how to clean plastic water containers

How to clean plastic water containers?

It’s the age of plastics. And they are everywhere. But as we use them—particularly for holding water—the containers acquire silt, dirt, grime, algae, and bacteria over time.

Now, if these contaminants are not promptly taken care of, they may cause harm. And you wouldn’t like that, would you?

That’s why you have to clean your plastic water container as frequently as necessary. For it is important that the water inside a plastic container remains dirt-free and bacteria-free.

Something you can only achieve by thorough and regular cleaning of the container. A plastic water container is cleaned to remove algae, stains, sediment build-up, and slime.So, This article will help you to learn how to clean plastic water container.

How often should you clean your plastic water container?

Well, that depends on the size of the container, location, type of water it holds and degree of exposure to sunlight.

A small plastic container requires little effort to clean. So you can clean it as frequently as you wish—even weekly.

But you know that a large container will require a lot of time and effort to clean. Same applies to a container situated in a confined space. Or one that holds water for residential uses other than drinking.

A container exposed to direct sunlight builds up algae much faster than one receiving indirect sunlight. That’s why you clean every 2-6 months if the container gets indirect sunlight, but more regularly for that exposure to direct sunlight.

Which is the best thing to clean plastic water containers?

When plastic water containers collect dirt, grime, and dust, they get stained and discolored. That’s why you should clean them not only to remove the grime and improve their appearance but also to kill germs.

So the best solution to use is bleach. Using bleach kills bacteria, sanitizes the surfaces and whiten the material. Bleach can also be used alongside soap solutions.

Of course, white vinegar, laundry detergent or baking soda are good too, but bleach offers more benefits.

You can use CLOROX Bleach to clean you water container.

Steps of cleaning a plastic water container

Cleaning a plastic container is often an all-day event. But that depends on the size of the container. It can even stretch into the next day.

It is advisable that you get all things ready before you start. And if you intend to disinfect and refill your water container, you should also liaise with your water supply and sewage collection service.

Now let’s get started. Step by step, right.

Step 1: Draining your plastic water container

  1. Empty all the water from your water container by opening the tap or outlet valve to let the water flow out. You can connect a hose to the tap or open valve to direct the water to a location where no localized erosion or flooding may occur.
  2. You may need to remove any remaining water at the bottom of the plastic container after draining it. Use a coffee jug, plastic cup or plastic bucket to scoop out as much water as possible.
  3. Now, for any remaining water that you aren’t able to remove by scooping out with a cup or bucket, one of the following techniques may help:
  4. For a small plastic container that can be tilted up safely, do this to drain any remaining water.
  5. Alternatively, use a dry/wet vacuum to suck up the water remaining in the container.

 Another way, if only a small amount of water is left in the container, is to use towels to soak up the remaining water.

Step 2: Cleaning the inside of a plastic water container

  1. Prepare a cleaning solution by mixing hot water with laundry detergent, white vinegar, baking soda or 5.25% chlorine bleach. Mix 1 part of the cleaning agent with four parts water.
  2. With an abrasive sponge or bristle brush, scrub the inside of the container, moving your arm horizontally and from side to side. Ensure that you apply substantial pressure on the sponge or brush. Do this around the entire interior of the container, removing as much sludge and slime as possible.
  3. A brush with a long handle may be appropriate if you’re cleaning a large plastic container. Although it may be difficult to maneuver, it will reach the bottom of the container safely. You will, however, need to move the long-handled brush up and down and not horizontally.

NOTE: Plastic scratches easily, so you must avoid brushes or sponges made of steel or with steel bristles, which are harsh on plastic.

The inside of a plastic water container can also be cleaned with a power washer either by itself or with scrubbing, depending on how tough it is to remove the residue and sediment from the inside of the container.

You can get these above described items from below:

Here are steps for cleaning the inside of a plastic water container using a power washer:

  1. Fill up the power washer with the cleaning solution or water.
  2. Hold the washer four feet away from the interior surface you’re cleaning and then move it closer until you find a distance that would best enable you to remove dirt, debris, and sediment.
  3. Hold the washer in a way that ensures the water/cleaning solution hits the inside wall of the container at a 45-degree angle.
  4. Continue applying the cleaning agent/water until you’ve removed all the sludge and dirt from the walls of the container.

NOTE: Pressure washers produce a lot of power so wear safety goggles when using them. Also never point them towards another person or animal. It’s prudent to have a knowledgeable person in power washers teach you how to start and use them. Plus, you must observe all safety regulations when using a power washer.

