How to stop a water butt smelling bad – Six foolproof tricks to maintain your water butt

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Water is a hugely valuable resource and therefore collecting rainwater for use is very beneficial in terms of cutting down water costs and the environmental impact of using tap water. Rainwater contains nitrates and other organic matter which can actually be better for your plants than tap water. For many gardeners, a water butt is an essential garden tool, but many may notice a pungent smell coming from the container over time.

Water butts are a hugely beneficial and cost-effective tool for the British gardener.

They can cut down the cost of water bills during the summer months and also act as a means of a water meter.

Garden water butts are also effective because they reduce rainwater runoff filling drains and septic tanks.

The garden water butt does need a little maintenance however or it can become more of a hindrance than a benefit.

Water in water butts can stagnate over time which can lead to strong smells.

Stagnant water is water which has been allowed to grow bacteria and which attracts parasites and insects such as mosquitos, dragonflies and flies.

Rainwater which is left standing too long will stagnate over time.

Often this may happen if you move into a new property and find an old water butt has been left on the property by the former residents.

How to prevent water butts from smelling bad

Use water regularly

The easiest way to prevent a water butt from smelling awful is to ensure to use the water in the container regularly.

Stagnant water often smells terrible, but if you use the water regularly and do not allow it to stagnate you can effectively avoid this.

Potassium permanganate

Add a pinch of potassium permanganate crystals into your water butt to avoid the butt smelling over time.

Stir the crystals into the water until it turns pale pink and this will keep the water clean.

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Add a filter

Another way to avoid water butts from smelling bad is to put a filter on the downpipe.

This will prevent debris from entering the butt.

As a result, this will stop items from festering in the butt which can lead to strong smells.


Make sure your butt has a well-fitting lid so you can ensure the water inside is kept clean.


Adding a layer of charcoal over the base of your butt is another way of keeping the butt clean.

Charcoal has cleaning properties and pulls out toxicities from items therefore it can be an effective tool to cut down on bacteria which may grow in your water butt over time.

Deep clean

Once a year you should completely empty your water butt and give it a thorough clean.

This is because you can get a build-up of silt, dead leaves and debris in the bottom.

To clean it effectively, empty the water completely and then scrub the inside with warm soapy water.

Rinse the container thoroughly before you reassemble it ready for the next time it rains.

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