How to Clean 55-Gallon Plastic Barrels

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Things You'll Need

  • Garden hose

  • 2 tbsp. of bleach

  • 1 gallon of water

  • Rag

Clean up old plastic barrels to use around your home.

Often used as rain barrels, 55-gallon plastic barrels can also become compost bins, trash cans or even a contained vegetable garden when filled with dirt. Regardless of your plans, it's a good idea to thoroughly clean out the barrel before you recycle it for another purpose. In addition to the initial cleaning, regular maintenance will keep your plastic barrel looking presentable and prevent the growth of mold, mildew or bacteria that could develop over time.


Step 1

Empty the barrel completely and rinse it out with a garden hose. Spray the outside of the barrel with the hose as well to remove any visible dirt.

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Step 2

Mix 2 tbsp. of bleach into 1 gallon of water to create a cleaning solution for your 55-gallon plastic barrel.

Step 3

Scrub the inside and outside of the barrel with the bleach solution and a clean rag.

Step 4

Rinse the interior and exterior of the barrel thoroughly with water from a garden hose to remove all traces of the bleach.


If you do not want to use bleach, you can mix together equal amounts of water and white vinegar to create a cleaning solution. Use this mixture to clean the barrel and you do not need to rinse it away when you finish cleaning.


If the 55-gallon plastic barrel contained chemicals or other hazardous materials, it could be dangerous to clean or reuse the barrel. Contact your local hazardous waste disposal center and ask how to properly dispose of any remaining material in the barrel before you begin cleaning.


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