  • What if the inner walls of your plastic container are particularly dirty and stained? Well, in that case, use baking soda. It will remove all the dirt and sediment on the inner walls of your plastic container. So how do you use it? Just sprinkle the walls with some baking soda and scrub them thoroughly with a sponge or brush.
  • The corners and joints of your plastic container need special attention. So as you’re scrubbing the inner surface of your plastic container, give more attention to its joints and corners. Usually, the residue and dirt stuck in such areas are quite difficult to remove, so they require much more time cleaning them out. To reach and remove them effectively, use a small toothbrush.
  • Now that you’ve scrubbed the dirt and residue out, what next? You have to rinse it thoroughly. The best way to do this is to use a hose to spray water down the inner walls, ensuring that you reach all the corners and nooks. A pressure washer filled with clean water can also be used.

Alternatively, the container can be rinsed by filling it with hot water and allowing it to stand for hours. Then, the water is drained off. After that, you repeat the process until the water coming from the container is free of the sediment and detergent.

Your next task is to clear out the remaining residue and liquid. Of course, for many plastic containers, it may not be possible to clear out all the remaining liquid or waste. For instance, if the container is too large, you won’t be able to tip it on its side and spray out all the residue and detergent from it.

That’s why attaching a hose to a dry/wet vacuum and vacuuming all the cracks, crevices, corners and walls of the container will significantly help to remove the residue. Once you have vacuumed it, you may use a clean mop or rag head to clean any areas at the bottom of the container that still retains some sediment.

You have cleaned the inside of your container, but what of the pipes and hoses? They too have to be flushed. To do that, pour some of the cleaning solutions into the hoses and pipes you’ve used in cleaning.

Then using your water pump, drive the solution through the pump to remove any dirt and sediment stuck inside. Repeat the same process with hot water until you’re certain the hoses and pipes are detergent free. That marks the end of cleaning, and your plastic container is ready for disinfection.

Cleaning with specific homemade solutions

Before we look at how to disinfect a plastic container, let’s briefly look at how to use simple homemade solutions in the cleaning process. The most commonly used cleaning agents are:

  1. Chlorine bleach solution
  2. Baking soda
  3. White vinegar
Cleaning plastic water containers with baking soda

  1. Prepare baking soda solution. Just add 1 part baking soda to 4 part water. Then mix well. The solution works well when you’re scrubbing off tough grime.
  2. .Now, dip a clean mop or sponge into the baking soda solution.
  3. Scrub the sides and bottom of your plastic container thoroughly
  4. Use clean, potable water to rinse the container. You can use a faucet or hose to do this, but that depends on the size of the container. For a more delicate container, a wet cloth would do.
  5. Finally, tip it over to dry. Alternatively, you can dry it using a clean, dry towel.
  6. And with that, your plastic water container is now clean and ready for disinfection.
Cleaning your plastic water container with the white vinegar solution

  1. Prepare a solution of white vinegar by adding 1 part vinegar to 4 part water. Then mix it properly. The solution is excellent for removing mildew.
  2. Now spray or scrub the inside of your plastic container with the solution. That is, you add the vinegar solution into a spray bottle and spray. Or you use a clean mop or sponge to apply the solution.
  3. Scrub the inside of the container horizontally, from side to side.
  4. Rinse the container with clean water.
  5. Then, dry it with a clean, dry towel. Or tip it over to dry.
  6. That’s all—your container is now ready for disinfection.
Cleaning your plastic container with a chlorine bleach solution

  1. Prepare chlorine bleach solution by adding 15ml of the 5% bleach into 1 cup of water. Handle the bleach carefully, so it does not get on your clothes. Mix the solution well.
  2. Using a clean mop or sponge, apply the solution to the interior surface of the container. Alternatively, add the bleach in a spray bottle and spray onto the plastic surface.
  3. Give the bleach solution 15-30 minutes to sit in the container.
  4. Now rinse thoroughly with water. You can use either a faucet or hose, but for a more delicate plastic, using a wet cloth is more appropriate.
  5. Dry the plastic with a clean and dry towel. You are done, and the container can now be disinfected.

Step 3: Disinfecting a plastic water container

Filling the container with clean water

After the plastic container is scrubbed correctly, the process of disinfecting it can begin. Using a hose, fill the tank with clean water up to three-quarters its capacity.

Adding chlorine bleach

To the clean water, add chlorine bleach into the container in the ratio of 50 part-per-million (ppm) to the quantity of water. The following guidelines should help you know how much household chlorine bleach (5-percent) to add:

  1. For a 250-gallon water container, add four cups of chlorine bleach.
  2. For a 500-gallon water container, add half-a-gallon of chlorine bleach.
  3.  For a 750-gallon water container, add a three-quarter gallon of chlorine bleach.
  4. For a 1,000-gallon water container, add one gallon of chlorine bleach.

