outdoor clothesline with cotton garments with pink rosebush in the background

Can earthworms eat cotton?

By Priya Agarwal


Like we discussed in a past blog post, earthworms can eat clothing if it fulfils certain conditions. However, what about plain cotton? Let’s go over this question, and get you some answers.

Wait, worms can eat clothing?!

Yes! To learn more, you can read this article, but in a nutshell, earthworms can and will eat any clothing that’s 100% organic, free from pesticides, dyes and other chemicals, and lightly moistened. So if you’re in a pinch and aren’t sure what to give your worms to eat, you can toss in some old clothes. As long as you remember to cut the clothing up into pieces and moisten it, you should be good to go.

Can they eat cotton as well?

cotton ball

Indeed, they can. Earthworms are very un-fussy, and will eat just about anything that’s organic. So, if by cotton you mean cotton balls that are completely organic and chemical-free, the answer is a comfortable yes. If, however, the cotton has been sprayed with chemicals, it is not safe for your worms.

You can moisten organic cotton balls and feed them to your worms. However, it isn’t the most nutritious diet, so make sure to mix it with other things such as kitchen scraps so as to offer them a healthy, balanced diet.

What else can worms eat?

Well, there’s the obvious stuff – peels, cores, seeds, parts of veggies that you don’t want to eat. However, apart from that, there are some unconventional food items that you can give to your worms to eat. So, if you’ve been dining out or eating mostly junk food, these might come in handy:

  • Newspaper, cardboard and hay – make sure it’s shredded and soaked in water
  • Old towels – cut it into pieces, and moisten it
  • Moldy bread – grind up before giving it to your worms
  • Hair and nail clippings – try to ensure the hair clippings aren’t long
  • Garden waste such as grass trimmings, pieces of stem, and dead leaves and flowers

Avoid giving your worms colored or glossy paper, because the former may contain heavy elements in the dye, and the latter has some amount of plastic.

Other ways to reuse old clothing


If you have a lot of old clothing lying around and you aren’t sure what to do with it, this section is for you! It’s always a good idea to reuse and recycle where you can, and here are some great ways to reuse your old clothing, apart from giving it to your worms to feed on:

  • Use as a weed suppressant in the garden
  • Donate to homeless shelters
  • Use for cleaning around the house
  • Upcycle into new outfits
  • Turn into handkerchiefs, gloves, etc.

You know the best part? You can use old clothes in one or more of these ways, and after that, still feed them to your worms! Earthworms wouldn’t mind snacking on an old t-shirt that’s re-lived a life as a handkerchief, or a scarf that has lately been a duster. Just make sure the clothing is earthworm-friendly, and you’re good to go!