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Small Cabin Forum / Off-Grid Living / Pointers on how to properly clean rainwater storage tanks
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# Posted: 25 Oct 2021 10:08

The rain water collecting system in my cabin is very straight forward: sloped asphalt shingles roof (yuck!) with gutters that bring the water to (2) 500 gals tanks above ground.

It is getting colder so I decided to empty one of the tanks, the tank which receives the first water out of the roof.

I have no idea how to clean inside the tank but I suspect it is a good idea to do so.

And since this is new grounds to me, I would like to hear other's perspective and advices.

The very first thing I would like to understand is whether I should disconnect the 4" PVC pipes from the tank then flip the tank on its side to clean it OR if I should be able to clean it in place.

How do you clean your above-ground water tanks?

# Posted: 25 Oct 2021 10:24 - Edited by: jhp

I use 55 gallon barrels but I think you could do the same procedure. Since you can get the lid off the scrubbing should be a lot easier.

First I disconnect everything including spigots and other connections.

Second I will get a couple gallons of water very hot and put them in the barrel with a huge shot of Dawn antibacterial dish soap. I will then roll the barrels for a few minutes to agitate, then scrub the interior walls with a large bottle brush on a long handle. By this point the barrel is probably 3/4 full of suds.

Dump the soap water, replace with a couple gallons of clean water. Agitate, dump, repeat until the water comes out clean.

I'll do this soap and water clean 2 or 3 times per barrel.

The last time I'll add the hot water with 2 cups of bleach and no soap. Then I'll slowly roll the barrel around until the entire inside has had the hot water on it for a minute or so to sanitize all interior surfaces. Dump it, rinse it, and put it back in service.

I do this once a year in the fall before taking it out of service for the winter. By spring if I still have a slight bleach odor I put it back in service. If it smells at all musty I'll repeat the bleach sanitize part.

When I'm done there is a heavy bleach odor but it dissipates by the time it refills with water.

# Posted: 25 Oct 2021 10:44

my drain is on the bottom of my tote which I use to drain for winterizing. I just hook my drain hose to it and leave that valve open. Use my water supply pump and hose to spray and agitate the dirt that accumulates on the bottom and let it drain out. Takes a few times. Once its basically clean (no need to be spotless), I fill it back up and add the appropriate amount of bleach and call it good.

I only do this every few years, but I do filter my water when I fill it so it doesn't get all that much sediment.

# Posted: 25 Oct 2021 14:12 - Edited by: gcrank1

From the look of the inside Id say it has been perhaps only casually 'maintained' as is.
Before getting to the cleaning question may I ask 'does this have a self flushing diverter for the down-spout/inlet' to the tanks? If not, take a look online, there is buco info about commercial and (my fav) diy systems. What I like is how they help keep a LOT of junk out of the tank to begin with. If you dont have such yet plan on it for next season.
Having cleaned a lot of stuff since my youth back on the farm I suggest you tip the tank on its side and elevate the back/bottom so junk can run out. Then pressure wash the inside very well, set upright, add some clean water with some bleach and swish it all around and let sit a bit. Re-swish and dump.
Cap off for the winter and you should be good to go come next season when you have the 'flushing diverter' installed before the first big rains.
Our black 'pickle barrel' utility water rain-barrel decently maintained stays pretty clean season to season after the first time big clean. About the 1st of each month in season I pour in a good dollop of bleach and stir it in. We have NO odor and nothing obvious growing in there. At first I though Id get a water test just to know, may still do it, but this has been the best rain-barrel rig we've had over 2 cabins and 38yrs.

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