Do Fingernails Decompose Naturaly? How Long Does It Take?

Do Fingernails Decompose Naturaly? How Long Does It Take?

Have you ever wondered what happens to your fingernails after you clip them? Do they decompose or just sit in a landfill forever? The answer is that fingernails do decompose, but it takes a while for them to do so completely.

Fingernails are made of a protein called keratin, which is also found in hair and animal hooves. Keratin is biodegradable, which means it can be broken down by bacteria and other microorganisms over time. However, because keratin is a tough protein, it takes longer to decompose than other organic materials like food waste or leaves.

What are Fingernails Made Of?

Your fingernails are a part of your body that you may not think about too often, but they serve an important purpose. They protect the tips of your fingers and allow you to do things like pick up small objects or scratch an itch. But have you ever wondered what your fingernails are made of?


Fingernails are made of a protein called keratin. Keratin is a tough, fibrous protein that is also found in other parts of your body, such as your hair and skin. It is made up of long chains of amino acids that are tightly packed together.

Keratin is what makes your fingernails strong and durable. It protects your nails from damage and allows them to grow long without breaking. It also gives your nails their characteristic shape and texture.

In addition to keratin, your nails also contain other substances like water, lipids, and minerals. These substances help to keep your nails healthy and strong.

Overall, keratin is the main component of your fingernails and is responsible for their strength and durability.

Interesting Read: Fingernail Clippers vs. Toenail Clippers: Which one should you use?

How long does it take for fingernails to decompose?

cutting fingernails off

If you’re wondering how long it takes for fingernails to decompose, the answer is not straightforward. It depends on several factors. In this section, we’ll explore some of the factors that affect decomposition time and the average decomposition time for fingernails.

Factors that affect decomposition time

The following factors can affect how long it takes for fingernails to decompose:

  • Moisture: Fingernails that are exposed to moisture can decompose faster than those that are not. Moisture helps to break down the keratin in the nails, making it easier for microorganisms to digest.
  • Temperature: Higher temperatures can speed up decomposition, while lower temperatures can slow it down. If you keep your fingernails in a cool and dry place, they can last for as long as a thousand years.
  • Presence of other materials: If your fingernails have nail polish or acrylic on them, they will take longer to decompose. Natural nails decompose faster than those with added materials.
  • Microorganisms: The presence of microorganisms in the soil can speed up decomposition. If you add your fingernail clippings to a compost pile, they will decompose faster due to the presence of microorganisms.

Average decomposition time

The average decomposition time for fingernails is around three months to 40 years, depending on the conditions. If the nails are kept in a cool and dry place, they can last for as long as a thousand years. However, if the nails are added to a compost pile, they will decompose in a few months, provided that the conditions for decomposition are right.

In conclusion, the length of time it takes for fingernails to decompose depends on several factors, including moisture, temperature, the presence of other materials, and microorganisms. If you’re looking to dispose of your fingernail clippings, adding them to a compost pile is a great way to speed up the decomposition process and contribute to the health of your soil.

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