Drinking Water Storage – How Long In Plastic Containers?

A lot of people are apparently concerned about the (health) effects of plastic as it pertains to drinking water storage (‘bottles’, jugs, containers, barrels, etc.).

I have spent time researching the general subject of various plastics versus their apparent safety for food and water. There is a-lot of opinion and passion about it.

Having said that, I have come to my own conclusions about how to best deal with it. That is, the possibility of ‘bad’ chemicals leaching into the water from the container which it’s stored.

( Jump to the short answer to this question )

 100% free of BPA and bps:
(view on amzn)
BPA-free Sports water bottle

Not all plastic is created equal.
However there are certain plastics which are considered Food Safe (for water too).

Drinking Water Storage Plastics

Plastic generally considered safe for Food & Drink
Recycle Number:

#1 (PETE)
#2 (HDPE)
#4 (LDPE)
#5 (PP)


Most plastic water ‘bottles’ (the kind you get in the 24-pack flats, etc.), and the plastic of soda and juice containers, are made from #1 PETE. They are apparently BPA-free nowadays (based on what I’ve discovered online about this subject).

#1 plastic water bottle containers are thinner than #2 plastic. In fact today’s #1 bottled water is even thinner than it used to be! They are basically designed for one use. That makes it less than ideal for long term water storage.

In addition, I’ve discovered that #1 containers will more readily leach a ‘plastic’ taste into the water if it’s heated up in any way – especially over time.

For example, if you leave a plastic water bottle in your hot car, then drink it after it has been sitting there for a time, chances are you will taste a bit of plastic. This can’t be good over the long term.


Most gallon jugs of water or milk, etc. that you see in the grocery store are made of #2 plastic and are Food Safe.

Blue colored water containers, jugs, and barrels that are specifically manufactured ‘Food Safe’ are made of #2 plastic. Not all ‘Food Safe’ water containers are blue, but many are (for quick identification).

#2 BPA-free Food Grade, Rugged Design, Refresh water 6 – 12 months
#2 Food Grade BPA-free, is my choice (if using plastic) for drinking water storage.

The thicker the better (resistance to scraping, damage, leaking). I use 55-gallon plastic drums for long term storage, but refresh the water once each year as a precaution. I also have a number of smaller potable water jugs ranging from 3 to 7 gallons each.

One drinking water storage container that I have is this one, #2 Food Safe:
(view on amzn)
safe plastic water jug

I reviewed it here: Portable Drinking Water Storage Container

My opinion is that if you’re storing water for long term, and if using plastic containers, you should use #2 HDPE food grade. I recommend that you drain and refresh your water every 6 – 12 months. The water should be stored in a cool place, out of the sun.


#4 plastic is used for things like plastic bags.

#5 PP

#5 plastic is used for things like Rubbermaid type food storage containers, etc.

The Bigger Picture

In the context of survival & preparedness, the potential issues from long term effects of plastic leaching (even though the plastic is considered food grade) is miniscule in comparison to the need for water itself!

You will not live long without any water at all – ~ 3 days (more or less).

How long will (the possibility) of plastic leaching take before it affects you? Maybe decades? Maybe never?

“Don’t sweat it.” Just store some water!

[ Read: Safe Plastics for Food & Drink ]

How Long Do 5 Gallon Water Jug Last?

It’s a common question. The last thing you want is your water storage to begin leaking all over the place!

I don’t have a specific answer other than it does matter how you store the water jug. More specifically, I would not store plastic water jugs filled with water – on a concrete floor. Scratching. Abrasion. Temperature difference between the concrete and room temperature.

Instead, consider a piece of plywood or anything to create a barrier in between.

However, read the next section:

Tip regarding plastic milk jugs

A comment about gallon plastic milk jugs for water storage:
Don’t use them!

I have experienced them leaking, and many others among the preparedness community have commented on it.

After awhile, they will probably begin to leak. They are fairly thin. They’re not designed to be reused. In fact some of them these days are designed to biodegrade more rapidly.

I’ve had success for years with some, but not always. It’s better to fork out the dough and buy some purpose made water storage containers.

[ Read: Water Purifier or Water Filter – Which is Best? ]


  1. Thank you for adding the “The Bigger Picture” in this article.

    It drives me completely CRAZY (a short trip BTW) when I hear people talking of this and that leaching from the Plastics….. Really? How many decades are you storing that Water? Ever hear of cycling ‘stuff’ out? Including your WATER!!!!!

    Does “First in First out” ring a bell at all?

