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How to Clean Plastic Herbicide Barrels

By Meg Butler ; Updated September 21, 2017

In an effort to reduce waste, many people recycle empty plastic herbicide barrels. Depending on their size, these barrels can be used as compost bins, rain water reservoirs or planters. But before these barrels are repurposed, they must be thoroughly cleaned. Residual herbicides on the surface of the plastic could contaminate your plant water source, kill your potted plants or contaminate your compost.

Empty any remaining herbicide onto barren soil that is far removed from any water sources, including the water table. Allow the herbicide to drip or pour out for at least 30 seconds.

Fill the barrel one-quarter full of water and shake it or seal it and roll it on the ground.

Rinse the inside and outside of the barrel with the spray from a hose for at least 30 seconds.

Fill the barrel with a 1 to 25 ratio solution of ammonia and water (5 oz of ammonia per gallon of water). Leave the solution to soak overnight.

Pour the solution out of the bucket.

Scrub all parts of the herbicide barrel with a brush dipped in a fresh batch of ammonia solution.

Rinse the barrel again by spraying it with a hose for at least 30 seconds. Then fill the barrel with water and pour it out twice.

Allow the barrel to air dry.


Things You Will Need

  • Water
  • Ammonia
  • Scrub brush


  • If you merely plan to dispose of your herbicide barrel, simply repeat Steps 1 through 3 three times. There is no need to clean it with ammonia.

About the Author


Based in Houston, Texas, Meg Butler is a professional farmer, house flipper and landscaper. When not busy learning about homes and appliances she's sharing that knowledge. Butler began blogging, editing and writing in 2000. Her work has appered in the "Houston Press" and several other publications. She has an A.A. in journalism and a B.A. in history from New York University.