Introduction: Milk Jug Rain Barrel

About: I love making things and simple electronics!
My Dad recently bought a rain barrel so the water running through our gutters would water our garden and not run into the sewer.  It seems like a great idea, but his barrel only collects the water on the west side of our roof and all of the water that runs down the east side still runs down the dirty street collecting contaminents and bringing them into local creeks and rivers.  Over time our local creeks and rivers will be so contaminated that they cannot provide a healthy habitat for fish, and also and other animals will die because they lost a water source.  Sadly this is the direction many communities are going in and I think that this can be solved by using rain barrels.  Not only do rain barrels help your community and local waterways, they also provide a source of water that can be used to water your garden. 

The idea to make this rain barrel came when I realized that my Dad's rain barrel is only saving half of the rain that falls on our house from ending up in creeks.  This led me to make my own rain barrel that can water the garden out front and save the other half of the rain water from ending up in creeks and rivers.  This rain barrel may not hold as much water as some commercial rain barrels but it is great for areas that recieve mild amounts of rain and for people that want to water their small garden.

Another way this project is helping you to go green is by recycling milk jugs that would usually be thrown out.

I was inspired to make this because...

- I needed to water my small garden out front and this is an ecofriendly way to do so.
- I wanted to help my community's waterways by collecting the rain water.
- My dad wants to become a more ecofriendly family and I believe this is helping that dream come true!

You should make this because...

It is made of mainly recyclable materials.
- It doesn't cost too much to build.
- It will help you to go green!

In this video, I drained a small amount of water from my rain barrel to show how it works.

I hope you enjoy building your Milk Container 4 Gallon Rain Barrel! 

Step 1: Materials

You will need...

- Four 1 gallon milk/water containers.
- 6 ft of 1/2 inch plastic tubing
- A craft knife
- Scissors
- A ruler
- Gorilla Glue
- Sugru (5 g)
- A large alligator clip (not the kind you use in electronics)
- Q-tip
- 2 milk crates (I got mine for free at a local dairy store)
- Plastic Solo (Or other brand) cup
- A drill
- 3/4" drill bit

Step 2: Plans

To make this rain barrel, we are going to turn four seperate milk jugs into one four gallon container.

The design I am choosing to make this rain barrel allows all 4 gallons to be drained at once instead of only having 1 or 2 gallons available to drain.  As you can see in the plans above, the diagram will drain all four gallons, and when the rain is filling them up, they will all fill evenly.

You may be thinking that all the water will automatically drain out of the hose at the end, but if you hold the end of the hose higher than the level of water, no water will come out.  The way we will be holding the hose up in the air will be by a clip on the crate.

Step 3: Washing and Preparing

Before you begin, use a hose and thoroughly wash out all of the milk jugs.  My milk cartons were in a trash can before I decided to recycle them so they were pretty dirty and foul smelling.  Do not use any chemicals to clean these off especially if you plan on using your barrel to water a garden because those chemicals can kill plants.  Also if you are feeling extra savvy, clean off the lids as well!

Step 4: Making the Two Gallon Containers

In order to make all four jugs connected, we will have to start by connecting them two at a time.  To do this, we must draw a 2 inch long horizontal dotted line 1 1/2 inches above the bottom of the jug.  Finish the square by drawing three more solid lines each two inches long.  Now take out your second milk jug and draw the same square but this time, don't make the bottom line dotted, make it solid.

Now that you have drawn the lines in which you will cut, take out your craft knife.  Make sure you are cautious when dealing with the sharp blade of the knife.  Cut along all of the solid lines on the second jug and pop out the square in the middle.  With the other jug, cut along the solid lines but fold on the dotted line so there is a flap sticking out of the jug.  In order to make the jug with the flap slide into the other jug, you may want to make your flap a tiny bit narrower until it fits into the other square tightly.

Do the same to your other two jugs.

Step 5: Gluing Together the Jugs

Now that we have cut out the parts we need to, it is time to glue the two jugs together. Start by dipping the Q-tip into the bottle of glue and "painting" glue all around the square that doesn't have a flap. It is crucial that you cover all aroung the square to prevent any leaks further on in this project. Slide the jug with the flap into the jug with the square and use rubber bands to tightly hold together the two cartons as they are drying. I decided to add extra glue all around the square to prevent any leaks. This isn't necessary, but I do reccomend doing it in case there is a leak. Gorilla glue expands and turns into a hard foam when it dries so make sure they are held tightly together. Allow the glue to expand and dry by giving it 8-12 hours.

