While I grew up with a home that had a well, I never watched my parents chlorinate their well. Now that I live on a well myself, I had them come over to show me how to do it. Here’s an introduction to well chlorination for the common household well.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a great article on the importance of ensuring that private well water is safe. Because it is not regulated by the government, you as the homeowner are responsible for ensuring your well water is safe for consumption. One way to do this is to chlorinate your well annually, traditionally in the spring.
- 1-2 bottles of germicidal bleach – Brand does not matter, just be sure it’s germicidal, to ensure that you kill all of the bacteria, and fragrance free, so your water doesn’t smell like lilacs or lemons.
- A garden hose
Chlorinate Your Well
Prep work: Take showers, do laundry and your dishes before you chlorinate your well, as you won’t be able to use your water for 24 hours.
- Run a garden hose to your well and remove the well cap. Helpful tip – bring a baggie to keep the screws and nuts, as the easily can get lost in the grass.
- Pour one bottle of germicidal bleach down the well, avoiding electrical wires. Try to coat all sides of the well as the bleach runs down.
- Turn on your garden house and pour down your well, coating each side of the well. The flowing water will help circulate the water at the bottle of your well so all of the water supply is affected.
- Let house run for 15-20 minutes.
Clean the Water Lines
- With the hose water still running into the well, turn on every faucet, shower, bathtub, etc. in your home.
- Run each line until you smell bleach.
- If you do not smell bleach within 10-15 minutes, you may need to add the second bottle. If you haven’t chlorinated your well in a few years, as was the case with our new home, you may have a lot of sediment in your lines and will require a second bottle.
- Once you smell bleach, turn off all of the water in the home, including the garden hose. Cover the well cap to avoid bugs or dirt getting into your well.
- Let the bleach water sit in your system for two hours.
Flushing the System
- You need to remove the bleach from your system but you do not want to put all of that bleach in your septic tank as it will affect the naturally-occuring bacteria in your septic tank. The best way to remove the bleach is to run a garden hose down your street to the closest sewer. Make sure the water does not go into a local pond or vegetation, as the bleach will kill wildlife.
- Run the hose outside for one-three hours or until you do not smell bleach anymore. I used two bottles of bleach in my system so needed to run closer to three hours.
- Once you no longer smell bleach from the hose, turn the hose off.
- Turn all faucet, shower, bathtub, etc. in your home back on. You will smell bleach again from the residue left in your line. Let them run until you no longer smell bleach in your sinks. This process will take about another hour. Note: you may see a copper-colored residue come out with the water. This is the sediment your chlorination just removed.
Water Use Restrictions
It traditionally is recommended that you do not use any household water for personal use for another 24 hours. We still smelled a faint bleach scent three days after chlorinating our well. We waited 36 hours to shower, use water for dishes, laundry, etc., and 72 hours to use the water for drinking, plant watering, pet use, etc. Helpful tip – if you shower within the first 24 hours, be sure to use some body lotion afterwards; similar to a swimming pool with extra chlorine, your skin will be dry.