Now, fill the rest of the container with clean water and allow the chlorine bleach to mix well with the water in the container. Leave the solution to sit inside your container for 24 hours, making sure no one gets into contact with the solution during that period—it is harmful to people and animals.

Periodic checking of chlorine in the solution

For 24 hours that you’re allowing the solution to sit in the container, use chlorine strips periodically to check the amount of chlorine in the solution. You should maintain a measurable reading of chlorine throughout the whole of the 24 hours.

Dip one of the strips into the solution and follow the instructions on the package to determine the quantity of chlorine present. When the level of chlorine isn’t detectable, the container must be filled up afresh with clean water and chlorine and the process repeated.

Draining the container completely

Now, use a hose to drain all the solution from the container by hooking the hose on the valve at the bottom of the container and allowing the solution to flow out. Direct the hose away from vegetation, river or any other area that can be damaged by chlorine bleach in the solution. Never drain the container directly into your distribution system.

You have to make sure nothing is left in the container. So scoop the remaining liquid out with a bucket, jug or cup. Then, use a clean mop head, towel or dry/wet vacuum to remove the rest.

Step 4: How to sterilize a plastic water container

  1. Start by draining all the water in the container completely.
  2. Next, clean the container properly to remove all accumulated matter from inside it. You can scrub or pressure wash the inside walls of the container to remove grime and dirt.
  3. Rinse the container to remove the dirt.
  4. Refill the plastic container with a solution prepared by blending potable (clean) water with unscented chlorine bleach.

Prepare the solution by adding 333 ml of the chlorine bleach into every 1000 liters of water—that is 3.5 ml bleach per 10 liters of water (1 tablespoonful or 15 ml bleach for every gallon of water). Make sure the solution mixes appropriately before using.

Alternatively, if you can prepare the solution by adding 7 ml of chlorine bleach into every 20-liter container of water, that’s okay for such a container. You will then top up with potable water, cap it and shake it well (by inverting the container several times).

  1. Pressure wash or scrub the inner walls of the container with the solution. Alternatively, if you are dealing with a container you can’t properly scrub or pressure wash, fill the plastic container you’re sterilizing until it overflows, then replace its cap making sure not to leave an air gap.
  2. Let the container to stand with the solution for at least 2 hours.
  3. After the 2 hours, empty the container.
  4. Rinse it properly with clean water, then refill it with fresh water. Allow standing for at least 30 minutes. The container is now ready for use to store water.


(a) If the container is located in a place that is not accessible for cleaning, fill it with the cleaning solution and leave it to sit for 24 hours. Then, drain it completely and then refill with clean water. But if the container is needed for immediate use, double the amount of chlorine in the cleaning solution. That will reduce the disinfection time from 24 to 8 hours.

(b) Only un-thickened and unscented chlorine bleach should be used to sterilize plastic water containers. The other types of chlorine bleach may contain toxic chemicals.

(c) Using chlorine bleach ensures the plastic container is thoroughly sterilized and appropriate for holding drinking water. The container should be rinsed properly so that no residual chlorine may give water an unpleasant taste, although it will be harmless.

How to get rid of algae from a plastic container

Algae growth is a common problem in water storage containers. The growth of algae in plastic water tanks makes that water stored in them nearly unusable.

Since algae is a bacteria that may carry toxins that are harmful to humans, animals, and plants, their removal from water containers makes for clean, usable water.

To remove algae:

  1. Add ¼ teaspoon of chlorine bleach to every gallon of water. The bleach not only kills algae but also stops its growth.
  2. Add some chlorine bleach in the container and allow to stand for 24 hours.
  3. After 24 hours, all organic stuff inside the container will be softened and cleared, allowing you to remove them by a simple rinse out easily.
  4. Rinse your container and let it dry.

Should you wash plastic water containers before use?

What about your new plastic water container? Should you clean it before use? Well, yes. Before you buy a container, it will have been moved from one supplier to another—handled by different people in different environments.

So along the way, it must have picked up some dirt, pollen, liquids and other materials likely to contaminate your water, which you need to remove from the container before use.

To clean your new plastic water container, begin by airing it out. That will help you to remove both seen and unseen seeds and pollen. A strong leaf blower or air compressor will get rid of all detached materials floating around your plastic container.

Next, spray down your new plastic container. In many instances, plastic containers are bought already stained with sticky substances.

So if you notice a strange smell, visible stains or sticky substances on the container, give it a thorough spray. With a simple hose, you’ll remove almost all stains from your new container. Dedicate your time to removing them, so you don’t have to do it again.

And what if the stains aren’t coming out when you use a simple water spray? In that case, a solution of white vinegar works best.

Prepare the solution and fill up your spray bottle with it. Then apply the solution on the affected surfaces. After leaving it for a few minutes, scrub it down. You can now rinse your container and let it dry.

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