Step 6: Connecting the Two Containers

In order to turn both of our two gallon containers into one four gallon container, we must cut and glue them the same way we did to make the 2 gallon containers. 

Start by drawing a 2" by 2" square on both of the gallons in one of the groups of two.  Draw a 2"x2" square on the other set of two as well, but this time make sure the bottom line is dotted so you know to fold there.  Cut on all of the solid lines using a craft knife and a cutting board.  Fold down on the dotted lines and your result should look like the picture above. 

Step 7: Finishing the Container

To glue both of these containers together, use a Q-tip to "paint" gorilla glue around both solid squares and then slide both two gallon containers together. If you want to create an even better seal, put glue in every crack and crevice where the two jugs meet.

In order to keep pressure on area being glued, put a few large rubber bands around all four gallons and if that doesn't do the trick, try clamping it or putting weights on top of it. I even used a few hammers to weigh this down.  Wait at least 8-12 hours to allow the glue to fully expand and dry.

Step 8: Drilling the Crate

Like most rain barrels, this design has a hose to let water out.  The way I planned this is that the hose is put on the jug that also has the intake of water so even if there are small amounts of water in the barrel, they can still be drained.

First, we are going to need to drill a 3/4 of an inch hole in the milk crate so the hose coming from the container can stick through.  Make sure you drill your hole in the same area that I drilled mine in the picture above. 

Step 9: Attatching the Hose

Now that you have prepared the crate, put the 4 gallon container inside of the milk crate and mark the area on the container that is directly on the other side of the hole you just drilled. Cut a hole a little bit smaller than 1/2" in diameter so the hose has a tight fit. I started with a small hole and I progressively got bigger until it fit in tightly.

To ensure that no water will leak out of any cracks around the hose, we will need to waterproof that area with sugru. First cut your sugru out of the packet and roll it around in your fingers for a few seconds. Then wrap it around the area where the hose meets the jug and squish it all in place. Make sure that you really stick it to both the hose and the jug to guarentee that no water will leak.  Allow 24 hours for the sugru to cure.

While waiting for the sugru to cure, you can attatch your alligator clip to the top of the crate so the hose can stay there and not drain the water while in use.

Step 10: Making the Entry for Water (Input)

A rain barrel is completely pointless if you have no way to get water in it, so now we are going to have to find a way to attatch a gutter or pipe to the barrel.  One problem with just having a hole with the pipe going right into it is the fact that water will back up your gutters after your barrel has filled.  Also mosquitos will get into your barrel when it is not being filled and they will breed on the stagnant water. 

The way we can avoid these problems is by securing small square of bug screen onto the top of the jug that also houses the hose.  The screen will be held on with a rubberband.  Now to make a "funnel" for water to get to that opening, we must cut the bottom off of our solo cup.  Gorilla glue that cup on top of the jug as shown in the second picture.

To attatch a gutter to this, you will want to have the gutter let its water out directly into the cup where it will slowly drain into the barrel.  If the barrel fills the water will overflow that cup instead of backing up your gutters.

Step 11: Troubleshooting

If your container is leaking...

- Your gorilla glue connections are most likely too weak and you will have to redo all of the gluing.

- Your milk jugs may have a small hole in them from the craft knife and you may want to patch or replace them.

If your hose is leaking at the connection...

You may have not given the sugru enough time to cure and you should wait 24 hours.

- Your sugru connection might not completely seal out the water and this can be fixed by replacing the sugru.

Step 12: Ideas

I thought it would be better if the crate with the jugs in it was placed on top of an empty crate to get the water higher off of the ground so the hose can work at a higher elevation.  This would really help if your garden is on a hill, but mine is not so I chose to leave it as it is.

Another idea would be to make another milk jug rain barrel and stack it on top of your first one.  Then have the hose of the barrel on top lead directly to the inlet on the barrel below so you would end up with an 8 gallon rain barrel.  The reason I didn't do this is because 8 gallons is completely unnecessary for a small garden like mine.  You could continue expanding the capacity of these barrels to hold more and more water for a larger garden or for other purposes.

Step 13: Enjoy!

I hope you have enjoyed making your 4 gallon rain barrel disguised as a crate of milk jugs!  If you have any questions, comments, or ideas, please post them below! 


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