Washing 5 Gallon Buckets FAST

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Washing buckets is relatively simple to do – but it takes some foresight and special technique to do fast. I’ve got 9 buckets for CSA customers to clean spotless today so I’m writing this article so you can follow along.

cleaning buckets

Keeping Buckets Cleaner

Washing goes quickest if the buckets are less dirty to begin with. You can line your pails with absorbent, compostable newspaper to protect your inner bucket walls from grime and scratches.

lininrg bucket with newspaper

Check the full lining with newspaper article for the very quick 15-second newspaper liner that locks in place.

Pressure washing with a garden hose

I won’t wash pails anymore without a fancy garden hose nozzle. A good one has a bunch of different settings such as shower, mist, soaker, and a few others.

garden hose nozzleBut for the purposes of bucket washing, you’ll only need 2 of its settings – cone and jet.

Jet will blast almost any grime off without scrubbing, making it the most important setting but not all jets give you the same velocity be sure to check the reviews if you’re looking for a hose nozzle on Amazon.

Cone works best for rinsing out the inside of a bucket, it hits the entire inner circumference all at once.

cone setting on garden hose nozzle

Buckets In Formation

The most compact cluster of buckets is a honeycomb formation. Clustering buckets means every drop of water will probably hit something and clean off some grime while its at it.

blasting buckets with jet setting

Blast with your jet setting from 2 or 3 different angles to get off the worst of the grime inside and outside.

Need Spotless Buckets?

If your buckets need to look like new, you’ll need to give them individual attention. This is the best way to wash a single bucket quickly.

washing bucket at an angle

  1. Cradle the bucket to be cleaned at an angle inside another bucket (above image)
  2. Rotate the bucket with one hand, while jet blasting the inside and outside. Move the bucket not the hose!bucket-rotating-animated
  3. One the sides are clean, hit the bottom with your jet.
  4. Deal with any tough spots with a cheap kitchen brush.

Air Dry so You Don’t Have to

Once you’re happy with the state of each bucket, set it somewhere upsidedown to drip dry.

You can drip them in a big stack but they dry slower and are more likely to stick together.  (see how to unstick stuck buckets if this happens to you). If you keep all the handles together it’s easy to count how many you have.stack of clean buckets

If you have the space, build upside-down bucket pyramids for a faster and more complete dry.

bucket pyramid

What About the Lids?

Lids are less likely to get dirty, and if they do they are simpler to clean. Except for the little grooves where dirt can collect.

My favorite way to wash lids by soaking them for a few days in an 18 gallon Rubbermaid full of water and some bleach. No matter how disgusting they were before, they always come out looking like they just came off the bucket presses.

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