Winterizing a rain barrel is a must if you live in a cold climate like I do. Leaving it full of water when the temps drop below freezing could severely damage, if not destroy it. In this post, I’ll show you exactly how to prepare and store a rain barrel for winter, step by step.
The other day my neighbor asked me what to do with her rain barrels in winter. She just got a couple this summer, and wasn’t sure what to do now that fall has arrived.
We live in Minnesota where the temperature is well below freezing for most of the winter. So it’s a no-brainer that the water would freeze solid if we left them outside.
Once it freezes solid, the ice could damage or destroy it very quickly. That’s why it’s so important to learn how to properly winterize your rain barrel.
It doesn’t matter what material it’s made of (wood, plastic, metal, etc), there’s no such thing as a freeze-proof or winter-safe rain barrel.
But don’t worry, I’m not adding yet another huge task to your fall garden chore list. It is actually very easy and doesn’t take much time. Below I’ll show you how to do it in 4 easy steps.
Here’s what you’ll find in this detailed guide…
When To Winterize Your Rain Barrel
It’s best to winterize your rain barrel before the temperature drops below freezing in the fall. That way you won’t risk the water freezing before you have a chance to drain it.
If it’s already frozen, don’t bang on the sides to dislodge the ice, or you could break your rain barrel. Instead, move it to a sunny spot, or somewhere warm like a garage or shed so it can melt.
How To Winterize A Rain Barrel
There are just four steps you need to follow in order to protect your rain barrel from harsh winter weather.
- Drain all of the water out of the rain barrel
- Detach it from the gutter downspout or diverter
- Remove the spigots, hose attachments, and the lid
- Replace the missing gutter, or winterize the diverter
Related Post: How Do Rain Barrels Work?
Step 1: Drain The Rain Barrel
The very first step is to drain it. Before I drain mine completely, I like to fill up a bunch of jugs with the rainwater first. That way I can continue using it on my indoor plants.
To drain it, simply open up the spigot all the way, and let the water pour out. Once it drops below the level of the spigot, it should be light enough to tip in order to drain out the rest.
Step 2: Detach It From The Downspout
Next, unhook your rain barrel from the downspout. This should be a fairly straightforward step. The downspout tubing on mine just lays over the top, and is not attached to the barrel.
If yours is attached to the downspout, you may need a screwdriver or pliers to remove it. If you are struggling, don’t force it, you don’t want to accidentally break it.
Step 3: Remove The Rain Barrel Lid & Attachments
Next, remove everything that is attached to the rain barrel. This includes the lid, spigot(s), hose, tubing, and any other attachments.
It’s important to remove everything because if water gets between them and freezes, it could damage the parts and/or the barrel.
Step 4: Replace The Missing Gutter Or Winterize The Diverter
Don’t forget to reattach any gutters you removed when you installed your rain barrel, you’ll definitely want those in working condition come spring.
If you have a downspout diverter, it should come with a plug that you can install, or a lever you can switch over to winterize it.
That way, the water will run through the gutter like normal, and you don’t need to remove it to winterize it.
Related Post: How To Set Up A Rain Barrel Step-By-Step
Storing Your Rain Barrel For Winter
Before storing it, you might want to rinse the inside with the hose to remove any debris or algae built up. This is completely optional, but it’s a good time to clean it.
Storing your rain barrel inside a shed, basement, or garage will help extend its life. If you must leave it outside, find a spot where it will be protected from direct sunlight, wind, snow, and rain.
In that case, make sure it’s either closed tight or stored upside down to prevent water or snow from getting inside.
I keep mine behind some tall shrubs under the eves of the house where it’s completely protected from the elements.
Related Post: 7 Awesome Benefits Of Rain Barrels
Rain Barrel Winter Care FAQs
Below are some questions people often ask about winterizing rain barrels. If you don’t see your answer below, please ask it in the comments.
Can you use a rain barrel in the winter?
You can use a rain barrel in the winter and year-round if you live somewhere that never gets below freezing. Otherwise you must winterize and properly store it so it doesn’t get destroyed by the freezing cold.
How do I keep my rain barrel from freezing?
The best way to keep your rain barrel from freezing is to completely drain it and store it over winter. Store it upside down outside, or put it into the garage or a shed where it will be protected from precipitation.
How do you winterize a rain barrel diverter?
The easiest way to winterize a rain barrel diverter is to use either a plug or a switch to lock it into place so the rainwater will go through the downspout like normal.
Diverters are designed to stay on the gutter year-round, so there’s usually no need to remove it in the fall.
Can you leave a rain barrel out in the winter?
You can leave a rain barrel out in the winter as long as you protect it from the elements. Just make sure to store it upside down so the snow and rain can’t get inside to prevent damage.
When should you drain a rain barrel?
It’s best to drain your rain barrel in the fall before it starts to freeze. I recommend doing it before the nighttime temps drop below 40° F. It’s crazy how fast the water can solidify once it gets below freezing outside, so don’t put it off for too long.
See, I told you that winterizing a rain barrel wasn’t that hard! It only takes me about 15 minutes to empty, detach, and store both of mine in the fall. It’s one of those “low hanging fruit” type chores that I always find myself doing first. So get it checked off the list!
Did you know that you can plant seeds outside in the snow and freezing cold, and they will grow in the spring? If you want to learn how, then grab a copy of my Winter Sowing eBook. It will show you exactly how to start your seeds outside in the dead of winter. Download your copy today!
More About Fall Gardening
- How To Winterize Your Garden In The Fall
- 5 Essential Fall Garden Tasks You Should Never Skip
- How To Winterize A Pond Step-By-Step
What steps do you take to winterize your rain barrel?