Why I Stopped Using Soaker Hoses

by Becky

Even though soaker hoses seem like an easy and affordable solution to watering a garden, they might be one of the worst garden purchases I ever made. And as crazy as this sounds, I used them in my home garden for eleven years until I realized there are better options.

soaker hoses

Before I get into the why, let’s talk about soaker hoses first. What they do, what they’re made of, and why they are common for home gardeners to use. 

This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure can be found here.

What is a Soaker Hose? 

A soaker hose is a flexible hose designed with very tiny holes, often called pores, along its length. This hose connects to a water source and water is slowly released through the pores.

Aside from its purpose, a soaker hose is made from a variety of materials. Materials include either one or a combination of the following: recycled rubber, recycled vinyl, polyurethane, and/or polyethylene. 

How Does a Soaker Hose Work?

The soaker hose is connected to a standard water spigot and water flows through the hose until it hits the end where it is capped off. At that point, the water only has one place to go, out of the pores all along the hose. 

The hose is laid along the ground and its purpose is to water directly to the roots of the plants without it spraying all over the leaves. Due to the slow, direct watering to the roots, less water is used than overhead irrigating with a sprinkler.

soaker hose in coil

Why are Soaker Hoses Commonly Used in a Home Garden?

Soaker hoses are readily available, and honestly, they are pretty simple and easy to set up. All you need to do is hook it up to a water spigot and it’s ready to go. There are no additional parts needed unless you customize your set up. 

Why I stopped using soaker hoses

While no garden irrigation system is perfect, there are definitely methods of irrigation that are more effective than others. As I mentioned above, I didn’t realize what I was missing until I tried another method. 

I had a major ah-ha moment when I visited several large market gardens. There was not a soaker hose in sight. Turns out there is a reason for that!

I wish I had taken the time to research and learn before choosing. But if you are reading this hopefully you won’t make the same mistake I did! Here are the reasons why I stopped using soaker hoses.

soaker hose on faucet

#1 Deteriorates Quickly

Despite marketing claims and 5+ year warranty assurances, most soaker hoses start to deteriorate in one or two seasons. While I don’t have a scientific study to back this up, I do have 11 years of personal experience using recycled rubber soaker hoses. If you don’t believe just one person, you can check out all the 1 star reviews HERE.

I live in the south. It’s HOT, the garden season is long, and any watering system really needs to be robust in order to stand up to the elements. 

By the end of the second season, I had some soaker hoses with holes, others that were sticky (almost like they melted in the heat), and some that were so brittle that they would break when bent. 

Soaker hoses in our garden 2014

I bought new hoses and then two years later bought more hoses. Another two years went by and I bought more hoses, you get the idea. It added up to costing hundreds and hundreds of dollars. 

Before you start thinking they weren’t cared for, know that after each garden season I collected all the hoses and stored them in a garden shed. So they weren’t in a situation where they were left out all year. 

#2 Waters Unevenly

Aside from the hoses degrading and cracking quickly, the other major problem is soaker hoses have a tendency to water unevenly. 

Unless you have perfectly level soil, the soaker hose will pool water at the lowest point and water that more than anywhere else. If you have a high point, it will let out very little water. This is true even with relatively small dips. 

Soaker hoses watering unevenly was a major problem in my home garden that was on a slope. The first garden bed got all the water and the others got a trickle. 

This is an extreme example, but the hose is attached to a spigot and everything lower down is dripping heavily while the higher up you go is hardly dripping at all.

#3 Soaker Hoses are Expensive

Average price per linear foot of soaker hose ranges from 24¢ to 55¢. Sources here, here, and here.

Average price per linear foot of drip tape ranges from 5¢ to 17¢ per linear foot. Sources here, here, and here.

Soaker hoses are double the price at least and then if you bring longevity and replacement costs into the equation they are even more expensive. 

#4 Connections are not readily available

If you use soaker hoses in a similar fashion to drip tape, each line is laid down straight and requires a header line and valve connections to it. 

While there are a few sources here and there online of valve connections and couplers for soaker hoses, they are incredibly difficult to find.

Variation in tube size and thickness means that finding the right match of what you need is even more like finding a needle in a haystack. 

Some soaker hoses come as a kit with extra parts and connections. I bought several kits but never was able to get just the connectors without the hose. 

