The Best Rain Barrels Are Designed to Blend In
Our favorite could easily be mistaken for a terracotta planter.
Published Aug 13, 2022 1:14 AM
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Reading up on Domino’s shopping guides is like having your own personal product concierge. We do the tedious part—deep-dive research, hands-on testing, and tapping experts for advice—so all you have to do is hit “add to cart.” That’s why we call them Simply the Best.
Leigh Jerrard of Greywater Corps, a California-based irrigation installer, argues that anyone with a roof and a garden—or those simply interested in living more sustainably—should consider investing in a rain barrel. And while he may personally be most familiar with systems that can hold as much as 500 to 5,000 gallons of runoff (!), you don’t have to default to something so oversize from the start. Our best rain barrel picks, below, are small enough to set up on your own.
- Best overall: Gardener’s Supply Rain Barrel
- Best slim: Bosmere Slim Rain Barrel
- Best recycled: Earthminded Drainable Rain Station
- Best upcycled: Mirainbarrel Whiskey Barrel
- Best collapsible: LOSTRONAUT Collapsible Rain Barrel
Best Overall: Gardener’s Supply Rain Barrel
Gallons: 50 | Material: Plastic | Height: 45 inches
What we like:
- Chic body
- Overflow valve
- Brass spigot
- Complimentary 5-foot hose
- Some assembly required
Why we chose it: A ceramic look alike that’s actually durable plastic.
Add some leafy greens or floral friends on the top of this rain barrel and you might just fool people into thinking it’s an extra-tall terracotta pot. The shapely silhouette is actually made from a UV-, scratch-, and chip-resistant polyethylene (just a fancy way to say tough plastic), which mimics a matte finish to play up the disguise. Beneath the removable decorative lid is a screen guard to keep out bugs and allow air to still freely flow (no mold or algae to worry about here). It tops our list for its attractive exterior and equally functional features.
Best Slim: Bosmere Slim Rain Barrel
Gallons: 26 | Material: Plastic | Height: 38 inches
What we like:
- Earthy green colorway
- Great for small spaces
- Complimentary stand
- May easily overflow
Why we chose it: This compact container will still catch enough runoff to water your garden.
If you’re not looking for anything too grandiose or simply don’t have the space for anything larger than a foot or so in diameter, might we direct you to the Bosmere? Described by veteran features and garden editor Melissa Ozawa as “tall and svelte,” you can squeeze this slender vessel into many a tight backyard corner and still repurpose 26 gallons of gray water. A lockable lid keeps things secure from curious critters, and it ships with a compatible, easy-assembly stand that lifts the unit off the ground an extra 11 inches. That way you don’t have to finagle your watering can underneath the spout; simply turn the tap and fill. Sadly, we’ve noticed it’s often in-and-out-of-stock.
Best Recycled: Earthminded Drainable Rain Station
Gallons: 45 | Material: Plastic | Height: 35 inches
What we like:
- Easy to install
- Includes a diverter
- Made in the U.S.
- Plastic spigot
- On the heavy side
Why we chose it: Made from up to 85 percent recycled food-grade resin.
You’ll need a drill to attach this standard rain barrel to your home’s downspout, install the complimentary diverter, and attach the hose—but it’s all worth it. Choose between a black or terracotta exterior, both of which would look great against the backdrop of a home with dark siding. It also comes with a water hole cover, so as soon as the temperatures dip, you can plug up the hole to prevent expansion from ice and detach the barrel to safely store it indoors. And much like our top pick, we love that the lid on this model is reversible, which means you can plant anything from flowers to herbs to trailing ivy on top.
Best Upcycled: Mirainbarrel Whiskey Barrel
Gallons: 53 | Material: Wood | Height: Varies
What we like:
- Natural white oak
- Complete with a sealed system
- Returnable in 90 days
- Compatible with a standard garden hose
- Should be installed by a professional (but coordination is free!)
Why we chose it: A real-deal barrel, upgraded to catch more rain.
To be honest, there are a lot of rain barrels on the market that try to look like a wood barrel, but they’re generally made from plastic. If this is the sort of farmhouse-y aesthetic you’re going for, why not try the real deal? Buy a barrel that, in another life, held whiskey and bourbon instead of rain. Yet this isn’t your basic barrel—it’s backed by a patented overflow prevention system and rust-proof ports; comes with a diverter and hole saw; and is a breeze to winterize. And there’s no concern about it weathering outdoors, where it’ll be exposed to the elements since it already ships with a unique patina.
Best Collapsible: LOSTRONAUT Collapsible Rain Barrel
Gallons: 53 | Material: Vinyl | Height: 27.5 inches
What we like:
- Less than $100
- Foldable design
- Not as sturdy compared to others on this list
Why we chose it: Simple and sleek, this will pack up into a storage bag.
