We were approached by John with a question about Inspired Water Butt Cleaner.

“I use Inspired Water Butt cleaner (manufactured by McKLords Ltd), but have now bought a dog. Do you know if it is safe for a dog to drink?”

John’s concerns lie with the chemicals that are contained in a product designed to rid your water butt of bacteria and pathogens; is the treated water safe for his new dog to drink?

The water collected in a water butt can be used for lots of different jobs around the garden:

  • Watering plants
  • Topping up ponds
  • Feeding birds
  • Rinsing vegetables
  • Flushing toilets
  • Drinking water for pets and livestock

We looked into Inspired Water Butt Cleaner to find out what the toxic chemicals it contained; here is what we found.

What ingredients are in Inspired Water Butt Cleaner?

We contacted McKLords Ltd and they kindly sent us a Safety Data Sheet for this product – you can read the full document here

The ingredients that are of concern are:

  • Quaternary Ammonium Compounds
  • Benzyl-C8-18Alkyldimethyl
  • Chlorides
Inspired water butt cleaner

What are Quaternary Ammonium Compounds?

You know the slippery feeling you get in your hair when you use conditioner? Well Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (quats fro short) are the chemicals that allow conditioners, shampoos and some body lotions to ‘glide’ over your hair and skin. The thing is, this ingredient brings with it three major issues:

  • Quats can cause skin and respiratory problems
  • Some quats like benzalkonium chloride, are phenolic
  • Quats are toxic to aquatic life and harmful to the environment

Phenols and phenolics can be found in household cleaning agents. They can be toxic to your dog if he ingests them or if he comes into contact with them. If your dog interacts with these agents in any way, you should treat it as a medical emergency.

Is Benzyl-C8-18Alkyldimethyl toxic?

Benzyl-C8-18Alkyldimethyl also known as:

  • Benzalkonium chloride
  • BZK
  • BKC
  • BAC
  • Alkyldimethylbenzylammonium chloride

Benzalkonium chloride is used in many products such eye drops, hand sanitisers, Dettol, spermicidal creams, inhalers and surface disinfectants. Many products still contain this ingredient despite substantial evidence that it can adversely affect:

Ciliary motion - these are the little microscopic hairs that beat in a rhythmic pattern and move liquids over the surface of internal tissues
Nasal mucosal histology -The microscopic structure of the nose and throat
Human neutrophil function – White blood cells in most mammals
Leukocyte responses to local inflammation – Leukocytes help fight infection and play an important role in the body’s immune system.

Benzalkonium chloride poisoning of domestic pets has been recognised as a result of direct contact with surfaces cleaned with disinfectants using benzalkonium chloride as an active ingredient

Is chloride toxic?

Chloride is found naturally in the human body. It is an important electrolyte which transports nutrients around the body; helps regulate blood pressure, blood volume and the pH of the fluids.

However, if a dog were to ingest chloride it could lead to stomach upsets such as sickness and diarrhoea. Large quantities of chlorides disrupt the naturally occurring chloride balance leading to hypernatremia.

Hypernatremia is potentially life threatening and is caused by imbalances in water and sodium that occur from either water loss or sodium gain, often in the presence of inadequate water intake. The resultant hyperosmolarity, if acute or severe, can result in rapid shifts of water from the intracellular to extracellular space, causing intracranial hemorrhage and neurologic changes. Correction of hypernatremia through inappropriate fluid therapy can result in even more severe complications, ranging from cerebral edema to coma and death. This article reviews the pathophysiology, causes, classification, treatment, and prognosis of hypernatremia. - Handbook of Poisoning in Dogs and Cats

Why do I need to treat the water in my water butt?

You need to ensure that the water in your container is clean and safe especially if you are intending on using it as a source of drinking water for your pet.

The water from collection tanks has been responsible for serious illnesses and sometimes death.

“Recent investigations suggest 95% of UK garden water butts may be contaminated with Legionella bacteria, the bug responsible for the potentially deadly Legionnaires’ disease” Legionellacontrol.com

When the outside air temperature starts to rise in spring through to summer, the water in the collection tanks rises in temperature too. Still, warm water is the perfect breeding ground for the legionella bacteria which multiplies in temperatures over 20 degrees.

When contaminated water is used in conjunction with a pump and a hose, the fine mist that is sprayed over your garden carries the bacteria into the air, via the water droplets, causing it to be inhaled by the gardener.

Related content:

Are garden water butts contaminated with Legionella Bacteria?

Is Legionella lurking in your water butt?

What non-toxic products can I use in my water butt?

Back in spring (2019) we wrote a review article covering water butt cleaners to help you decide which product was the best choice for you.

What did we do?

  • We carried out online research to find out what was available
  • Determined the products ingredients to ensure the product was safe and environmentally friendly
  • We stated the price
  • Highlighted if the product comes with any safety warnings or data sheet
  • Established how long it took for the product to kill bacteria
  • Confirmed if the product comes in recyclable packaging or not

We have carried out a couple of these review articles to date and In the interest of being open and transparent, we want to make sure you are aware that we include our own product in this review to show you what is available on the market; our review is impartial and based on facts and information available online only – no insider knowledge used here!

