Rain barrel hygiene! Have you been rain water harvesting without a clean up? Your rain barrel could use a good cleaning, its’ been a couple of years now right? Have you taken a good look inside your rain barrel lately? You may be surprised at what you find. A clean rain barrel is a happy rain barrel. Your rain barrel treats you right by working hard to collect all that rainwater that otherwise would be draining off into who knows where. This water can then be utilized around the house and garden in numerous ways. Rainwater harvesting in New Jersey is sure to create some residue, and rainwater harvesting where you are will too! So treat your rain barrel right and practice a little rain barrel hygiene.

Over the course of time your rain barrel will collect and accumulate all sorts of sediment and organic debris that comes into your rain barrel from your roof source. Perhaps pieces of grit, bird waste, pollen, dust, leaves, seeds, and other particulates that land on the roof you are collecting water from. This debris laden water enters your rain barrel and it is there that all this material settles out of the water column and forms a layer of muck on the bottom of your rain barrel. Many rain barrels also form a layer of algae growth on the interior of the barrel walls that eventually ends up settling to the bottom of the barrel.

So when it comes time for rain barrel hygiene how is this done? How to clean a rain barrel? Luckily the vast majority of rain barrels are very hardy types and will require a cleaning once a year with maybe a little tidying during the season. The barrel should be cleaned of debris and algae growth and the plumbing components and hardware should be checked at this time to. This bulleted list will give the steps you can follow when cleaning your rain barrel.


  • Drain, then disconnect your rain barrel from the down spout that is feeding your barrel. Place barrel to the side.
  • Start at the gutter canal that feeds your rain barrel to make sure that the gutter is clean and clear from debris. Rinse this gutter with a garden hose to be sure it is draining properly.
  • View the interior of the downspout to be sure that there is no material blocking the downspout that could end up in your rain barrel.
  • Place a new ½ inch mesh screen at the top of the gutter downspout to filter out larger debris.
  • Remove and clean, or replace the mesh screen on your rain barrel. Be sure the mesh is in good condition to handle the new season. This screen is to filter out smaller debris from entering into your rain barrel, thereby reducing overall maintenance. This screen also keeps insects or critters from entering your rain barrel.
  • Inspect the inside of your rain barrel for general condition. You are looking for cracks in the barrel, debris on the bottom, or algae growth on the interior.
  • Lay your rain barrel on its side and spray rinse the interior of the barrel to remove loose debris.
  • If you need to scrub the interior of the barrel a long handled brush will work well. Using a mixture of vinegar and water, or a light bleach and water solution; scrub the interior of the barrel’s walls and bottom with the brush. Then rinse your barrel again and let dry.
  • Inspect the spigot of the barrel to make sure it is functioning well. Clean if necessary.
  • Reconnect your barrel, wait for a good rain, and enjoy the best water available for your preferred uses.
Aquascape Rain Barrels New Jersey

With a little bit of time your rain barrel can be kept clean and operational for years of use. If you have any rain barrel tips or stories let’s hear them. Thanks for reading!

All copyrights to this material is solely owned by Mike Gannon.

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Hi and thanks for the very useful article!
The opening on my rain barrel is quite small. (Just samll enough for the hose from the downspout.) Suggestions for cleaning?


Try using a bottle brush (from Home Depot) to get into that line to clean and open it up again!

Mike Gannon

There are many type of brushes in most local hardware stores or big box stores like Home Depot.

Doug Chapman

re: Marilyn’s question about where to find a suitible brush — we found a large long-handled bottle brush at our local grocery in the home cleaning department. Also, check out a bed and bath store for a shower/bath brush, long-handled for scrubbing one’s back.

Brian Gordon

We have 10 large rain barrels that hold 100 gallons of water each connected to our downspouts. Because they were installed without screening on the downspout, they are now clogged with leaves, sticks, and even snakes. Us there something we can add to the water that will dissenting rate these materials?

Mike Gannon

Hello Brian, thanks for checking out the blog. You could add bacteria enzymes to the barrels to help break down organice build up, but a good old fashioned dump and clean may be in order! -Mike


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