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Thread: Cleaning HDPE Buckets

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2022
    Essex Junction, VT

    Default Cleaning HDPE Buckets

    Cleaning HDPE buckets....
    What is the best way?
    That is all.
    (Totally cool to just point me to a thread; this has probably been thoroughly discussed)
    I'm primarily asking about normal end of season cleaning, as opposed to recovery from absolute disgusting (in which I'd likely throw away, but such deep cleaning could be interesting if different from normal end of season).
    Last edited by Andy VT; 04-09-2023 at 04:24 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Hopkinton, MA


    Depends on the amount. When I had 75-100, I set up a bin of barely soapy hot water and hit them with a nylon brush. Then I would give them a dip in sanitizer and then a rinse. I would sit in a chair with the bin on the ground and do it on a nice day. It's tiring. Plan ahead for a place for them to dry. If you stack them wet, they stick together and can be a bear to get apart next January.

    Now I only have a handful on trees and the rest for collection or other tasks around the sugarhouse, maybe 15 total. These I scrub with hot water in the kitchen sink and I have tables in my sugarhouse to pyramid them on to dry. Lots easier now.
    Woodville Maples
    Around 300 taps on tubing, 25+ on buckets if I put them out
    Mix of natural and mechanical vac, S3 Controller from Mountain Maple
    2x6 W.F. Mason with Phaneuf pans
    Deer Run 250 RO
    Ford F350
    6+ hives of bees (if they make it through the winters)
    Keeping the day job until I can start living the dream.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Haverhill, Ma


    if you don't want to use just hot water you can add a little bleach to the wash and then rinse thoroughly, even excessively.
    2019 - New 12X12 boiling pavilion
    2018 - New Mason 2X3 Hobby XL and homemade RO
    2017 - 49 taps on gravity, 6 on buckets.
    2016 - 19 taps on new 3/16 tubing, 24 on buckets
    2015 - 51 taps, 26 buckets
    2014 - 50 taps, 14 buckets, steel railroad toolbox converted into arch, new 2X3 continuous flow Phaneuf from Homestead Maple
    2013 - 33 taps, 12 buckets, steel railroad toolbox converted into arch, steam table pans
    2012 - 26 taps, 10 buckets, steel railroad toolbox converted into arch, steam table pans

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Wind Lake, WI


    I made a little wooden cart that holds a 40 gallon stock tank for washing buckets so it's at a nice height and can fit quite a bit. Bulkhead fitting and drain in it. I can wash in my shop or outdoors when the weather is nice. On-demand portable LP water heater to make it more enjoyable Scrub with bleachy water with a big brush (this year I tried Powder Brewer's Wash - which seems nice). Rinse, stack in pyramids. Once dry enough, use a pump sprayer to hose them with Star-San, then let them dry. Stack them up and they're ready for next year.

    Washing buckets in the house in our basement utility sink was a pain. Being outside or in the shop with this tub setup is so much better.
    2015 - Small operation. 25 buckets. One excited 5 year old and one 35 year old that feels 5 again.
    2016 - One year older. New Homemade 2x4 Arch, Smoky Lake Pan and looking at 52 maples, 17 box elders and 2 walnut trees.
    2017 - Shurflo 4008 hooked to 42 stingy silver maples and a few Norways. A couple buckets on sugars and Norways. 10 box elders.
    2018 - ...a few more taps.
    2019 - ...more taps on 3/16 gravity. This spiral is heading downward in a hurry.
    2020 - 4x400 RO - RB20 (uh-oh!)

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2022
    Essex Junction, VT


    I ended up using just water and they look bright white and seem very clean.
    Not sure if I'll regret that.
    For drying, I had an interesting idea... I have a 6-sided pop-up screenhouse from Costco. The frame has 2 scissors joints per side, so 12 pointy things stick up.
    With the frame lowered all the way and only partly unfolded, I can hang 12 buckets upside down on those points plus one more in the middle.
    13 buckets is enough to clean per session anyway!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2020
    Westfield, MA


    Andy - I'm only a couple years into my addiction but I'm fortunate to have a double sink in the basement with a hose spigot on it.

    Fresh out of the woods the buckets and lids get a full blasting with very hot water and a brush as needed to get them clean and stack them to dry. Over the course of the next few nights and weekends as time allows I'll fill one sink with hot water for a final, full scrubbing and the other has hot water and star san sanitizer (1oz to 5 gallons of water). Only needs about a minute in the sanitizer so while I scrub one, the previous one sits and I spin it a few times while scrubbing then other. I stack them and let them dry for a week before bagging each bucket in a non-scented kitchen trash bag.

    I do the same thing pre-season (no bag this round since there off to the woods when dry) and that seems to work well for me.

    I've seen bucket washers for sale on FB that have a bucket brush attached to a small motor hooked up inside a cut-out 55 gallon plastic drum that might be interesting to try, but I have the sink and it works.
    2020 - 2 taps, 1/2 pint on a turkey fryer, About 3/4 pint syrup in two weeks - Proof of concept!
    2021 - 20 x 30 divided pan on a Mason arch, 34 taps and 8 gallons for family and friends to judge. Dad hooked as well.
    2022 - 8 x 14 sugarhouse and a steam bottler. 50 buckets! 9 Gallons syrup and 4 pounds of sugar
    2023 - 25 taps on 11 trees to focus more on the overall process this year

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