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Water Butts STINK!

I haven't needed the water from my butts until this month and the water has been left to stagnate all winter.

The water absolutely stinks - putrid. I am afraid to use it on my plants, in case it infects them with a disease or something, especially young plants.

I have a new, young Rhododendron and Camellia too, which I have been told I should not water with tap water as an alternative. (Sussex: chalky, alkaline)

Am I right in thinking I can just pop in some sort of tablet into the butts to clean them?

Or do I have to empty and scrub them?

Any tips would be absolutely brilliant thanks!




  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 86,969

    I don't know of any tablets that will do that - don't know if others do - If you need to water anything with rainwater right now I'd dip a bucket into the top to get clean water and avoid the sludge which will be at the bottom.  Then  I'd empty the lot and give it a good scrub - some people use a very dilute Jeyes Fluid, but I'm not keen on using it for environmental reasons - I've just googled and found this - - has anyone else tried it?????????? 

    Does your water butt have a lid on it?  Mine do and I find that keeps the gunge to a minimum.  

    By the way, don't use water from water butts for seedlings and very young plants - use your tap water - it'll help prevent fungal infections etc. 

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • Alan4711Alan4711 Posts: 1,657

    Morning all ,i agree with Dove a good scrub which we do every winter with our buts and a little Jeyes  (lots of rinsing) ,i used a lot of water so the buts were quite clean,also in large buts ( 40 gallon )a table spoon of rapeseed/veg type  oil on the water surface to keep midge stuff out, water buts with tops tend to keep clean anyway if the water is used often enough, rain water we collected in winter lasted well into summer with no smell,so scrub em and top em.image

  • Rotten eggs whiff is hydrogen sulphide gas so decaying organic matter is in the butt. Just in case it is from bird poop, dead snails etc I would clean out the butt as Dove suggests.

    Then try cutting a pair of old tights into two leg sections; fill one leg with charcoal lumps (Nora Batty memories) and suspend that in the water then use the other leg section to stretch over the inlet hose to catch gutter debris. This should help keep the next fill sweeter. oh yes a garden peg on the nose to empty the butt then to secure the twist in the tight tops image


  • Alan4711Alan4711 Posts: 1,657

    Marinelilum r u suggesting us allotmenteers wear Nora Batty tights, and whos been talking thenimage

  • Hehehe! What happens on the allotment....stays on the allotment Alan.

  • Thank you for your replies and solutions!

    I imagine, as suggested, that this is not so much of a problem if you use the water regularly, have clear gutters, etc.

    @dovefromabove Thanks for the tips. Also, that cleaning fluid seems reasonable as a preventative measure.

    The butts do have lids. As Marinelilium suggests, debris from the gutter is possible. Liking the tights idea!

    Unanimously, good old elbow grease (and possibly some diluted disinfectant) will do the trick.

  • GWRSGWRS Posts: 8,410

    Temporary measure I would add some cleaning liquid , we bought some from Anglian Water , called " Refresh" which is made for Rainwater Butts & Storage Tanks

    However I do try and clean out the water butts at home  each year which I prefer to using chemicals but may not be possible for everybody

    Best of luckimage

  • I get from 6 to 20 pigeons on my roof and I presumed the smell coming from my newly installed water butt was because of their droppings. I thought bird poop was a fertilizer so have been watering my rhodos and pieris with this water and they seem to be thriving. If I carry on doing this will it become detrimental in the long run do you think?

  • nodlisabnodlisab Posts: 411

    Is the smelly water detrimental to the plants or is the smell just annoying?

  • I've been told this is good for keeping water butts smelling better...

    Haven't used it myself though but worth a try! image

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