How to Change Water in a Vase Without Removing the Flowers.

As every good home florist knows, you’re supposed to change the water in a vase of flowers every few days.

Provided there are actual flowers in the vase that is. This apparently keeps the flowers fresher. I’m not convinced. Plus I can’t be bothered. So I don’t do this.

However, there are a few flowers that develop a certain pungency to their water. Gladiolas for instance. And sunflowers to name another. It usually takes 4 or 5 days for the water and stems to steep to the point of smelling like a a partially digested mouse that a 90 year old toothless man with an ulcer threw up.

For these flowers, I sometimes break my “can’t be bothered” rule and change the water. It’s usually easy enough to do, but when you have a huge or an intricate flower arrangement it can be a bit of a challenge. Ditto for when you have something on the bottom of the vase like pebbles or rocks or seashells or whatever tickles your armpit.

For those times I use a little trick I learned while syphoning gas from my parents’ cars as a teenager.  With a few modifications of course.  Please enjoy.

The Art of Changing Flower Water

How to change the water in a large vase using a rubber tube.

It’s not a trick I use a lot, but when I do pull my hose out, for just such an occasion, I’m glad I have it.  If I had tried to change the water in this vase by dumping it into the sink, my flowers would have fallen out, the rocks would have been clanging on the side of the vase, I would have been swearing and my cats would still be hiding under the bed.  Possibly my boyfriend too.

So what are you waiting for?  Go buy a tube.

The end.


  1. Elaine says:

    Great solution, Karen!! Thank you!

  2. Gale says:

    Wouldn’t it have been easier to put one end in the flower water and THEN fill the hose with water and just lower that end into the sink? Personally, I would have put the whole vase in the sink and just run clean water into it until the old water flows out and just clean water is left. Then, if you couldn’t tip the vase to get the excess water out, siphon that water out.

  3. Suzanne says:

    Brilliant. If I ever have a vase those gladiaoliaiaiaios – I’ll remember this. Thanks, Karen.

  4. tina says:

    OMG, thank you thank you thank you….i do the flowers at my restaurant. cleaning the vase usually requires a mass evacuation in the kitchen.

    i will definitely give this a try. and i love that i don’t have to potentially suck dirty water into my mouth.

    • Karen says:

      Tina – You’re welcome! You’ll be so excited when you try it the first time and it works! It’s amazing. ~ karen

  5. Ann says:

    I’m not sure if it would work (or just spray water all over the place), but, after you use the siphon to suck out the dirty water, couldn’t you leave the hose in the vase and use it to put new water back in again by just running water into the opposite end of the hose? Seems like it would save a step.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Ann! You’re not the first person to ask about this. Filling the vase with the hose doesn’t work, because in order for the water to make it’s way through the hose it has to be either level or tilted downwards. To fill the vase the hose has to run from the faucet in the sink, up the outside of the vase and then down into the water, so it isn’t possible. If I had a hose *attached* to my faucet it would of course, but I don’t. :( ~ karen!

      • Val says:

        You should be able to do that if you lower the vase to below tap height before filling, such as by setting it on a chair. However, it may be less trouble to just use a jar or something to fill it if you can’t make the tap reach.

  6. GoldCoastKate says:

    Hi there!! I learned from a mad hairdresser friend years ago that you add a 1/2teaspoon of sugar to ‘feed the flowers’, then a few drops of bleach to prevent the whole mess going off! Works a treat! You still need to switch out the water – but not for at least twice the time usually.

    K xx

  7. sera says:

    genius. seriously.

  8. Josie says:

    Karen! Here is a neat gadget if you don’t want to get your hand wet with the stinky dead raccoon water:

    Its a siphon used for home brewing, you just stick one end in the stinky water and pump once or twice to get the water flowing out! So easy and it’s only $10! Not sure where else to get them.. I think you could get one at a fish supply store cause they use the same method for cleaning fish-tank water! (without sucking the air/water through with your mouth – ew).

  9. deborahinps says:

    And all these years I’ve been a “siphon sucker” ,with all sorts of bits being spit here and there ewwwey!….so glad to see the proper way of changing that stinking flower water :0)

  10. Great tips! I always hate the smell of rotting flowers too.

  11. Beth says:

    Whoa!! And I thought you were actually going to have to suck the stinky water out! Whew!!

    • Laurie says:

      I know me too! That “fill the hose with water first” is the genius part here, I wish my chemistry teacher would have been able to learn a thing or two before the helpful instruction to teenagers, “quick pull it out of your mouth before the liquid actually makes contact.”

  12. Homepodge says:

    Your modified siphon is ingenious!

    “the water and stems to steep to the point of smelling like a a partially digested mouse that a 90 year old toothless man with an ulcer threw up”

    Haha! Gross. Glad I don’t have to worry about things like this, what with being a guy and all. Nobody bothers go give me flowers…


  13. Whitney says:

    Awesome! I know the art of siphoning all too well as I’ve done it with many a fish tank over the years but I only ever knew how to do it by sucking water up the tube to get it started praying desperate please with every breath that I get the tube out before the stinky fish water (or flower water) gets in my mouth. NEVER AGAIN!!! – Fill it with water first… why did I never think of that?

  14. Ricki says:

    This is probabaly the best method if you’re trying to conserve water. My not so conservative method would be to sit the vase in the sink, and either run the faucet into the vase letting it overflow until most or all of the stinky water is cleaned out, or use the flexible sprayer (if your faucet head is too low to clear a large vase) to do the same thing. Then if it gets too full, just tip it slightly until the water level is correct.

  15. Crysta says:

    If only I had seen this three days sooner. Then my flowers, my vase, my kitchen, and my trash can wouldn’t stink to high heaven.

    In future flower times, I will sing praises to your name. Get excited.

  16. Shannon says:

    Gladdies & sunflowers are pretty bad but hyacinths smell like a pile of rotting arseholes in the sun if you leave them too long or don’t change the water. The worst!

  17. Elly says:

    Conversation I just had with a friend I introduced to your site:

    Her: …and I’ve been reluctant to make those types of arrangements because I hate changing the water.

    Me: I know. But doesn’t she just make everything seem easier?

    Her: Yes, and cooler. I think that hose trick will seem cool to [husband] that he might even be duped into changing the water. Heck, he might even send me a larger arrangement for our anniversary.

    Me: SEE?!? See why this site is the best! She should have a whole section called “The Art of Getting Men to Do Stuff.”

    Her: Yes!

    • Karen says:

      Elly! Thanks! In a moment of sincerity I’d like to say that it’s really nice to hear that the information I put up seems useful to people. Re: “The Art of Getting Men to Do Stuff” remind me to tell you about the time I tricked my boyfriend into trimming our HUGE maple tree. It went something like this: Me: Tree needs trimming. Too bad *you* couldn’t do it. Him: Huh? Why couldn’t I do it? I could do it!!! I’ll show you .. I’ll go and do it RIGHT NOW. Me: heh heh. Thanks again and say hi to your friend. (friend if you’re reading this … Hi, and thanks!) ~ karen

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