather. But there are a few things you can do to minimise the smell. Drain your Bokashi juice more often – twice weekly should suffice. But remember that more juice will be produced in warm weather, so if there is juice present in your Bokashi One bucket, try to drain it every day.

Food waste should be added to the bin immediately, but if that is not possible, some people collect their waste in another container and then add it weekly. If food waste sits on a bench exposed to the open air, it will starts to decompose immediately. This increases its number of bad microbes, meaning the good microbes in the Bokashi One Mix have to fight harder when added to the bucket to rebalance the bad microbes. If you are unable to add food waste as soon as it is produced, then it is recommended that you put it in the fridge, rather than leave it on the bench, until it can be added to your Bokashi One bucket. 

When the Bokashi One is functioning as it should, the juice it produces will smell fruity, or like vinegar, and will have white fungal threads floating on it or have a thin white skin coating. Foul smelling juice should not be used to fertilise plants; it’s best to just dispose of such juice by pouring it down a drain.

And to answer your question about keeping your Bokashi One bucket outside, this shouldn’t be a problem, so long as you ensure that it is kept in the shade and away from direct sunlight. It does not matter how long you store your waste in the bucket – it’s actually a case of the longer the better. However, if the waste is producing an unpleasant smell, it is recommended that you fully empty the bucket within a couple of months. When you do so, be sure to clean the bucket out well. And if you can leave the bucket out in the sun, for a day, this will help to get rid of any remaining odour.

Do you have concerns about the odour your Bokashi One bucket is producing? Share your comments below. If you’re interested in composting your food or pet waste and have questions about how to get started, then leave those questions below and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.


Graeme says ...
I live in an apartment, with no access to any useable ground to bury my fermented food scraps. Can I mix it with a commercial bag of garden 'compost' that I can buy from a hardware store? If so how long before I can add this to the potted plants on my balcony? Please tell me what is the ratio of fermentation liquid to tap water should be to add to my balcony pots and should I let this mix 'age' before using it. I have already killed several potted plants and now the (terracotta) pots will not grow anything even after replacing the commercially bought potting soil.
Eliz says ...
I've had a bokashi bucket for years and it has always had a strong smell, I just thought it was normal. I'll try some of your tips to see if I can reduce it.
Bokashi Composting Australia says ...
Hi Graeme
Rather than adding Bokashi One Waste with compost, just add it to potting mix. Have one part potting mix on the bottom, then one part Bokashi One Waste and finally two parts potting mix on top. If you add this straight to a pot for planting leave it for one week prior to planting. It can take 3-12 weeks for the waste to fully breakdown, it’s very quick in warm weather. Bokashi One Juice must be diluted at a ratio of 100:1 with water, the fresher the juice the better, once the juice is drained from the Bokashi One Bucket use it immediately.
Meaghan says ...
Hi there! I purchased my first bin just over a month ago. The contents of the bin didn't smell nasty when I opened it to add more - as promised, just a vinegary smell. We are a family of four that eats stacks of fruit and veg, so there wasn't much time to grow mould! Lots of juice has been produced, but the smell of the juice is not what I'd call pleasant. To be frank, it has an acidy smell a bit like vomit! But there are white bits in it, and I've been feeding it to my plants and they seem to be thriving. Today I turned the bin out into a compost bin in the garden, and the contents at the bottom are very wet and have the same vomit-y smell as the juice, and there is some white mould - not blue or black - in there as well. I mixed some straw through it in the hope that it will correct the balance in the compost bin. Is this all within the realms of normal, or am I doing something wrong? Oh - I've stored my bokashi mix in a non-air-tight container. Could that cause a problem? Thanks, Meaghan
Bokashi Composting Australia says ...
Hi Meaghan,

The mix is only activated when it comes in contact with moisture (the waste). The mix should be kept in the resealable bags that the mix comes in in order to keep it optimal and ready for use when applied to the waste bucket.

The composting unit needs to be carried out in an airtight container. Our buckets have been designed to facilitate the process of the microbes to get to work in processing the waste at an anaerobic level (no oxygen).

