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Water butts

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Question from Sylvia Woolhouse


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Help! The water in our waterbutt smells terrible and looks murky. We have a lid on the object but need some advice - should we empty it, clean it and start again (what a waste of water), or is there some way to clean the existing water and therefore be able to use it? I am loth to use it on any seedlings.


  • Views: 1711
  • Replies: 5
  • Posted: Sun. 5th April 2009 16:25

Water butts

Reply from Georgie

Hi Sylia

I don't have a water butt so I might be talking through my hat here but I'm sure I've heard that charcoal, barley straw or even goldfish (!) will solve this problem. In the meantime I doubt the stagnant water will harm established plants but as you say don't use it on seedlings.


  • Posted: Sun. 5th April 2009 20:22

water butts

Reply from Ann

Hi Sylvia, there is a product called Citrox and it is available from The Organic Gardening Cataloge on the net. It is a disinfectant safe to use for bird baths, cleaning seed pots etc and is citrus based. They say that it is good for adding to water butts too so you may like to have a look.

Good luck ! Ann

  • Posted: Mon. 6th April 2009 10:48

potassium permanganate

Reply from karen

I think it was Bob Flowerdew on GQT who replied to this question : potassium permanganate, - can't remember the dose but it was a very small jar I got from the chemist - try just a tea-spoonful. Its sold for athlete's foot I think, historically it was used to disinfect drinking water.

  • Posted: Thu. 2nd July 2009 17:12

Bad water good

Reply from Adam Rubinstein

Hi Sylvia. Mostly stuff that smells bad to us is loved by plants. It will contain loads of nitrogen so not ideal for v young plants as it will make them leggy and weak and disease prone but great for anything slightly more established.

If your water butt only has the inflow at the top and then overflows, the water underneath doesn't get moved around much so will get stagnant. If you add some pipe to take the inflow to the bottom (down the inside of the butt) then it will be refreshed each time it rains pushing old water out of the top. That should stop it smelling in future except in long dry spells but you'll use it up then anyway.

  • Posted: Tue. 21st July 2009 12:15

Re: Water butts

Reply from Ann

I know I'm a little late with this advice but there is a product sold on the crocus website that cleans your water butt and it will enable you to add sink water and washing machine water to your water butt and will make it safe to use. Hope this helps. Ann

  • Posted: Wed. 4th August 2010 16:30