Clean Water for Horses: Poll Results

More than 1,550 readers of responded to a poll asking, "How often do you clean automatic waterers or water troughs?"

results of poll on cleaning out water troughs and automatic waterers

Results were as follows: 
  • Weekly 43.04% (668)
  • When they look dirty 25.26% (392)
  • Daily 21.13% (328)
  • Monthly 8.05% (125)
  • Once or twice a year 2.51% (39)

Readers shared tips on cleaning out their automatic waterers and water troughs in the comments below.

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  • I check my automatic waterer daily. I just flush it with fresh water and wipe it out.
  • As soon as it is dirty or shows any signs of slim
  • I also add a very small amount of bleach to the waterer. The clorox co. can give you a safe amt.
  • Keep a kitchen long handled vegetable brush clipped to the feed cart.
  • Although smaller tanks need cleaning every other day
  • baking soda in H20 to cut acidity-it stays cleaner. I scrub w/vinegar.
  • The fish keep them clean!
  • complete scrubbing monthly, skimming daily. I put gold fish in my trough.
  • dish scrub brush or toilet bowl cleaning brush both work great
  • I find hay is the best way to give the trough a good clean
  • Use an old, plastic bristle brush to scrub it out
  • Use a new toilet bowl brush to get in the corners without back strain.
  • baking soda
  • Twice a day
  • We powerwash all the troughs and buckets, works great and is fast.
  • don't use them.have in the past & spent alot of time repairing it
  • My troughs aren't automatic but I just tip them, scrub and refill when algae shows.
  • dump and rinse almost daily, scrub as needed
  • Vinegar and baking soda are two safe cleaning products to use with a good sturdy scrub brush.
  • putty knives work really good to scrape tank walls from algae
  • I use a spaghetti strainer to do a quick clean of hay, etc. from the bucket too.
  • If you keep large barrel of water add apple cider viniger, a splash and no green gunk will grow
  • Rinse with bleach to kill algie
  • carrying a sponge with you helps clean the mechanism. the more often you clean it, the easier it is!
  • Summer time, I dump tak and clean every other day. Winter, every month. Use a fishtank net
  • I made mine into a balanced pond, complete with fish and bacteria. It's been clean for a year now.
  • Put in a few drops of bleach to keep the water clean in a large trough.
  • A nice BIG sponge
  • Adding Goldfish to a standard water trough works great! they keep algea and scum to a minimum!
  • capful of bleach and a stiff brush
  • toilet scrub brush, paint scraper and power washer
  • no
  • Clean them daily when weather permits but right now we're a -o temps.
  • I use a heavy-duty car wheel brush.
  • scrub with short bristled nylon scrub brush
  • Gold fish prevent mosquito larvae and reduce algae - use a fish tank siphon to remove what's left
  • We had put goldfish in there once.We have horses that paw and splash though.Helped alittle.
  • Use small amount of bleach weekly
  • usually twice a week
  • I use copper sulfate, sold as an algae growth inhibitor for ponds, to prevent algae in outdoor tanks
  • Invest in a scrub brush.
  • Use gloves, brush, bleach, dish soap. scrub & rinse well. refill.
  • It turns out to be about every other day
  • I use a 6 liter concrete tub Cooler with soil copper deficiencies, place copper bars in tub .
  • Works toilet bowl cleaner -- keep toughs looking like new!
  • at least weekly or more often if dirty
  • daily or every other day
  • Clorox
  • toilet scrubb brush, get a long handled one and save your back!
  • toilet bowl brushes work great with a splash of bleach. Rinse well..
  • I put a flip-down lid on my 100 gal tanks and put a few goldfish in to eat any algae.
  • Use a power washer on large troughs
  • It's much easier to accomplish in WY in the summer. Below 0 temps make this very difficult.
  • toilet brush (dedicated to water tanks) and bleach when needed
  • usually 2 - 3 times / week because of one messy mare making troughs badly dirty
  • swish around water level of trough with toilet brush, also add apple cider vinegar to water
  • weekly or more often if they are dirty sooner
  • clean water healthy horse
  • dump and fill twice a week but am lazy and only scrub once
  • or have debris or algae
  • Instead of 1 big trough I keep 2 mediums for my drafts so I can scrub out weekly.
  • Weekly in summer,monthly in winter. Scrub w/brush, rinse, refill.
  • In the summer I clean the troughs weekly, in the winter, its closer to monthly or longer.
  • Use a toilet cleaning brush & vigorously brush the sides to get all the scum eleviated
  • brush and shop vac work wonders
  • baking soda
  • Every day or two in summer, 3 to 4 days in winter
  • avoid direct sunlight,especially in summer...slows down the "greenies" :')
  • usually 1X a month in winter, every week in summer
