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What is a Water Butt?

A Water Butt, often called a Rainwater Tank or Rain Barrel, is used to collect and store rain water.

They come in many different shapes, sizes and colour and are normally made from plastic.

The use of water butts has grown over the past decade as environmental issues like water conservation has become a major global talking point.

How does a Water Butt work?

A Water Butt is used to collect rain water which falls on roof tops and is transferred through gutters and down pipes into the water butt.

The water can then be used to water plants or wash cars.

Is Water Butt water drinkable?

Water collected in water butts shouldn’t really be drunk, although rain water itself is fine, the water can become contaminated when falling on the roof and passing through the guttering and downpipe.

Pollutants in the air can also effect the quality of the rain water.

How do I keep my Water Butt clean?

We offer two different types of cleaning products that will clear up any algea and cleanses rainwater.

FreshaTank Microbial Disc

Made from copper and silver, FreshaTank uses the natural biocidal effects of real silver that, when immersed in water, destroy germs including viruses, bacteria, fungus and water-borne diseases.

Just Water Butt Cleaner

Derived from plant extracts, non-toxic and safe for use near children, pets and wildlife.

Restores the natural balance in rain water, cleansing and deodorising through stimulation of naturally occurring micro-organisms.

How do I stop mosquitos in a Water Butt?

Mosquitoes shouldn’t really be a problem with most water butts as they have lids or don’t have any holes in them.

If you do get mosquitoes try adding a little vegetable oil on top, it will form a layer that sits on top of the water and won’t let the mosquitoes lay their eggs. The oil is plant based so shouldn’t harm your plants.

If you are using a water butt without a lid and are filling up your watering can by submerging it then using oil might not be the way to go.

Why use a Water Butt?

A water butt will lower water bills and help save the environment.

According to ‘waterwise’ website, outdoor water use accounts for 7% of the total water use, but in the summer this can rise to 50%.

If everyone used a standard sized water butt we could save 30,000 millions litres of water each summer, that’s enough to fill a reservoir.

Plants actually prefer rainwater, so why pay for treated drinking water to water your plants or wash you car when you can get it for free?

Can I fix a cracked Water Butt?

There isn’t a one fix solution for cracks in water butts, sometimes it will be cheaper just to buy a new one than to pay for the products to try and seal it.

I have listed possible solutions that i have found on various sites online but we can not guarantee that they will work.

  • Garden Banter Website Minor cracks can be sealed using butyl pond liner offcuts and a suitable adhesive applied on the inside. They will fail eventually. Roughen the surface to get a good key and make sure everything is perfectly dry. I suspect that the least bad cheap and easy option is Bostik clear although there are better adhesives which will soften polypropelene and cause the crack to heal. Leave for at least a week to cure. You want a thin layer a couple of inches of material in every direction around the crack and no air bubbles. Like mending an oversize bike tyre. The problem here is more that the right adhesives with exotic solvents (sold in bulk) could cost more than the replacement water butt. Martin Brown
  • Garden Banter Website I had the same problem with one of my water butts, I used a piece of the self-adhesive roof flashing on the inside of the butt. This was about 2 years ago and its still OK – (Tempting fate a bit now, I guess though. If / when the butt eventually fails I will cut off the bottom and use it as a compost bin.
  • Growfruitandveg Website I have a 50 gallon plastic water butt I have successfully repaired- a 10cm long crack in the base. Each repair lasts around 10 years before leaking. Remove, dry and clean. Drill holes at either end of the crack to prevent further splitting. Ensure crack is wide enough to be able to force filler to the other side… this is vital to prevent the filler from not gripping and being ejected by water pressure or ice in winter. If it’s not wide enough, drill small holes along its length all the way through. Roughen the crack and a 2cm # distance around the whole length of the crack on the outside using coarse sandpaper or wire wool. You need to have a rough surface for the filler to grip. USE: Plastic Padding Metal Filler or Plastic Padding water pipe repair.. these come as tubes of filler and setting compound. Mix as instructions – mix a LOT – you MUST do the entire repair in one go. Force the filler into the crack and all holes you have drilled. Be generous with it. (I used a small mixing trowel but the plastic stirrer the kit supply is OK.) Fill along the entire crack and overlap the sides by 1 -2 cm (see # above)… Smooth the resulting mess. Leave at least 24 hours to set in a dry place- ensure there are NO frosts .. cover if there are.Test fill..with water.. If it leaks then , it was not clean or you have not filled it properly.Always use plastic gloves when using filler.

    Hope that works. I have repaired mine twice in 20 years of use when cracked.

  • Chat.allotment-garden Website I fixed a short crack at the bottom of a butt at my house – I think it may have frozen down there and that’s what’s caused it. I fixed it using that silicone bath sealant stuff and a small square of cloth. I emptied the butt and dried it off. Then I smeared the sealant over the crack and surrounding area, inside the butt, having cleaned the area first. Then I applied the cloth and smeared more sealant over it. That was over a year ago now and its still ok.
  • Chat.allotment-garden Website I’ve had some success repairing several water butts with fibreglass but it’s a tricky business. As other contributors have suggested, getting the fibreglass to stick to the plastic is a challenge and, with a full butt containing 200kg of water, there is a lot of pressure to test repairs plus the butt flexes, which tends to loosen a patch. However, it can be done, so if you are interested read on…I wear disposable gloves and safety specs, as things can get messy with fibreglass. Thoroughly clean around the crack inside and out- I use alcohol to degrease; detergent and water would probably work but it must be completely dry before fibreglassing. Next rough up the surface- I do a couple of quick passes with a wire brush in an angle grinder. Cut a fibreglass sheet patch (using scissors) with plenty of overlap. Make up the resin with hardener, paint on area around the crack, stick on the patch and liberally apply resin on top, making sure it is well soaked and there are no air bubbles. The resin sets in just a few minutes so needs applying quickly and with confidence- maybe a test piece beforehand would be a good idea if you are not familiar with it. I aim to put a patch on both inside and out.Recently I’ve also painted a flexible roof repair paint on to the outside of the butt, I don’t know how much it adds to the repair but it looks good and I have a spare tin in the shed.Leave to dry and wait for the next bit of heavy rain to see how successful it has all been.Just getting a new butt is an easier and more reliable option, though personally I like to keep plastic items in use as long as possible. Round here damaged butts end up in landfill (or get picked up by hopeful gardeners!). Hope this is useful and good luck.
Should I empty my Water Butt in winter?

