Do’s & Don’ts When Making A Rain Barrel For Rainwater Collection

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Rain barrels are all the rage these days!

Did you know that 623 gallons of water can be harvested from 1 inch of rain on a 1,000-square-foot roof?

In terms of rain barrels, a typical 1/2-inch rainfall will fill a 50- to 55-gallon barrel.

Today I’m going to show you:

  • The biggest DIY rain barrel mistakes and how to avoid them.
  • How to make a rain barrel yourself 
  • How to prevent algae from growing in your rain barrel
  • How to keep mosquitoes from using your rain barrel as a breeding ground
  • How to winterize a rain barrel

Rain Barrel Do’s & Don’ts

DO keep pets and children safe by making sure your rain barrel has a sturdy top.

DON’T cook with or drink water that’s been collected in a rain barrel.

DO make sure all openings on your rain barrel are screened to keep out mosquitoes.

DON’T use old barrels that formerly held something toxic.

DO make sure your rain barrel adapts for overflow (either direct excess rainwater away from the barrel or link multiple barrels together).

This video has a good summary of the 7 biggest rain barrel mistakes that people make: 

And this next video shows some outside-the-box ideas when using a rain barrel to harvest rain water:

How To Make A Rain Barrel

Here are some fun and easy ways to make your own rain barrel:

This is a great video that shows how to recycle rain water — rather than letting it become wastewater:

3 Ways To Fix A Smelly Rain Barrel Water

If the water in your rain barrel gets starts to smell (or turns green), you have 3 good options:

Option #1 is to add goldfish! They keep the water very clean by eating the algae that turns it green. Keep in mind… when using goldfish as a temporary way to remove algae, don’t just dump the goldfish in a stream or river — because they’re invasive. Instead, give them to a child with a fish tank, or return them to the store.

Option #2 is to add barley-straw pellets. They will kill algae — but won’t harm plants.

Option #3 is to pour a small amount of vinegar into the water. It should clear it up relatively quickly.

As a bonus… the goldfish and the vinegar options (separately) will also kill mosquito larvae!

How To Protect Your Rain Barrel In The Winter

If you get below-freezing temperatures where you live, then your safest option is to drain the rain barrel before the very first freeze of the season occurs. 

Here is a good summary of your options, based on how cold your winters are.

This video shows how to properly winterize a rain barrel:

Here’s a good read: Top 10 Winter Uses For Rainwater

More About Rain Barrels

Here are a few more tips to help you make the best rain barrel set-up for your space:

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I like to help people find unique ways to do things that will save time & money -- so I write about "outside the box" Household Tips and Life Hacks that most wouldn't think of. I'm super-organized. And I LOVE to clean! I even enjoy doing laundry (but not ironing). I’m also a lifelong dog owner -- so I often share my favorite tips for living with dogs inside your home (like smart home design choices and dog-friendly cleaning & decorating ideas). Career-wise, I've been sharing my best ideas with others by blogging full-time since 1998 (the same year that Google started... and before the days of Facebook and YouTube). Prior to that, I worked in Higher Ed over 10 years before switching gears to pursue activities that I'm truly passionate about instead. For example, I've worked at a vet, in a photo lab, and at a zoo -- to name a few. I enjoy the outdoors via bicycle, motorcycle, Jeep, or RV. When I’m not cleaning, organizing, decorating, or fixing something… you'll find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun & helpful websites). To date, I've personally written over 200 articles about cleaning, organization, DIY repairs, and household hacks on this site! A few have over 2M shares; many others have over 100K shares.

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