  • I use a small (1 gal.) wet/dry vac.
  • Leave a little bit of the dirty water in the trough to clean it with, and dump it out with the slime
  • bleach
  • baking soda!
  • Pick out hay from waters daily and change water once a week in the winter twice a week in the summer
  • Empty, clean with bleach and a brush, rinse well and fill.
  • keep fish in the trough
  • Talk someone else into doingit for you
  • Scub with long handled scrub brush daily,dump h20 also would you like to drink dirty h20?
  • continual flow spring fed water trough does not get very dirty
  • Although in summer it's as often as necessary, sometimes daily
  • outside tanks weekly, indoor buckets every other day. splash of mint mouthwash invites drinking
  • Keep a (clean) toilet brush near the hydrant; scrub buckets before refilling.
  • I don't have water troughs, but the water buckets are cleaned at least once daily
  • sometimes more often during the summer
  • more often in the warmer months
  • Every 2-3 days in summer. Less often in winter.
  • Use a bottle brush around float and angles; bleach inside 1 to 2x summer/rinse REALLY well
  • I check mine everyday as I have often found dead birds in it. I don't rely on the stable's help
  • The birds always bathe in Bri's water!!!! LOL!!!!
  • Don't have automatic waterers
  • I can't clean them in the winter, unfortunately. Put a capful of bleach in the tank to reduce algae.
  • bleach wash and rinse
  • weekly in winter;daily in summer
  • When they look dirty or season pending. I get slime in my buckets, so sometimes 2-3 times a week in
  • Depends. If bird poop or mud in it, daily or as needed.
  • I prefer white vinegar to clean. It also helps with algae problems if not rinsed completely.
  • summer use clorox.. also will soak in Vinegar to remove any lime scale kills 99% bacteria & fungus
  • water buckets are cleaned daily
  • don't have them
  • Scoop daily with an aquarium net. Dump and clean weekly.
  • It's easier to keep them clean rather than to clean them!
  • use 4 Bar-Bar-A waterers, 2 troughs
  • At the least weekly, in the summer every 2-3 days.
  • toilet bowl brush works great for scrubbing.
  • Dump 100 gal tanks weekly clean with bleach. In winter solar tanks are great alternate to deicer ele
  • rinse the soap or javex out before filling with water
  • probably not often enough, but have had no ill effects
  • everytime the trough has any hay, dirt, etc. I'm obsessive about it!
  • bleach for algae, paint scraper, power nozzle, scrub brush, elbow grease
  • summer every other day
  • I keep a long handled brush from the dollar store by every waterer makes cleaning easy
  • No way I'm cleaning it at -40F!!!!
  • I use buckets.
  • weekly,100gal tank, even in winter with sub-zero temps
  • 2-5x/week depending on need
  • I try to clean it every couple of weeks, but sometimes that doesn't happen...
  • A little baking soda to help clean and get rid of any odors.
  • I spray the bottom and sides of the trough with Clorox, scrub with a brush and rinse before filling.
  • Twice weekly or more if the heat is causing algae growth
  • I usually clean more often in the summer when the water around the trough dries up faster.
  • Sometimes twice a day since we have pigeon problem in our barn and they sometimes poop in the water
  • god bless automatic waterers in winter! checked & dumped or scrubbed daily.
  • Weekly or sooner if dirty.
  • scrub brushes with stainless bristles along with plastic ones. Also, super tuff scrubber pads.
  • more often in summer, less in winter
  • Keep gold fish in the troughs to eliminate bugs and larvae.
  • clean w/vinegar, add cider vinegar to water to keep algea at bay
  • 16 gal heated buckets, dumped strubbed daily
  • water and scrub brush
  • Actually twice weekly
  • A little hay to act as a brush and they come out sparkly clean
  • Strain water on a daily basis, clean troughs every 4-6 months with white vinegar
  • short handled brush (started life as a hoof brush) works well.
  • Add a quart of white vinegar to the trough, let it stand a while, then scrub to remove mold deposits
  • summertime - they are generally scrubbed twice a week - in the winter 1 every week or two
  • A long handled brush gets the algae off the bottom.
  • scrubbie
  • Usually at least once a week Spring-Fall, Winter as weather permits.
  • don't have to use them, we have pasture horses and they drink from a spring
  • Keep a small brush nearby and use dirt or sand as an abrasive for better results.
  • bleach
  • I use small clorine tablet pieces in my troughs to keep them "fresh" especially in summer in Florida
  • For troughs, a pressure washer, bleach rinse
  • In winter I clean electric buckets daily, summer I use barley straw bags in outside troughs.
  • 'Toilet' scrub brush (dedicated only to water trough) are fantastic for big troughs
  • Every three days. Dump and scrub

