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A 55 gallon water container can be a great way to store water for your family in case of a water storage or contamination.  There are other options as well, but the 55 gallon barrel is a common one.  

However, even with these barrels being so common, it seems many people are a bit intimidated because they are unsure of the best way to fill up a 55 gallon water barrel.

So, let’s make it simple!

Step #1 – Decide What Type of Hose You Want to Use

In order to fill up a 55 gallon water barrel, you will need a hose.

Option #1 – You likely already have a garden hose. If this hose has been kept and used outside, I do not recommend using it.  You will not get perfectly clean water.  And if you fill up a 55 gallon water container with dirty water, you will get even dirtier water when you open it back up to use it.

Option #2 – A new garden hose.  You can go to the store and buy a new garden hose.  Using this will better ensure your water is clean when it goes in, but most regular ‘ol garden hoses will add a good amount of lead to your water.  If this concerns you, try option #3

Option #3 – A drinking water hose (a.k.a. a boat and camper hose).  These hoses are specifically made to handle drinking water.  They cost a bit more, but are the best hose you can use to fill up your 55 gallon water container.  You can find them a home improvement stores, or HERE are a few options on Amazon.

Step #2 – Open Your Barrel

Seems like an obvious step, right?  Well, the thing is that the “lid” to a 55 gallon water barrel is a bung.  It looks like this:

 And to open that bung before you can fill up a 55 gallon water barrel, you need a bung wrench:

If you don’t have one, you can get one from most home improvements stores, an emergency supply store like Emergency Essentials, or HERE on Amazon.

Step #3 – Clean It with Bleach Water

Now that your barrel is open, pour about 1/8 cup bleach in it (a little more or less is fine; this is not an exact science).  Add a few gallons of water.  Put the bung back on and close it with the bung wrench.  Now, roll your barrel around so that the entire inside gets covered with the bleach water.

Step #4 – Rinse It out

Open it back up and dump out the bleach water.  Don’t dump it on anything you don’t want bleached (like your floor) or killed (like your flowers).  Down a drain is probably best.

Step #5 – Move It to Its Permanent Spot

Now, before you actually fill up your 55 gallon water container, you will need to take it to where you want it to be permanently.  A full 55 gallon water barrel weighs close to 500 pounds.  You will not be able to move it once it is full.

Do your best to keep put somewhere cool, dry, and dark.  If you can’t meet all those requirements, still fill it up–just rotate it more often.

You could also put a piece of plywood under it as some people worry about chemicals from the ground leaching in.  Personally, I don’t believe that to be necessary, but it certainly can’t hurt.

Step #6 – Attach Your Hose to Your Faucet

Now you need to attach your hose to a faucet so you can actually fill up the 55 gallon water container.  You have a few options:

Option #1 – Attach a hose to a potable water source outside.

We have an outdoor spicket that provides potable water and others that provide irrigation water.  You DO NOT want to fill your 55 gallon water barrel with irrigation water.

But if you have a potable water source outside, you can use that.  Depending on where you are keeping your barrel, you may need an extra long hose.  Put it through an open door or window and then inside your open water barrel.

Option #2 – Attach it to an indoor faucet.

This is what I do.  Since we keep our barrels in our basement under our porch, this option means I can use a shorter (less expensive) hose.  Some faucets are ready made to be attached right to a hose.  Others will need an attachment/converter.  Just let your friendly home store employee know what you are trying to do, and they will help you find the right attachment.

Step #7 – Fill up Your 55 gallon Water Barrel

And finally, step #7 is where you actually get to fill up a 55 gallon water container!  This is the easiest step–just turn on the faucet.  I would suggest you have the hose pretty far down inside the barrel.  You may also want to have a second person standing there when you turn the water on just to make sure that the sudden pressure doesn’t cause the hose to come out of the barrel.

But once it is started, you can leave it for a while.  Make note of the time and then come back after a few minutes.  Use a flashlight to see how full it is. Then you can estimate how long it will take and get other things done while it fills up.

Step #6 – Add a Water Treatment

Once you have completely filled up your container, you can add some sort of water treatment.

About 1/4 cup bleach will make sure that any bacteria that might have sneaked in during the filling up process are killed.  But it will also change the taste of your water.  And since bleach has a short shelf life, you should rotate it every year or so–less often if it is in a cool, dark, dry place, but more often if it is in the sun or a hot garage.

You can also use chlorine dioxide.  My favorite brand it Aquamira.  Using this guarantees you a 5 year shelf life–so far less rotation, yay!  Plus, your water won’t taste like bleach.  But is a more expensive than bleach.  I get mine on Amazon HERE.

Step #7 – Close It up

Simple.  Use your bung wrench to close up that bung tightly.

An important–and funny–story

I got my first 55 gallon water barrel sometime in 2009. I was SO excited and proud that we finally had a significant water storage.  We were in California at the time, so no basements.  It sat out in the sun on our back porch.

Well, time came for us to move, which made me think about how I was actually going to get the water out.  (Remember, it weighed nearly 500 lbs. We weren’t going to move it to Utah full).  Guess what? I didn’t know how.

I know–embarrassing.  I tell you so that you know that all of us make mistakes, especially the first time around.  I was new to preparedness and a mom to four kids age three and under at the time.  You won’t get things right all the time either–but do something anyway!  God will bless you for your efforts.

Back to the story: It took two or three men to push the barrel over and dump all the water out.  Luckily it was on our porch instead of in our kitchen or something!

Lesson Learned–Get a Pump

Through this experience, I learned that I needed to have a pump to get water out of my 55 gallon water barrel in a way that I could actually use it (instead of just spilled all over the ground).  You can find an inexpensive pump at most home improvement stores, Emergency Essentials, other emergency shops, and on Amazon.

This one is affordable and works well.  It is a siphon pump, meaning that once you pump a few times, the water continues coming out without you pumping anymore until you stop it.  I actually have two in case one breaks. I really want to be able to get to my water!


So, there you have it!  Seven steps–plus a story and tip–for how to fill up a 55 gallon water container.  Any Questions?  If so, leave me a comment below!

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Last update on 2021-10-26 at 18:46 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API