#5 Take up more Space to Store

If you’re rolling up your hoses for winter, soaker hoses take up much more space than drip tape or sprinklers. 

Honestly, thinking about it now, I have probably close to 10,000 linear feet of drip tape in my garden. I can’t even imagine what that would look like as a soaker hose that doesn’t lay flat! 

There are some “lay flat” soaker hoses available. These would be an exception and would be easier to store if needed.

#6 Clogs Easily 

Each hose has many tiny holes often likened to pores because they are so small. Those little pores can get clogged easily if you have hard water and the mineral deposits build up.

Similarly, if you’re pumping water from a lake, pond, or source other than municipal water, you’ll definitely want to use a filter. We didn’t use one and that was another rookie mistake. 

Back when we used soaker hoses, our water was not hard and came from the city. Yet it still could have benefited from using a filter.

What We Use to Water the Garden Currently

For years, I thought drip irrigation using a header and drip tape was so confusing. I didn’t understand how to set it up so I never tried it.

I wasted so much time, money, and experienced poor results in the garden because I couldn’t figure out an alternative to the soaker hose.

Drip Irrigation

Last year, after watching a whole bunch of tutorials, the idea of how to set up drip irrigation finally clicked in my mind and I had an idea of what I needed to do. 

Since our garden is large, I bought drip tape and mainline tubing in bulk, along with all the connections we needed. 

We used it for a year and found it so much better than soaker hoses. It was cheaper, the lines didn’t clog, it was very easy to fix, and water emitters throughout the hose made flow all the way down steady. 

I recently got a kit HERE and it was so easy to set up. I highly recommend using a kit if it works for your garden.

We use drip irrigation because we still need water right at the roots to avoid foliar diseases on tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, and watermelon. 

Sprinklers

On most of our other plants, we use overhead watering with sprinklers because of its ease of setup, easy germination for direct sown seeds, and the ability to weed easily. 

Final Thoughts

I stopped using soaker hoses because they break down quickly, water unevenly, are expensive, hard to fix, are bulky, and clog easily.

Due to the problems outweighing the benefits, we switched to using drip irrigation (drip tape) and sprinklers.

Are there problems with drip irrigation and sprinklers too? Yes. There are definitely pros and cons of each type of irrigation. I have a video all about the pros and cons of drip irrigation and sprinklers linked below.

YouTube video

Even though they aren’t not perfect, it’s still a much better solution than soaker hoses!

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3 comments

Kelley February 19, 2024 - 8:57 pm

Hi Becky! Thanks for sharing! What do you use to water the flowers in the front of your home?

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Becky February 21, 2024 - 4:02 am

Hi Kelley! We don’t use any water for the landscaping. I have roses and some shrubs out there. They are perennials and their roots go deep. We cover the area with mulch to keep the moisture in and we get plenty of rain in the spring and periodically through the summer to keep them alive. I was thinking about it though and if we lived in an area that needed irrigation for shrubs I would still use the drip tape or some kind of drip line.

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Mickey Cashen May 26, 2024 - 3:21 pm

Thanks for the Drip Irrigation information. I’m going to research it.
You’re right about wear on soaker hoses: my round hose is going on its 3rd year. There was a tear in one place and fortunately the hose came with a lot of straight, elbow, and tee connectors so I was able to repair the hose. The female end connector that runs to a short garden hose had a bad leak and I bought a replacement end connector for $5.
In the future, if I continue with soaker hoses, I expect to use a series of 15′ flat hoses because the75′, stiff, round hose is a pain to install around 14 tomato plants and you have to be very careful to keep the hose whacking one of the plants as you’re working with it.
I have a garden with 14 tomato plants where the 3-year-old 75 ft. round soaker hose runs past two sides of each plant, 8 pepper plants where a new 15 ft. flat soaker hose does the job, and a trellis with cukes and eggplants where another new 15 ft. flat soaker hose does the job.
I haven’t had a problem with uneven watering, partly because I mound the dirt a little so the water from the hose runs slightly downhill toward the plants.
I use lawn mower grass clippings as my mulch each year and, before I bury the soaker hoses under them, I turn my faucet on one full turn and run the soaker hoses for two hours, using a 3-prong hand-rake to move dirt around so the water is running downhill to the places I want it.

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