Skip to content

Putting Your Rain Barrel Down for a Long Winter’s Nap

2013 November 21

By Steve Donohue

In addition to raking all those leaves, another job I do every fall is put my rain barrel away for the winter.  If you have a rain barrel, you’ll want to do this before a hard freeze can damage your barrel, valve, or overflow piping.

Emptying my rain barrel on a Fall afternoon

Emptying my rain barrel on a Fall afternoon

I have had a rain barrel for many years and often leave it up until after Thanksgiving, and I have never had a problem with freezing where I live near Philadelphia.

But when it’s time to pack it up for the season, your first step should be to drain the barrel as much as possible by removing plugs and opening the valve.  Every inch of water represents 10 or more pounds, so save your back and be patient!  While it is draining, I disconnect the downspout, clean the screens and filters, and remove the overflow piping.

Next, I open and check the inside of the barrel for sediment.  You’ll want to remove this dirt and organic matter to prevent clogging your valve and to start off clean next spring.  I swish the remaining water in the barrel to loosen the sediment and quickly turn the barrel upside down over my mulched bed to keep it off the grass.  Even fully drained, you might want an extra pair of hands to wrestle your barrel off its platform.

I store my rain barrel inside my garden shed for the winter, but you can cover it in place or turn it upside down in the yard.  The key is to keep water out that could freeze and damage it or the fittings.

The last step is to reconnect the downspout to direct water away from your foundation and prevent erosion.  As with any roof drainage, if possible, direct it away from impervious surfaces like concrete and asphalt to slow it down, spread it out, and soak it in.

With your rain barrel safely tucked away for winter, you can relax, kick your feet up and watch some football…at least until it’s time to start shoveling snow.

To learn more about rain barrels, visit or watch this video about the benefits of rain barrels

About the author: Steve Donohue has been an environmental scientist at EPA for over 20 years. Currently, he works in the Office of Environmental Innovation in Philadelphia where he is focused on greening EPA and other government facilities.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

3 Responses leave one →
  1. lyndon ogden permalink
    November 25, 2013

    Great advice but you could do a lot with the fallen leaves as they make excellent compost. Throw a spadeful of soil in with a load of leaves into a composter or and area where you keep compost and in a year or so you have amazing recycled value to add to your flower or vegetable garden. If you are interested in composting then this page is a reasonable starting point

    Thanks again. Excellent website

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. Joana permalink
    November 29, 2013

    The winter is almost here, so we should be prepared. Excellent advice.
    It is also high time to clean the gutters and the chimney and to prepare the garden for the winter.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. Steve permalink
    December 3, 2013

    Thanks and I totally agree about the leaves – not one leaf has left my property since i moved in 17 years ago. I rake them out of the beds and shred them and pick them up with my mulching mower and put them back in my landscape beds to breakdown as mulch.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS