Does Human Hair Decompose? (Yes, Here’s Why)

Does human hair decompose

There is a common misconception among people that human hair does not decompose. This is primarily due to the problems associated with the accumulation of hair in places such as shower drains and other vital drainage systems.

However, human hair does decompose naturally. But since the process is so slow – it usually takes 1 to 2 years – it is difficult to observe. The reason behind the long decomposition period is keratin, the protein present in hair. It gives hair strength, endurance, and resistance against decay.

Read on to find out more about the decomposition of human hair and find answers to other related questions. Happy reading!

Does Human Hair Decompose?

Yes, human hair does in fact decompose. However, the process is long and it can take many years to fully decompose naturally. This is one reason why people mistakenly think that hair does not decompose at all. The process is very slow and can not be observed on a daily basis.

Since the natural decomposition of hair is so slow, it can create a variety of problems such as clogging drainage systems and accumulating in unwanted places. Accumulation of hair can also bring about hygiene-related issues, especially if you’re living in shared accommodation and sharing resources. 

Surprisingly, there are certain environmental problems associated with the natural decomposition of human hair. During the process, hair is broken down into its base elements, namely sulfur, nitrogen, and carbon. 

Among these elements, nitrogen can cause the greatest environmental damage. Nitrogen produced during the decomposition of human hair can contaminate water systems and can be a major source of concern.

How Long Does it Take for Hair to Decompose?

How long exactly, does it take for human hair to fully decompose naturally? To answer this question, scientists have conducted plenty of research, and most studies have concluded that the process usually takes between 1 and 2 years. This duration can depend on a number of environmental factors.

The reason behind the long decomposition period of hair is simple. Human hair naturally has certain properties that allow it to actually resist decay or decomposition and prevent it from falling out. 

This can be easily observed. The hair on your body normally doesn’t fall out or decay easily, and it takes a really sharp pull or tug to take one out. Human hair is made from keratin, which is a protein that gives hair a strong structure, strength, and endurance. Since keratin isn’t easily broken down, hair takes a long time to decompose.

How Can Human Hair be Recycled?

As we discussed previously, discarded human hair can be a big source of environmental pollution and has the potential to block drainage systems. In addition, it can create a variety of other problems in shared urban spaces. Due to its problematic nature, human hair should be handled and disposed of properly. Alternatively, it can be recycled.

Here are some ways in which human hair can be recycled:

  1. Can be reused in textiles, arts, jewelry, etc.
  2. Cut human hair can be donated (this would require a substantial amount of hair to be cut and donated)
  3. Human hair is commonly used to make wigs

In a nutshell, there are a variety of ways in which human hair can be recycled and prevented from becoming environmental waste. Not only is recycling hair good for the environment but it can also help out people who actually need it. Check out this guide to discover more ways in which human hair can be recycled.

Does Hair Decay After Death?

This is another common question people have about human hair. Does it decay after death as the rest of the body does? The answer is yes, hair does decay after death, but it is normally one of the very last things to decay. As we mentioned previously, hair takes between 1 and 2 years to decay in natural conditions. 

Since hair is made of the protein keratin, it is very difficult to break down. Keratin is very resilient and resists decay by enzymes and microbes. This is why hair is one of the last components of your body to decompose.

The rate at which hair decomposes after death largely depends on the environment and the soil the body is buried in. Factors such as soil, chemicals, and the presence of microbes can either speed up the rate of decomposition or slow it down. Hair takes longer to decompose in dry conditions where the soil doesn’t contain many microbes. 

Can Human Hair be Used as Fertilizer?

This may come as a surprise to you, but human hair can actually be used as fertilizer. Fertilizer provides plants with essential nutrients such as nitrogen that help them grow and thrive. Since discarded hair releases nitrogen as it decomposes, it can become a vital source of the nutrient for plants.

Researchers have conducted numerous studies and experiments to test out hair as a fertilizer for different types of plants. In such experiments, hair has proven to be a good source of nitrogen for plants and hair-fertilized plants have had higher yields compared to untreated plants.

While human hair is a cheap alternative to chemical fertilizer, there are certain disadvantages associated with it. Since hair takes a long time to decompose and produce nitrogen, it doesn’t act as fast as chemical fertilizer does. Fast-growing plants grow better if treated with chemical fertilizer instead of hair.

Check out this excellent guide about using human hair as fertilizer and its pros and cons.

Final Thoughts

To sum it up, human hair does indeed decompose but it takes a long time to do so in natural conditions. The decomposition period of human hair after death is typically between 1 and 2 years; however, it can vary depending on the burial environment and soil conditions. 

Since discarded human hair can cause many problems such as drain blockage and environmental pollution, recycling is one way to avoid these problems. Human hair can be recycled in a number of ways, many of which we covered in this guide. 

Thank you for reading!

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