Many manufacturers lists in their instructions to empty the water butt in winter and leave the tap open.

The reason for this is that water in the water butt freezes and expands, and this could fracture (split) your water butt.

If you’re lucky enough to live in a place where it doesn’t freeze then you could leave it running all year round but it might effect your guarantee if it does get a crack.

I have heard that placing a ball which floats at the top of the water butt can help as the ice will push against the ball instead of the water butt, but I can not guarantee it.

How to connect two or more Water Butts?

You can connect two or more water butts together using a water butt linking kit.

When one fills up with water, it will transfer to the next water butt in the row, its an economical way of storing more water without purchasing a large rain water tank.

Just connect either end of the linking kit to each water butt.

How much can I collect in a year?

The amount of rain you can collect depends on the size of the roof you are planning to harvest rain from and the average rainfall for your location.

If you live in a mountainous region you are more likely to get 2-3 times more rain than the south east.

You can find the average rainfall on the MetOffice website.

Washing Vegetables

Rather than rinsing your fruit and veg under a free flowing tap – use a plug, wash and then reuse the water on your houseplants.

Multiple Water Butts

Put water butts on every down pipe that you have on the house, they will be invaluable for watering all year round, and save you using tap water, therefore keeping water bills lower.

Running Water

When turning on the hot tap in the house and waiting for the hot water to filter through from the tank, fill a watering can instead of letting the water drain down the sink!

Flushing Toilet

In our household if someone goes to the loo in the middle of the night we don’t flush! This does two things; stops anyone in the house from being disturbed in the night; saves water! We wait until everyone has used the loo in the morning before we flush. We do follow one simple rule that I believe is widely followed in Australia – if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down!

Brushing Teeth

Turn tap off while brushing teeth – it saves gallons!

Boiling Eggs

Every time you boil an egg save the cooled water for your houseplants. They’ll benefit from the nutrients released from the shell.

Leftover Tea

Don’t throw away unused tea in the tea pot or left over coffee but give it to your house plants. My Orchid is loving the unused tea.

Water Meter

Get a water meter. It is cheaper and makes you think twice about using water.


When you have a shower, put the plug in to store the water. Then use a large plastic jug to use this water to flush the toilet.

Washing Machine - Grey Water

Save water by collecting the grey water from your washing machine and using it to wash the car – I find the soapiness helps shift the dirt and then I just give it a quick slosh with clean rain water to rinse off the dirty suds.

Stop Plant Water Evaporating

Stop water evaporating by mulching plants with grass cuttings after watering.

Grey Water

Run an attachment from the outside drainpipe leading from the bath and washbasin to steer the water into a butt or similar container.

Morning Dew

In summer, at the beginning of the day, drag a stick or cane horizontally across the lawn to flick the dew off the grass blades. Those few drops provide a much appreciated drink for a thirsty lawn.

Filling Ponds

Use a water butt to fill pond, we use the entire water saved to replenish water lost from evaporation. The water is very friendly to the fish as no chlorine, and also the correct temperature.

Use a Watering Can

Use a watering can and not a hose to save loads of water (sprinkler for 1 hour is equivalent to water for 2 days for family of 4 – shocking eh!)

Hippo Bag

Put a hippo bag in the toilet water reserve so it uses less water (there is absolutely no difference to the way it flushes).

Rain Water

Only use rain water for watering the garden this will reduce your water bill lots. Water butts take up very little room.

Watering Hanging Baskets

When I water our hanging baskets, I put a washing up bowl underneath to catch the inevitable overflow. I then use this to help water the pots of flowers.

Leftover Water

Any water left in kettles, pans, steamers and glasses is poured into 2 litre plastic bottles. A surprising amount is saved. This is used every day to water indoor and outdoor plants.

Washing Maching - Spin Cycle

When using the washing machine, reduce the spin speed so that when you remove the clothes from the machine, they are wetter than usual. The excess water will drip on the grass, or plants underneath.

Sharing & Timing Showers

Timer in the shower + Sharing baths with hubby!

Hot Water Bottle Water

Use the water from your hot-water bottle to water plants (cool it first).

Washing Machine - Full Loads

Only put the washing machine on when there is a full load, if there is only half a load of whites and half a load of colours, use a colour catcher sheet and mix the loads.

Roof Sheeting

Cover the roof of your garden shed with plastic or corrugated sheeting. Water can be collected in the guttering and fed into your water butt. Water collection is 100% more than normal roofing felt.

Fish Tanks

Use the water from fish and other aquatic animal tanks to water your plants. The water is rich in nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus.


Only put the dishwasher on when it is full. This way you are not wasting any water and getting the most out of your machine.

Water App

Try downloading the app called “My Water Diary”. It’s great. You can track what you use to see if you can reduce it. You can measure your use over the national average.

Washing Car

I use the water from my water butt to wash the car using a Karcher power cleaner and a ‘butt pump’ to water the front garden.