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I have at last found something that works and is ok for plants - it uses natural plant extracts. Hozelock Water Butt Treatment. If this isn't as safe as it seems, someone please let me know. You have to drain and clean out the butts first and use this once a fortnight. The reason I can't stand the normal smell is that the butts are just outside my door from the dining room to the garden.
Jeremy - Water butts are covered and in the shade. I think the smell must be rotting leaves that come down from the gutters. So far, no plants seem to be suffering from the water. However, I shall try your ideas next.
I've had terrible trouble with smelly water butts, which is a major problem as they are just outside my dining room. As a last resort, I used Ecover laundry bleach in my water butts. The butts are plastic with a plastic lid. I first dissolved the bleach granules in hot water, using about half a packet - be careful because it goes into a foam that rises a lot. I then poured it into the butts and replaced the lids. A couple of hours later I took off the lids. NO SMELL. There was a thick layer of crud