Cleaning Water Buckets

Q. I'm concerned about keeping our horse's water buckets clean. In summer and winter (heated buckets) there is always scum on the inside. So far, I have spritzed them every day with a weak bleach solution followed by a spritz of club soda with separate sponges. My friend commented that I might not be getting all the bleach out; however, I do rinse with plain water as the last step. Any comments or alternatives?


A. You should scrub the inside of the buckets (I assume they are rubber or plastic) with a brush, such as a stiff toilet brush (the handle is handy) or general household scrub brush, then rinse with potable (drinkable) water. Routinely, this is all that is needed on a daily basis.

If there is a disease problem at the farm, or if it is a facility where drinking buckets are switched between horses, then the buckets should be scrubbed, rinsed, then washed with a mild detergent (e.g., Tide), and rinsed. A bleach solution (follow directions on the label) should be swished in the bucket and allowed to remain for 5-10 minutes, then thoroughly rinsed again. You might also want to look at a disinfection article I wrote for The Horse in November of 1999 ("Lots of Elbow Grease for Disinfection Project"). If you need information on disinfecting stalls, see article #910 at

About the Author

Roberta Dwyer, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVPM

Roberta Dwyer, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVPM, is a professor within the University of Kentucky's Maxwell H. Gluck Equine Research Center and editor of Equine Disease Quarterly.

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