several times daily

every other day or so when they get a little dirty

Varies, far more in the summer than in the winter!

use soap & sponge to clean out tub, rinse thoroughly & refill

bought a scrub brush at the dollar store, makes cleaning the pasture water quick.

Done often it's easy. Let go - it's a chore.

No water trough, just 2 5 gallon buckets that are cleaned daily

power washer works great for troughs

Scrub buckets out with a brisle brush and a solution of clorex, I've done this for several years

goldfish seem to help keep down the algae and live through the winter

a handful of hay

the more often u do it, the less dirty they are

At least weekly in winter, everyday in summer.

Some of our horses always have filthy water, others stay crystal clear

spray bottle of bleach & toilet brush for trough

daily rinse of buckets with weekly scrub

More often in summer

For years we used a brush. Using a Scotch Brite pad works so much better!

I use vinegar to get rid of the algae, then rinse well with water

everytime they are filled

a toilet brush and elbow grease

At least once daily!

Lots of elbow grease behind that scrubber!

When algae is too far out of control or water is murky.

at least weekly and when they look dirty.

Get a fish-net and scoop out algae!

clean trough 1x wk.Winter- when needed (-0 C="Greeblies" don't grow!

During the hot months, I clean every other day with a bleach solution

I add a cup of clorax to my 200 gal outside waterers

gold fish

cleanned every couple of days usually

I use bleach and scrub the scum off with a brush in the summer. In the Winter I just dump and rinse

twice weekly in the summer

Snow is a wonderful, free and non-toxic cleaner to scrub with!

diluted bleach + broom to scrub, rinse well


In the summer I put gold fish and a bottom feeder in the trough.

diluated vinegar or bleach makes them stay cleaner longer

daily for smaller buckets in warm weather, 2-3 days for larger tubs and cold weather

I keep goldfish in the trough to help keep it clean. Buckets get cleaned about twice a month.

large trough capable of staying fresh if foreign matter is removed.

use a scrub brush to help keep them clean

I use a pool skimmer which works fantastic and I highly recommend it.

I hang a large scrubby pad on the post by each water tank for a quick scrub anytime

bleach spayed on it cleans germs rince and refill

a few drops of bleach helps keep heated buckets clean and fresh

Check daily, empty completely every other day.

Use a kitchen strainer to remove bugs & leaves.

I've seen them drink manure soaked water in puddles, I don't obsess over cleaning too often

cheap goldfish keep bugs out and slime down.they live in cold water, they make it thru winters

Butterfly nets make good debris scoopers between cleanings

More than once a week during the hot weather.They need clean,fresh water

baleing twine makes a great srurb brush then you toss it when you are done...

clean with bleach then rinse well

I use a scrub brush each time, & leave emtey for a day then fill up in evening ( sun kills algie )

It depends on the weather and the temps--more often in summer, less in winter

We dump buckets into a wheelbarrow & brush the buckets

water troughs when they need it, auto water every day

automatic, but less frequent in the winter

Every time I fill the water tank, I clean it. Sieve it daily

1 tablespoon of bleach & a gallon ow water for each & wash with a clean toilet brush

alot more cleaning in the summer; use copper sulfate to help control algae growth

I clean them every three days

I figure my pony like clean fresh water like I do!

I have water buckets in each stall & scrub them down 2x month, rinse daily.

Don't like automatic waterers because you cannot really know how much an animal is drinking.

brush out with a little chlorine bleach

little bleach and a rag scrub swish out till looks and smells freash

I added 3 goldfish to the tank in the spring, so the buildup of "grungus" is kept to a minimum.