You can learn more about the bokashi process here: http://www.bokashi.com.au/Bokashi+One/How+it+Works/Helpful+Hints.html
Liz says ...
I have a food safe bucket 2/3 of the way full with bokashi compost.... it was healthy and fermenting when it was put in there 2 years ago. Through a series of events, we basically didn't know we still had it until I found it in our first garage recently. Before I go opening it, I'd like to be prepared for what I might find.... should it be fine? Will it be gross? Is it usable?
Bokashi Composting Australia says ...
Hi Liz,

It’s not ideal to leave waste in a bucket for over a year, however you may be surprised the waste could still be fermenting, just like a jar of pickled onions.

Drain off all the liquid first, it will likely have a strong odour, so do this outside and pour into an outside drain with some water. It will depend on if the bucket was exposed to heat and how much bokashi mix was on top as to what condition you will find it in when you lift the lid.

If it looks ok then bury in the garden as per usual, (Empty the contents into a small hole or trench in your garden and cover with at least 200mm of soil.) If the waste has putrefied, you could bury very deep in the garden away from plants, add it to an outdoor compost bin, or wrap in newspaper or a plastic bag and add to your rubbish. If you are ok to dispose of it in your garden or compost bin it would be a good idea to add some fresh bokashi mix on top.

Once empty, your bokashi bucket may have a strong odour, the best way to get rid of this is to give it a very good clean with hot water and then leave it out in full sun for a few days.

If you have further questions please contact us at sales@bokashi.com.au
Bethany says ...
Oh no!
I saw this blog after I put my very bad smelling bokashi bin contents into new potting mix in my new garden bed!
Have I just wasted lots of money and time and ruined my soil?
I didn’t notice any mould of any kind, but the contents of my bin did smell bad. It had meat and eggs in it, would that affect the smell?
I also didn’t let the juice run out at all for months.
What do I do now?
Do I need to buy more soil?
Bokashi Composting Australia says ...
Hi Bethany,
Can you give us a bit more information - is the waste in the bokashi bucket still fermented or has the waste purified, what colour is the waste? can you still recognise the waste? How long has the waste been in the bucket, and have you been adding Bokashi One Mix to the waste. I know you didn't drain the juice for months, what did you do with the juice when you add the waste to your garden bed? did you get rid of the juice or also add that to your garden bed. Was the smell putrid or just a very strong fermentation smell?
Bethany says ...
Thank you for replying!
I don't know the answer to whether it has putrified or fermented, but the colour of the waste was mostly brown. I could still recognise the big eggplant, stalks of cauliflower and egg shells. The waste has been in the bucket since November without drainage. I had indeed been adding both the odour spray and the grain mix to the bucket, but maybe not enough for the meat...
The juice I put into a separate pot with just soil, because I didn't have a container large enough to store it all. The drained waste went into the garden bed.
I couldn't tell you if it was fermentation or putrification odour. There was a definite rotting meat smell, but I didn't find it too bad (and I have a sensitive nose/stomach). My husband said it was disgusting, but then again I have an 18 month old with some crazy smells coming from his nappy so maybe I'm immune?
I'm sorry that's as specific as I can be!
Bokashi Composting Australia says ...
Hi Bethany,
All things considered, brown waste, discusting smell and waste in the bucket with no drainage since November, I would err on the safe side and not plant where you have buried the waate. I don't know the odour spray you are using, so I am not sure you are using Bokashi One, however with Bokashi One the liquid should not be added to soil, it should be diluted 100:1 and used as a liquid fertiliser, however as with the soild waste I would not recommend adding the liquid you have drained to your garden. Start your bokashi bucket again, use Bokashi One Mix, drain liquid weekly, and use liquid immediately after draining for best results.
yellow_prickles says ...
Hi there, I'm wondering if anybody can tell me whether it is dangerous (from a respiratory health perspective) to inhale the smells from the Bokashi when adding food, or when draining the Bokashi juice?
Bokashi Composting Australia says ...
Hi Yellow-prickles

It's not dangerous if you inadvertently inhale smells from Bokashi One Mix or Juice.
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