If you don’t want to mess with a crazy winterizing routine, then this collapsible rain barrel is for you. It folds up all neat and compact, small enough to store away like a lawn chair. In fact, you could bring it out just for when a storm is about to roll through rather than leave it out all day, every day. It comes with the bells and whistles you’d expect of the best rain barrel, too: an overflow pipe, two spigots, and a nylon mesh screen to prevent bacteria growth. While it may feel flimsy when you first install it (it’s only 5 pounds altogether), previous owners and reviewers agree it becomes sturdier the more it’s filled.
We Also Liked
- The Great American Rain Barrel ($159) is actually a repurposed food container that can hold up to 60 gallons of runoff, though a diverter (large or small) will cost you extra.
- There are color choices galore from the Impressions Plastic Drainable Rain Barrel ($484). Paired with a brass spigot and a whopping 90-gallon capacity, the only feature we weren’t totally sold on was the faux roughened exterior.
How We Chose These Products
We tapped Ozawa to scour the market for the best (and best-looking) rain barrels, then rounded out the selections with other choices from Domino editors. Our picks speak to the size of your household and general living situation, as well as offer a range of materials in addition to the standard plastic. For a greater understanding of the topic (what should you really look for in the best rain barrel?) we reached out to Greywater Corps’s Jerrard, who has plenty of experience in establishing stormwater irrigation systems throughout California. We also spoke with Hippo consumer trends expert Courtney Klosterman about insurance and liability associated with this product, and, keeping their intel in mind, we then made sure our picks deter algae and bugs.
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“As we continue to experience extreme droughts and water rationing is put into place, rain barrels are a great way to collect fresh, free rainwater to use for outdoor purposes,” offers Klosterman. “Not only will this save money and energy, but it can protect the environment.” A rain barrel connects to downspouts to collect runoff, and it includes a spigot that a hose can hook up to or fill a watering can. And it’s an essential part of your potential rainscaping plan. You’ll just need to make sure you’re allowed to use one first, Kolsterman advises: “Some locations throughout the U.S. require permits for rainwater harvesting or prohibit rain barrels outright, while others may offer financial incentives.”
After confirming it’s A-OK to set up a rain barrel in your neighborhood, the next step is figuring out the best place to position it. “Start by looking at downspout locations—it’s easiest to divert water into barrels if they’re close to downspouts,” advises Jerrard. “Additionally, we look for level, unobstructed areas near gardens or plants that will appreciate the water. We also try to find unused spaces like side-yard setbacks so you’re not occupying outdoor living areas.”
Size and Volume
Our list of the best rain barrels definitely skews on the smaller side, but it can be intimidating to install anything larger than 100 gallons. And in general, this is still a ton of rainwater. For those living in the drier parts of the country, being able to capture as much water as possible makes sense, but for everyone else, it isn’t totally necessary. A smaller barrel, say between 20 and 90 gallons, may not be the greatest at optimal water capture, but it’s less likely to become a prominent eyesore in your backyard.
“The cheapest and sturdiest material is polyethylene—these tanks will last a lifetime, but not everyone likes the aesthetic,” shares Jerrard. “Galvanized steel tanks are beautiful and range in size from a few hundred to thousands of gallons.”
And while Jerrard isn’t the biggest fan of wood, recycled oak wine or whiskey barrels are still a suitable vessel—they just may wear a little quicker in the elements (especially if you happen to live somewhere that experiences extreme changes in temperature).
Q: Should I worry about my rain barrel attracting bugs?
“Not if they’re installed properly! You want to make sure all points of access are screened with fine mesh—inlet and overflow,” offers Jerrard. “If this is done correctly you’ll have no problem with mosquitoes. Monitoring and maintenance is also key, to check any pooling water or decomposing leaf mulch.”
Q: Can a rain barrel overflow? What happens if it does?
“All tanks will fill up and overflow at some point,” shares Jerrard. “It’s important to direct this water to a safe place, away from building foundations and hopefully somewhere it can percolate back into the land—unless flooding or erosion is a concern, in which case you should direct it to the street.”
Q: Do I need to clean my rain barrel?
You should be keeping tabs on your gutters more so than your rain barrel. “Clean gutters are vital to ensuring not only the health of exterior surfaces around your home but even your foundation walls. Clogs in your gutters can result in immeasurable damage over time, especially during heavy rainfalls,” Klosterman points out. “Checking this item off your home maintenance checklist is definitely worth the effort.”
The Last Word
The best rain barrels, according to Jerrard, “save water, reduce stormwater runoff, and can be a source of emergency drinking water.” But they don’t have to be an eyesore.