Can Garden Hoses be Left Outside in the Winter? [Answered]

Winter has arrived and your hose is still outside. You may be concerned that leaving your hose outside will lead to freezing and cracking. Can garden hoses be left outside in the winter?

In general, the answer is no you shouldn’t leave your hose outside in the winter. There are exceptions to this depending on the type of hose you have and the climate you live in. If you are planning to leave your hose outside in the winter, you should consider owning a rubber hose as they typically can withstand much lower temperatures than other types of hoses.

If you are going to use a hose during these cold months, choosing the correct hose material is very important. Most rubber hoses stay flexible down to -40°F, while Vinyl hoses can start to become stiff and more fragile at around 45°F. Choosing a rubber hose can give you an additional 85 degrees to work with vs vinyl hoses.

In this article, let’s further discuss the risks when you leave your garden hose outside in the winter. We will also discuss 4 simple ways you can help your garden hose survive the winter months.

Can Garden Hoses be Left Outside in the Winter?

As we just discussed above, you shouldn’t leave your hose outside in the winter. If you do leave your hose outside in the winter, understand that it could be damaged. Risks will depend on how you take care of and prepare your hoses.

Colder temperatures are very hard on garden hoses, especially if water is left in them. The greatest risk will be your hose cracking, splitting, or bursting which will likely mean a repair is needed or a new hose. Let’s look at how your garden hose can be damaged if you leave it outside in the winter.

Cracking from Water Being Left in the Water Hose

If you leave water in your hose, the water is going to freeze which will cause cracking. Water being left in the hose is most commonly caused by using it and not draining the hose afterward. The greatest risk occurs when you store your hose outside with water left in it and both ends are sealed. This happens when the hose is attached to a water source such as a hydrant, faucet or valve and has a nozzle or attachment on the other end. You can always look into buying a hose reel to avoid this issue.

In these situations, it’s impossible for the freezing water to flow out the ends of the hose, creating more pressure on the inside of the hose. When the water freezes, it expands which which will likely lead to cracking or even splitting. As mentioned, even when both ends are open, you need to make sure that you get the hose completely drained. Even if there is just a little bit of water left in the hose, it will freeze and potentially cause damage.

Cracking or Breaking from an Impact

When a hose gets cold, it will become much more susceptible to damage from an impact. If a hose is in an outdoor area where it may receive an impact, such as behind a door, move it to a location where it’s less likely to take a blow that can cause damage.

Cold weather causes hoses to become brittle which means they can easily be damaged from trying to move them or wind them up. If you are going to move or use your hose after it has been left outside, just be very careful. If you can, it is always a good idea to have water flowing through the hose before using it or moving it.

4 Ways to Help Your Garden Hose Survive the Winter Months

Drain the Hose

The first thing you need to do is drain the hose after using it. If they’re completely drained, this will limit the risk to leaving them outside during the winter. Even if they have a small amount of water left in them, you’re still running the risk of splitting or cracking when the water freezes.

You will want to drain the hose yourself or have one end laying down a grade or slope, so that the water can drain out on its own. Be careful that the draining water doesn’t create a slippery situation on a walkway, driveway or sidewalk where someone could slip and fall.

Choose the Right Hose Material

Hoses can become more brittle or fragile in extreme cold, which can cause them to crack or break from a strong impact. Vinyl hoses can start to become stiffer and more fragile at around 45°F, while rubber hoses stay flexible in extreme cold, down into the negative digits. In fact, some rubber hoses stay flexible down to -40°F, giving you an additional 85 degrees to work with vs vinyl hoses.

If you are looking for a high-quality hose you can use during the winter, look for a reinforced rubber hose, which generally will deal better with changes in temperature. Plastic or vinyl hoses may be lighter in weight, but they’re also more easily damaged in cold temperatures. If you are stuck with one of these hose types, try to get a reinforced one for better durability.

To read more about how rubber and vinyl garden hoses compare, visit our article comparing rubber vs vinyl garden hoses. To read more about material, visit our article: what is the best hose material?

Choose the Right Hose Diameter

Larger diameter hoses will resist cracking or bursting from water freezing in them because they are often made of higher quality materials and have more available space to stretch. For best results, a 3/4″ reinforced rubber hose provides a great option for winter use, but expect a higher price tag.

If you are planning to leave your hose outside in the winter, try to stay away from the smaller diameters which would be anything below 5/8″. While these hoses will be lighter in weight, they are more susceptible to damage from cold weather and cracking from water freezing in them.

Consider Climate Impact

Can hoses be left outside in the winter? It depends on where you live. Winter in southern Texas is nothing like winter in northern Minnesota.

Your climate absolutely plays a role into whether you can safely leave a hose outdoors during the winter months. You may need to worry more about protection from UV rays in southern Texas, while protection from deep cold would be much more important in Minnesota. In these cold environments you can always consider burying your garden hose below the frostline.

Keep in mind that water freezing in hoses even once can damage your hose. So even if you are in a warmer climate, be sure to keep the hose drained after using it. Sometimes it helps to store it on a hose reel cart, that makes it easier to drain. You never know when the temperature can drop below freezing and damage your hose.

Joshua Lloyd

Joshua Lloyd has been a contributor and tester for us since our beginning. He has extensive hands-on experience using and testing the hoses we discuss at length on this site. He has specifically contributed to the testing of hose flow rate, crush-resistance, and weight. We have also relied on him to use and test other hose accessories, like storage reels and spray nozzles. As we do with all our contributors, we ask him to use his hands-on experience with these hoses to provide authentic advice to our audience.

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