In summer I pour a little bleach into the open toughs to slow alge growth.

when I do not have a scrub brush handy, a handful of long grass scrubs effectively

skin out debris with an aquarium net

I clean my mare's water bucket every two days. Our barn does troughs spring and fall.

water trough is cleaned daily

Daily for 6 gallon and bi-weekly for larger pasture waters

Every time I refill the trough, and I only use a trough big enough to last a horse a few days

Twice a day cleaning for the insulated water buckets.

I use small waterers that require daily filling.

I use AVC to clean them. then add 1 cup to big troughs and 1/4 cup to the 20 gallon tubs

A good scrub brush usually does it, if not I add a little bleach and rinse thoroughly.

buckets daily, 250gallon troughs monthly

Use a couple of capfuls of bleach and scrub,rinse well.

depends on the weather, the hotter, the more they need cleaned.


clorox and water to clean

Usually just water & brush, occas. bleach & little dish detergent

Every 5 days or when they look dirty. If only they would quit spitting in them...

weekly at a minumim, usually more in the summer when the algae grows

Use ind. barrels; dump/rinse/fill daily in summer, twice weekly in winter, wash/bleach weekly

If you dump and lightly scrub everyday, they never get really dirty

clean water, healthy horse

Have three water troughs, Fresh water flows into them constantly. One is in sun and is cleaned weekl

Use an electric water pump. Put one hose into the waterer. Put the other hose into a floor drain.

spot of copper sulfate and an anchored horse ball or basket or volleyball help to keep tank fresher

At least weekly, usually every few days; when dirt and food debris collects in it.

In door buckets every day outside 100 gal troughs as needed

Buckets are dumped daily for fresh water and both bucket and troughs are cleand weekly

Baking Soda does a great job, eliminates odors also.

Stock with goldfish

Generally I do this weekly, although depending on weather it sometimes is longer than that.

you can always clean with a handful of hay, then rinse

keep bottle of nontoxic cleaner and brush right there.

power washer works the best!

Clean them when they need it!!!

placing gold fish in stock tanks will help keep it clean & free of insect larvae

If the water tub is dirty, it gets cleaned and bleached. They don't go more than 4 days.

In the stall, daily. In the paddocks, weekly or as needed (they're checked 1x day).

power washer

An Aquarium filtration system works wonders!

my horse won't drink if she doesn't have fresh water everyday

Nearly daily in summer, but less frequently in winter

I purchased a Bar- Bar-A Horse Drinker, I highly recommend it! No electricity! Self cleaning

depends on how fast they get dirty, anywhere from every few days to a week.

Daily in summer/every other day in winter. Stock Tank Secret apperars to help in metal troughs

Can be once or twice a week in summer months, less often in winter

soft scrub

A good stiff vegetable brush or clean toilet brush for auto waterers

I use cider vinegar water to clean my rubbermaid tank

change water daily, scrub when needed

I clean my buckets daily; the barn rarely cleans troughs.

add goldfish to stock tanks or troughs, they eat misquoto lavae and keep algae down

We use bleach to clean our waterers. Our horses seem to like the smell.

I use a cap full of bleach in each horses 80 gallon water tank to keep it clean

scrub brush is haanging on the fence for easy of use.

fish in 100 gallon tanks

wkly though more frequently as needed

Every few days as the water starts to not look crisp and clear anymore :)

We are in Florida, all sorts of things can grow in there.

apple cider vinegar

bleach and a brush

Dump and give fresh daily, scrub everyweek

empty them, wash with a splash of clorox, rinse and refill.

for stall buckets, biweekly for troughs, unless more is needed

Troughs are cleaned weekly with bleach. buckets in stalls are refreshed daily and cleaned weekly

clorox clean up works wonders, rinse well!

some cleaned daily,just keep a brush nearby ,the best "waterer" i have is a spring fed little creek

cleaned daily - disinfected weekly with javex soaked brush

chlorine bleach, diluted

other than good hay, clean water most important, especially in winter

we use 70 gallon stock tanks that get dumped and cleaned when down to 1/4

"Never" isn't an option? I've yet to meet a barnmanager that knows what a bucket brush is.

About the Author

Megan Arszman

Megan Arszman received a Bachelor of Science In print journalism and equine science from Murray State University in Murray, Ky., and loves combining her love of horses, photography, and writing. In her “free time,” when she’s not busy working as a horse show secretary or riding her American Quarter Horses on her parents’ Indiana farm, she’s training and competing her Pembroke Welsh Corgi and Swedish Vallhund in dog agility and running.

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