Stinky Rainbarrel

Mableton, GA(Zone 7a)

Hey. I have several rainbarrels and I put mosquito dunks in them to keep out the mosquito larva.
One barrel in particular had a horrible odor and my daughter convenced me that their must be a dead animal at the bottom. It has no lid, so this is possible. (Just had 3 squirrels die in a small bucket of water, so now we are looking for screened lids.)
Anyway, I dumped 55 gallons of rainwater and no dead animal. I'm glad, but needed that water!
My question is this: What could be making the water smell so terrible?!
There was a very small bit of pine straw (maybe a handful) and some dirt at the bottom, but no algea or anything else. Not only am I wondering what could be causing the odor, how can I fix it? Are there any type of deodorant tabs or odor eaters out there for rainbarrels? With the growning number of people using them, I sure hope so.
Thanks for any help!

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

Did it smell like decaying material ~ rotting leaves & pine straw? Was it possible the barrel came to your house with an odor?

I don't know of anything to help remove the odor from water that won't also affect your plants. I will suggest if you don't find a lid that fits, try fiberglass screening. It is cheap and lasts forever. I cut a piece large enough and use a bungie cord or two around the rim. If a squirrel should land on it, it won't let go and it will also filter out the trash. It is a darker color and prevents as much algae from growing in water also. Just a suggestion for a quick fix.

San Francisco Bay Ar, CA(Zone 9b)

Can you describe the odour? Was the odor one of sulfur, mold/mildew, methane (the garbage dump smell)?

I personally would try adding some EM culture to a stinky rainbarrel. EM has cleaned up quite a few polluted areas and waterways (like ponds that turn green and stinky). We use the harvested rainwater for the garden, so a littel EM culture in the water would only be beneficial.

Mableton, GA(Zone 7a)

Showing my ignorance...what's EM?

Santa Fe, NM

Dropped by because I have the same problem. Mine get a sulfur smell sometimes. What is EM? I use the water on the garden, too. No complaints from the plants.

San Francisco Bay Ar, CA(Zone 9b)

LOL! Sorry 3 gardeners.....I've been so busy learning about the many varied and wonderful uses of this probiotic culture that I sometimes forget it's not a common household item......yet!

EM stands for Effective Microbes or Effcient Microbes, depending on which producer you buy it from. EMEric has been a great resource on the Bokashi and EM threads.

Here is a link to an interesting video on how some folks in Japan used EM to clean up pollution in the Seta Inland Sea:

Here are some thread from the Soil & Composting forum that will give you further info on how we are using it.

North of Atlanta, GA(Zone 8a)

Doesn't sulfur smells like rotten eggs. I remembered our well water smelled like rotten eggs while we took our showers but we didn't smell like it later, only while the water is running.

Rome, GA

I'm having the same problem with my rain barrel water. It smells like sulfur! I am planning to add some beneficial pond bacteria and maybe some barley straw.
While researching this issue online I found that websites that sell ponds also sell rain water collection systems and rain barrels and that made me want to try the beneficial pond bacteria. I don't know why this wouldn't work since the water in rain barrels have a lot of the same problems with algae as do ponds. And I'm sure it is the algae that is causing the stinky smell. I'll let you know how it goes!

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

Interesting to see this older thread surface again in springtime.

A younger man that we know lives off the grid and harvests rainwater for household use. ( not for drinking. )
Last year he taught me that pollen that gets washed off the roof and out of the air will ferment in the rainbarrel and get stinky. He says he waits till the pollen count lowers and there is a pending rain. He will dump his rain barrels (usually in the garden spot) and collect fresh rainwater to eliminate the stinky water.

I use my for watering the plants primarily so don't worry as much about the odor but y'all might try dumping and collecting fresh... Kristi

Houston Heights, TX(Zone 9a)

I made a cover for one of my "open top" rain barrels by sewing with fishing line the fiberglas window screen onto a hula hoop I got at the dollar store. I like to keep one open top barrel so I can dip water for some things and I first used bungee cords but they were inconvenient to take on and off, hence the hula hoop. I just lift it up and dip and put it back in place. I was worried about one of the neighborhood's cats falling in and I can see how a thirsty squirrell might meet the same fate. The screen/hula hoop will support the weight of a grown cat so I can rest easy.

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

Clever implementation. I will remember that.

San Marcos, TX(Zone 8b)

Mine gets stinky when it doesnt have enough bacteria to eat waste that comes off the gutters.

Ammonia is produced from waste and is eaten by a bacteria that then creates Nitrite. Nitrite is then eaten by another bacteria that then produces Nitrate. If you dont have enough of a certain bacteria, it will produce that smell. The same thing happens in aquariums, lakes and oceans.

Champaign, IL

It's difficult to keep a rain barrel absolutely odor free, but these tips will help.

When the rain barrel is empty, scrub it out with dish detergent and a stiff brush. Rinse it well with fresh water (you can put that water on your flowers, vegetables, or lawn too).

Screen or filter everything that goes into your barrel. Never leave an open top. Squirrels, mice, and chipmunks are frequent drowners in open-top rain barrels, and birds can drown there too.

Use a tiny amount of Barley Pond Clarifier in each barrel. Total Pond has an 8-oz. bottle you can find at many garden stores. Because 4 oz. is enough for 600 gal., just calibrate accordingly. Algae and pollen will not cause a harmful odor with this in the water.

The same company makes a product called Algaecide, designed for ponds and fountains. I've found it in 16-oz. bottles. The tiny amount of 6 drops treats 10 gallons.

Re-treat after each rain if the barrel runs over or if it was empty before it rained.

Efficient microbes (effective microorganisms) are also a super way to keep rainwater odor-free, but they can be expensive, difficult to find, and costly to ship. These microbes can be baked into small ceramic doughnuts or tubes, which can be put into rain barrels. They must be periodically cleaned with a soft brush, such as a toothbrush, and that's a lot of work. If you can find your way through the cost, the inconvenience, and the maintenance, these little jewels work like a charm.

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