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Super Moderator
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Discussion Starter #1
Most of you may be aware of the Skull and Bones method of rotting clothes. -Skull And Bone-

Well, we tried that back in May, but with no ponds to go grab scum off of, I was concerned that my idea of using the water cleaned from the fishtank wouldn't quite be good enough.

Then, I happened upon some sheet composting information, and figured it may just work for rotting clothes, too. Just cover an area with a bunch of yard clippings, cover that with newspaper, SOAK it, then cover it with a tarp So, we put some more clothes to use in a test of this with some grass clippings and a plastic bag for a tarp.


The "pond scum" method came out pretty much as expected. But...a little bad luck made them useless for our purposes.

Top half of a shirt that covered a bit too much.




Kyle finds a pair of pants...that had the entire front eaten away, making them rather pointless.



And, a fancy button down white collered shirt...only the right half survived, and didn't rot at all.



But, the question remained...just how would the sheet composting match up???

Peeling back the newspaper we were greeted with a most UNIQUE smell...and a bunch of insect life I had never seen before.



What remained of the shirt buried here...



The pants only had the seems, pockets, and zipper left. :eek:



We were not done, though.

Instead of tossing a bunch of holey pants that no longer fit Alec, we tested them in the sheet compost pile, and the results show just how you can fine tune the rotting!

Alec pants placed on top of the compost pile, show no rot, as expected.



Alec pants placed in the middle of the grass, not touching ground have very nice rotting.



Alec Pants placed at ground level and covered once again have only the pockets and seams intact, as the first pair (which was covered with a bit of dirt before the grass).




Clearly, it rots FASTER. You can dig it up ealier, or bury it up further in the pile to fine tune the amount of rot.

And, my understanding is that LEAVES make even better material than GRASS clippings for this sheet composting...so, as the leaves fall...maybe it's time to rot some clothes.
 

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Warlock
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Oh...my...god. This is freakin' AWESOME!!! I inherited a compost bunker when we bought this house and I was considering taking it out, but now, NOW i have a use for it. Thanks so much for sharing this. I can't wait to try some tests of my own. I'll be able to redress the scarecrows and finally make some credible zombie clothing. I'd tried the Skull&Bones method, but once the wife smelled the pond water scum it got added to the list of Things Forbidden right behind letting ants on the porch clean a fresh deer skull.
 

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Devilishly Dutch
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We've tried the skull and bone method and it didn't work. And we have a pond.
I"ve read your post now a couple of times. Maybe I'm just tired but I'm having a problem summing it up. So, the best rotting takes place.......in the middle of the grass but we should collect leaves?

MsM
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Ok. I'll go over it step by step as best I can.

Sheet composting is actually a method to KILL GRASS without using chemicals or backbreaking labor.

What is sheet composting?

1. Take the area, cover it approximately 2 feet thick with organic material: Yard clippings, leaves, chipped bark, whatever.

2. Cover THAT with several layers of newspaper.

3. SOAK it overnight with a hose, or a good rainstorm.

4. IMMEDIATELY cover it with a tarp or plastic.

Why it works:

The Tarp traps the moisture and heat (both from the sun and from the byproduct of the composting), and blocks the light. Darkness + dampness + warmth = PRIME rotting conditions.

For my test, the clothes rotted "best" in the middle of the grass clippings. In reality, you could get the same results by placing them at the bottom and digging them up in about 2/3 the time.

Rotting is effected by how long your clothes are in contact with the soil (rotting agents and insects in the soil to be precise). Those placed directly on the soil were completely consumed. Those in the middle had to wait for what was beneath them to rot before they began to rot, essentially. And how much of the rotting agent is IN the soil at the time of contact.

By placing the clothes in the middle, they spent less time in contact with soil as they had to wait for what was under them to rot first. But, by doing so, that soil was also more potent when they did make contact, and helped break down the clothing quicker at that point.

Now, to explain the leaves:

In general, grass clippings rot very slowly. As seen in the pics above, 5 months, and there are STILL grass clippings left to be rotted. In comparison, LEAVES rot very quickly. Reports of sheet composting with LEAVES tell of not only no leaves, but no NEWSPAPER left after 4 months under the tarp.
 

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Devilishly Dutch
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thanks for the additional explanation.
We don't have grass in our yard. We have a garden with a pond.
So, if I put a pile of leaves in my garden (which I normall do anyway to protect my plants)
and then put the clothes on the pile
cover it with newpaper
wet down the newpaper
then cover with plastic
How long does it generally need for the best rot?

MsM
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Well, the thing about a garden to remember, is that this sheet composting might kill your desired plants. It does generate substantial heat, and could damage some roots of any plants nearby as a result. Also, by sheet composting, you're adding about an inch of dirt once the process is complete. Some plants are sensitive to depth as well. So, I would just caution what you have planted near your pit.

As for length, I have not used leaves before, so I cannot say for certain. My best guess would be for your situation, you would actually want to place the clothes on the ground level, add the leaves over, newspaper, water, tarp, and check it in 2-3 months. (assuming warm, mostly sunny weather). You could always cover it back up and let them rot more at that point if you want to, which is one of the nicer things about this method, they're not buried down deep and hard to get to. You can check them fairly easy.

An alternative solution for your situation if you have plants nearby you need to keep safe would be to place the clothes directly on the ground, the newspaper directly over them, and the leaves and compost on top of that, then water daily, or as often as your local water laws allow, skipping the tarp/plastic. This is an alternative method that claims to take longer, but be safe for existing plants you want to keep.
 

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1031 Props
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I am glad you did your little test unorthodox. I was just going to bury my clothes and chances are i would've had nothing come halloween. Do you know if different materials like suit pants will rot faster than just denim jeans? I am more than likely just do a trial and error type thing and check it monthly to see ho progress is going. Just thought i'd ask though.
 

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Lord of the Cemetery
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If you're just burying them in the ground, or at ground level, I suspect the Ph value of your soil would have an effect on the rotting process, along with other variables such as temperature and moisture content.
 

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Super Moderator
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Discussion Starter #9
I am glad you did your little test unorthodox. I was just going to bury my clothes and chances are i would've had nothing come halloween. Do you know if different materials like suit pants will rot faster than just denim jeans? I am more than likely just do a trial and error type thing and check it monthly to see ho progress is going. Just thought i'd ask though.
In general, natural fibers rot better than those with more synthetic (some of which don't rot at all).

So, cotton, wool, etc are the things to watch for.


And yes, soil composition, moisture, and heat are the keys. If you have a compost pile already, it would be the swiftest means of rotting. But, LOTS of water, and covering with a (dark) tarp to hold in the heat and moisture are the keys to this method. The warmer your weather, the more heat, the faster the rot, etc.
 

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Thanks for the advice. It does make some great distressed looking clothing. And Texas certainly has the heat for this to work. I can see trying the pants in the middle of the pile with the leg bottoms contacting the ground so they'll rot faster.

But what's with the jeans pockets not rotting? I thought they were just thin cotton and would be the first thing to go, not contending with the zipper to be the last.
 
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