ESOL for Gardens - Anti-fungal spray £7.00


ESOL for Gardens 200x200
Ingredients Electrolysed water

<0.01% hypochlorus acid as a result of the electrical charge

Cleaning your water butt with ESOL ensures that any bacteria that may be on the interior of the butt are eliminated.

Once you have cleaned the container, adding a small dose (50ml per litre) of ESOL to the refilled water butt will ensure that any remaining bacterium that may infect the water is eradicated.

ESOL has a residual kill element which means that it leaves a useful persistent disinfecting affect, ‘killing’ pathogens even after the application process is complete.

This residual kill doesn’t last forever; a 50ml dose of ESOL should be added to your water butt once a week to ensure your water is kept free of bacteria.

ESOL for gardens has many uses:

  • Keep water butts free of bacteria
  • Safely cleans greenhouses and polly tunnels
  • Disinfect bird houses, baths and feeders
  • Kills disease in planting trays
  • Effective disinfection between seasons
  • Kills fungus and blight
  • Disinfect tools and equipment
  • Harvested fruit and vegetables
  • Non-toxic
  • 100% biodegradable
  • Safe to use in drinking water

ESOL for Gardens has a shelf life of 6-8 months once it has been opened; after this time the ‘kill rate’ will decrease meaning that it would take longer for the bacteria to be eradicated

ESOL has been approved under regulation 31 of the Water Supply Regulations 2000 for use in public water supplies in the UK.

Product safety You can find the data safety sheet here

How quickly does it work? After being added to the water, ESOL will kill bacteria and fungus within 10 seconds.

Is the packaging recyclable? Yes, it states on the bottle “packaging is made from recycled milk cartons and bottle tops; this is what gives the bottles their slightly green tinge”

You can buy ESOL for Gardens Anti-Fungal spray here

From carrying out this this review, if I was going to go with a product (excluding ESOL for gardens) it would have to be:

FreshaTank anti-microbial disc, everlasting water cleaner - £9.94

By Aquamidas

This product is quite ingenious! One disc, no chemicals and completely safe to you and the environment.

Ingredients – Microbial silver

Freshatank microbial disc

This is an anti-microbial product which is placed in a fish tank or waterbutt, the strong microbial action of the 99.9% pure industrial silver destroys fungal, viral, bacterial micro-organisms and parasites in the reproductive stage, this keeps fish healthier, prevents the spread of disease, and reduces nitrates and bacteria levels. Ammonia levels are reduced along with phosphates and nitrates.

The pure microbial silver coating kills fungal, viral and bacterial microbes on contact.

Other benefits:

  • Does not harm beneficial bacteria in filters
  • Fish tanks stay cleaner with FreshaTank
  • FreshaTank is patented and approved
  • Eliminates foul smelling water
  • Can be used in water butts
  • Helps prevent the spread of disease
  • It is re-useable, everlasting and can be used with all fish
  • Kills algae in the water which slows down algae forming on the glass
  • Is totally safe and does not leech metals into the water
  • Due to the reduced levels of bacteria in the water, Freshatank does not replace the need for usual regular maintenance.

Product safety there doesn’t appear to be a Safety Data Sheet available for this product however, details on product testing are available here

How quickly does it work?  The silver microbes are released into the water straight away, one disc is effective on 90 litres of water.

You can buy Freshatank anti-microbial disks here

You can read the full review of eco-friendly water butt cleaners here

What next?

John bought a Malshi (Maltese/Shi Tzu cross) - aren't they cute!!

He had been using Inspired Water Butt Cleaner with no concerns until his life took a change – he got his new dog. Up until this point the water in his rain collector was not high on his list of priorities, and why should it have been?

Malshi - Maltese/Shi Tzu cross

Humans are habitual creatures; it is easier to carry on using products that have been part of their lives for years. It sometimes takes a different course in life or a drastic incident to cause us humans to take action.


If we know something is bad for us, harmful to our family and not allowing us to be the best version of ourselves that we can be why is it so hard to change?

Sticking with habit is not always a bad thing but when your situation changes you need to be able to adapt and cater for these changes. Making the right choice for these changes is not always easy if the information is not available.

The issues surrounding the health of humans and animals and the life of our planet are increasing; it is up to us all to make changes to lessen our impact. In the grand scheme of things we are only here for a small fraction of time; while we are here we need to look after the planet we have so that we are passing something great onto future generations.

Making changes in the products we use, the food we eat and how we stay healthy and active can seem like a daunting task.

Where do you start?

Where do you find the time?

Maybe you have you made some changes but don't know what else you can do?

Our ‘Detoxify your life’ project could help you along the way; one email each month with helpful suggestions to detoxify your life one step at a time – interested?

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We have included a few links in this article, to save to searching through, we have popped them here for you:


What are Quaternary Ammonium Compounds??

Are Phenolics dangerous to dogs?

Benzalkonium chloride can be found is a vast range of products

Campbell, A; Chapman, M (2008). Handbook of Poisoning in Dogs and Cats. John Wiley & Sons

Hypernatremia in dogs

Legionella control

For reading:

Are garden water butts contaminated with Legionella Bacteria?

Is Legionella lurking in your water butt?

Water butt cleaner – 5 safe, eco-friendly products to clean your rain collector


You can buy Freshatank anti-microbial disks here

Freshadisk product testing report

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