Simple Ways On How Do You Sanitize A Water Barrel?

So how do you sanitize a water barrel?


When it comes to sanitizing a rainwater barrel there are a few things you can do. One of those is using a little bleach or vinegar. You can also use baking soda in combination with vinegar as well.


There are many people who do not think about sanitizing their rainwater barrels. That should not be the case. You should sanitize your water barrels, to keep the water clean.


Bleach And Water For Rain Water Barrels


Bleach and water are like a match made in heaven.


When it comes to cleaning anything, or most things, I love to use bleach. I know when I use bleach, it’s really getting clean. That the germs are really being killed. The same can be said for rainwater barrels and bleach and here’s why:


I will add a few tablespoons to a rainwater barrel for cleaning. Let’s say 1-3 tablespoons.


Then I add water and shake/roll the water around for a minute. This is about a gallon and a half of water. Then I will let it sit for an hour and pour it out.


I rinse the barrel out 2 or three times. Then it’s ready to get back to collecting rainwater! This has always worked well for me.


Drying Your RainWater Barrel


There are many ways to clean a rain barrel, and we’ll cover that in detail in a later post. But after you’ve cleaned your barrel, what’s the best way to dry it out? Someone asked me what is the best way to dry a rainwater barrel?


Well, there’s good news: you don’t have lots of time hand-drying your barrel with a cloth. Plus that can be pretty tricky! I would just let it air dry! This means that all the excess water will evaporate naturally.


I typically bring the barrel inside to dry as I will have the barrel open and don’t want any bugs getting in it. You don’t want to do all this cleaning and then get it “dirty” again. Then after 24 hours I will bring it outside and reattach it.


Baking Soda And Vinegar For Rainwater Barrels!


This is my second option when it comes to cleaning rainwater barrels. I typically stick with bleach and water but if you want you can use baking soda and vinegar.


You can use these separately or together. Personally, I have done this for two rainwater barrels before and have found the best way to use both.


I typically will put the baking soda in first and create a layer on the bottom. Then I will “spray” or spread it on the sides of the walls of the barrel. Then I will add the vinegar. Then give it a good shake and roll the barrel so that the vinegar and baking soda mix.


Baking soda and vinegar on their own make a great way to clean so many things around the house! I use them all the time for cleaning faucets and other grime that builds up.


You can use these separately on their own and they will do a good job.


You’re Barrel Is Getting Dirty


Your barrel is getting dirty, and you don’t want to be the one responsible for that.


So if you see any debris or sediment building up in your rainwater barrel, it’s time to get cleaning.


The first step is to pour out all of the water from your barrel. Then add some baking soda to the bottom and let it sit for about 15 minutes. The baking soda will help loosen up any of the nastier things that have built up at the bottom of your barrel over time.


Remove The Sediment


Once the baking soda has done its job, take a brush and remove all of that sediment into oblivion! And don’t forget to keep going until you feel the job is done! You never want to see sediment at the bottom of your barrel again!


After you’ve gotten all of this nasty stuff out, add one gallon and a half of fresh water back into your barrel. 


Then let it sit for an hour before pouring it out again (and rinsing a few times).

Check All Parts Of A Barrel


It’s not just about the inside of the barrel but the other parts. I always like to clean the lid thoroughly more frequently then a whole barrel clean-out. If any parts keep your lid on, they should be cleaned to.


The main thing is that you want all parts of your barrel to be clean. On the outside and the inside. If your barrel is clean on the inside but filthy on the outside your setting yourself for problems.


It’s the same thing as getting a cut. If you clean the area/skin the chances are less likely to get infected. If you haven’t showered in a while and do not clean the skin where the cut has occurred it could prone to becoming infected.


So please keep your barrels clean on the outside. I use soap to clean the outside monthly. It takes me 2 minutes to do. So why not!


Look Out For


You may have one or more than one barrel for collecting water. Or barrels in addition to water tanks. Whatever the situation you should check to make sure there are no cracks forming. You should check your water frequently for any signs of algae or bacteria growth.


It’s always better to get rid of bacteria sooner rather than later.


If you find algae/bacteria growing in your barrel you should do to things. First, scoop it out, and then treat your water with bleach. I would check your screens to make sure everything is working as normal.


Also, check the outside of the barrel as well.


If this continues I would do a full clean-out of the barrel.



The Best Offense Is The Best Defense For RainWater Collection


The best offense is the best defense, and rain collection is no different.


So you have a clean and ready-to-go barrel. But if the water that enters your barrel is filled with debris and sediment you’re doing yourself a disservice. So clean the gutters weekly. It takes 10 minutes to clean gutters if you do so regularly. If you do not then, it will take longer.


You should also have a rain harvesting collection screen. They are inexpensive but essential. I have two screens. One screen is a simple mesh in the gutter on the top. This way any debris that collects I can pick up easily. Then a rain harvesting collection screen that you can easily buy online. This is a part of the barrel/tank.


The Bottom Of A Barrel


Your barrel over time can be “eaten” away over time. The elements take a toll on most things, and that will be the same for your barrel. The bottom of barrels are the contact point between the earth and the barrel.


This makes it prone to leaking or disintegrating over time. So you need to not place your barrels on the ground/dirt. You can prop it up with wood but the best material would be concrete.


If I am thinking about buying a new rainwater barrel or tank I always think about what it will sit on. A foundation for any structure is essential! So buying a few bags of concrete and pouring a small slab will set you back a little.


Not Pouring A Foundation For A House


You do not need extensive experience to use lay concrete. You can use Quikrete or other products which make it easy. Throw in a little rebar and you will have a strong base for your rainwater harvesting. Not for a few years but for decades.


Additional Things To Protect Your Barrel


If you are able to build even a small overhead covering it will go a far way. If you decide to lay a small slab on concrete you could put wooden posts in it. Then put a small aluminum or steel roof.


A few feet of rain protection could help to increase the overall longevity of your barrels. It’s ironic because they are rainwater barrels. If you did this, it would be protecting the outside of the barrel.


What Do Avoid


The water you drink should be given the priority it deserves. You want to buy new food-grade barrels. Someone asked me if it’s a good idea to buy used barrels? I would say no because you do not know how they were maintained.


I would always start new, especially when it comes to drinking water.


You should also not buy wooden barrels.


You pay what you get for, when it comes to barrels. So keep that in mind. Would you rather buy one good new barrel or two barrels cause the first one was used? Think long-term!


Long Term Maintenance


If you are storing water barrels for an emergency, maintenance is key. So make sure you keep an eye on your water. I would add bleach every few months to keep the water clean.


If you are storing it for the long term, and not outside things are different. I would focus on keeping it cool and in a dark place. You want to avoid sunlight as that will promote the growth of bacteria and algae forming. Which you do not want!


I hope you now have a good idea of how to clean and sanitize a rainwater barrel.


Stay Safe!


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