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Compost And Soil Sifter: The Ultimate Guide

A compost sifter will come in handy after your compost has matured, whereby you will need to sift out the more massive woody or compost crumps that need to biodegrade further. As a result, your plants get readily available nutrients from the compost, and the fine particles are much easier to apply or use as a top dressing. This guide will take you through what a sifter is, how to use one, types of sifters, why to use one, and where to buy the best compost and soil sifters.

What Is A Compost And Soil Sifter?

A compost sifter relies on a piece of hardware cloth that’s made of galvanized steel to sift soil and compost, allowing only small-sized particles to pass through. A compost sifter comes in handy when dealing with fresh compost that still contains large crumbles of organic matter that could harm delicate shoots while applying the compost to your plants. While you can opt for a prebuilt sifter from the stores, it's much quicker and cheaper to build a DIY compost sifter using locally available materials.

Why Use A Sifter?

1. Uniform Compost 

You can use a compost sifter to sift out the compost leaving behind finely ground particles of compost that have a uniform size. Uniform compost is much easier to apply, and it easily mixes with the topsoil to deliver the nutrients to your plant’s roots.

2. Sift Out Larger Pieces That Require More Time To Fully Compost

The large pieces of woody material or organic matter that still requires more time to decompose can be easily sifted out with a compost sifter. These larger pieces serve a dual role in that they help inoculate fresh piles of compost materials with bacteria and fungi responsible for the decomposition process.

3. Easier To Apply

Finely sifted compost is much easier to apply as it contains small particles that can be distributed as required. The uniform compost also makes it much easier to spread around the garden compared to large clumps of still-decomposing organic matter.

4. More Readily Available Nutrients

Finely sifted compost delivers more readily available nutrients for your plants to absorb. The smaller size of the particles also means they are much easier to mix in with the topsoil allowing water to carry the nutrients down to the roots in naturally controlled amounts. Further reading material: link.

Considerations When Buying A Soil Sifter

1. Materials Used

When shopping for a compost sifter, it's recommendable to go for ones built with high-quality materials such as galvanized steel. Avoid plastic-based sifts as they will wear out much faster than the standard hardware cloth that's made of stainless steel. The frame should also be high quality to withstand prolonged use; it preferably should be made of a hardwood frame or a stainless steel one.

2. Size of The Sift

The size of the sift will determine how much compost you can sift through it at any given time. If you are looking to sift a small batch of compost, it's much more affordable to get a small-sized compost sifter instead of a large one that's more suited for large scale sifting jobs.

3. Cost

The cost of a compost sifter will vary depending on the build quality and additional aesthetics. While shopping for a compost sifter, you should come up with a budget that will guide you in terms of how much you can spend, depending on the scale of the operation. It's important to remember that pricey doesn't always equal to the best quality, and you should instead rely on actual customer feedback and reviews to pick out the best compost sifter to buy at each price point.

4. Scale Of Operation

The scale of your composting operation will dictate the type of compost sifter you will need to buy. While dealing with large-scale compost piles, it's more convenient to get a motorized compost sifter that can automatically turn the drum and sift out the compost without much labor. On the other hand, small scale composting operations will most likely require a DIY compost sifter or a small-sized commercially built sifter.

Types Of Sifter

1. SE Patented Stackable Sifting Pan

Where To Buy From:


SE patented stackable sifting pans feature a stackable design for easy storage, and they come in various sizes ranging from half-inch thick holes to super tiny ones measuring 1/100 inch. The wires are made of stainless steel, making them corrosion resistant. The outer body is made of hardened plastic that's weightless and easy to clean after use. The stackable sifting pans have a standard diameter of 13 inches.


  • Hard plastic frame that's easy to clean
  • Ability to select different hole sizes instead of just one standard size.


  • Some customers complained about the product’s price being on the higher end.

2. Achla Designs Compost Sifter

Where To Buy:


Achla designs compost sifters feature 3/8-inch by-3/8-inch opening mesh design that's strong enough to withstand corrosion and easy to clean after use. The compost sifter measures 15.75 x 19 x 4 inches (LxWxH).


  • Stainless steel build that's long-lasting and can withstand corrosion.
  • The sifter is equipped with comfortable handles for ease of use.


  • Some customers complained about the welding job on the handles as they became loose over time.

3. Safe Deposit 3 Stainless Steel 12-inch

Where To Buy From:


Safe-deposit 3 stainless steel soil sifters feature a 12-inch widescreen. The soil sifter can be used to sift compost as well and will do a great job, although you will need to use small batches due to the lack of a wall guard to keep the compost in. The firm also offers replacement sieves that can be attached to the stainless steel frame.


  • Easily replaceable sieves. 


  • Some customers complained about the quality of the sieves.

4. Electric Vibration Compost Sifter

Where To Buy From:


If you are looking for a motorized compost and soil sifter, then look no further; the Oukaning electric vibration sifter is the best choice. It features a 300 W 120 V motor that is powerful enough to vibrate and break down large clumps of compost and soil into a fine dust-like powder that's easy to apply. The sifter features a heavy-duty stainless steel build that will last for years, and the sieves can be switched out if need be.


  • The electric vibration compost filter is relatively silent due to less moving mechanical parts in its design. 


  • The product is rather pricey, and due to its weight, you might need to place a custom delivery order.

How To Make DIY Sifter

Tools Needed

  • Wire cutters
  • Circular saw
  • A hammer

Supplies Needed

  • ½ ich hardware cloth
  • Scrap 2 by four timber
  • 3-inch nails


  1. Use the circular saw to cut the scrap wood into size - you can either go with a rectangular or square-shaped frame. Ensure that it's at least 2 feet wide to give ample space to work with. 
  2. Use the wire cutters to cut the hardware cloth so that it fits perfectly on to the wooden frame.
  3. Use the hammer to secure the hardware cloth onto the frame using nails. The DIY compost sifter can be used by simply adding compost onto the hardware cloth and gently sifting it through. 

Further reading material: link

Common Questions

How Do You Make A Compost Sifter?

Cut a piece of hardware cloth, preferably one woven with galvanized steel, and nail it tight to a wooden frame of similar dimensions.

How Do You Make A Motorized Soil Sifter?

To make a motorized soil sifter, you will need a cylindrical sifter that’s coupled to a set of gears that are rotated by a DC motor. Read more here.

Why Do We Sift Soil?

We sift soil to remove large pieces of rocks or other inorganic and organic materials that might hamper plant growth in the soil.

Do Compost Piles Need Sun?

Compost piles need sun as they contain UV rays that exterminate pathogenic cultures in the compost.

Should I Sieve My Compost?

Sieving the compost after it fully decomposes is encouraged as it helps in eliminating large pieces of organic matter that might still require more time to decompose.

How Do You Use Compost?

You use compost to top-dress crops and enrich the topsoil.

How Do You Compost?

To compost, you have to shred the organic matter, both green and brown materials, and in a 1:1 ratio. The organic matter is then piled in layers, which are then inoculated with fungi and bacteria cultures responsible for decomposition.

How Do You Sieve Soil?

To sieve soil, simply place the soil sifter on top of the wheelbarrow and use a garden spade to dig up the soil and pour it on to the sifter.

How Do You Make A Soil Sifter Out Of Wood?

You can use a wooden frame to hold the hardware cloth in place while constructing a DIY compost sifter.

How Do You Sift Rocks Out Of Dirt?

You can use a soil sifter to sift out large rocks out of the dirt. Alternatively, you can use a gravel sifter.

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