    Sure we all want 500 gallons of drinkable water on hand, I know I do, and guess what, BE RESPONSIBLE, get involved with your stores/Deep-Pantry, including your water supply. Don’t just buy 5000 rolls of TP and never us it; think about why you are storing “stuff”; unless you’re just keeping up with FEMA.

    BTW, when the water stops running from the tap, are you going to be a nut-case and worry about if XYZ bottled water was stored in a BPA free bottle, and die of thirst? Or are you going to be grateful that someone actually had enough brain cells to store up that water?

    UGHHHHH, Rant over, sorry all.

    1. Lol yup and I got filters if I think something might be amiss.
      I’m gonna worry bout it like my cholesterol when it all goes bad.
      We are pretty lucky to even worry or know bout such things right now. Most in the world ain’t even sure where the next clean drink is coming from or when.

    2. How often do you “refresh” or water and how do you do that?? Just put new water in there? We have the is none!

  2. Bottled water has an expiry date. Now, I realise we’ve often discussed that expiry dates are for the most part hokum. And, I realise that if I was in shtf, would not care about said expiry date.——

    Having said that, does anyone have info on expiry date on bottled water, does it matter “at all”?

    1. Jane Foxe;
      Not so sure on the Expired Water, but God knows I used a can (actually 3 cans) of Beans that were well over 3 years past the “Date”, made a GREAT Taco Soup with them, so does Ex dates on water mater “at all”? not with all the rest of the world crashing down around our ears.

      1. NRP—- I too have used fairly long expired cans this or that. It doesn’t make sense the bottled water should only have a one yr or six month date.
        in shtf, would not worry at all.

        1. Water has no expiry date. The US GOV makes all manufacturers that have package food and drinks add the date… it really is ridiculous. It will taste stale after a while but from everything I’ve read, it does not “go bad”.

          1. Just think of it like this. The water is trapped in the atmosphere of this planet and has been here for millions of years being recycled by nature. Urine, shit (in part), rain, snow etc etc is all recycled water at some stage. It never expires.

      2. NRP
        Dont matter
        If it still looks like water and am not sure i will just dump it in my Berkey

    2. Jane Foxe, In the states if is mandated that all water shipped across state lines have flouride added to them.. It is not in the label because it is a federal mandate. would use the best flter i could get my hands on… and use it. especially on commercially bottled . I save my vinegar, and juice bottles wash them, and bleach the juice bottles., re use all i can….( vinegar ones are fine, just rinse since vinegar is a disinfectant.) Have been using soda bottles but have reduced those down and going to more gallon..for ease of handling and space concerns..

    3. I don’t think the water expires, it would be because the government knows that a certain amount of chemicals will leach out of the plastics into the water. I think that could be part of the reason they put an expiration date on the bottle.

      1. Peanut Gallery — I think you’re likely correct about “why”. However, as all say, if shtf, least of my worries.

        1. I agree Jane, if the SHTF we will not be wasting a single drop. Of course we will most likely filter all water that was still stored in plastic at that point.

    4. It should be a “best by” date rather than an expiration date. The best by date is used to prevent numerous “funny taste” lawsuits.

      1. sunflowerpri
        A fairly new poster, but haven’t seen you post in a long time
        Sit along the campfire on the open forum sometime.

    5. Just a little something I read on a website about water storage.
      Myth #1: Water can expire. Fact: Water does not expire. It can become contaminated (chemically or biologically), but it doesn’t “go bad.” Water can have a stale taste, but that taste can be eliminated by rotating your water and purifying it. If a water storage source is in ideal conditions (it started out clean and was stored in a dark, cool area, not directly on concrete or near harsh fumes and chemicals), it technically can store indefinitely. Rotate water for peace of mind or if there is a risk of contamination.

      1. GeisterWolf
        Please remember that most bottled water doesn’t have the mineral
        content that most ground water has. Your need them. Also as you
        likely know be careful of your containers. I have noticed that a
        number of sites tell you to store in pop bottle, don’t, most
        of them are single use, and prolonged use will contaminate the

      2. GW
        Sorry forgot to add that water bottle shown at the head
        of this article, if you look, you’ll freak, most of them
        are toxic, as in class 7, BPA. All the such bottles out here are.

  3. Thanks Ken. Made me check my water storage. Turns out it’s “Manufactured with food-grade FDA approved virgin polyester resin in NSF certified plants”.

    p.s. 1,550 gallon above ground tank in black

  4. My plan:

    -Use only “number 1 PETE” containers.
    -Every Spring I rotate through the containers. I use the “old water” to water the plants.
    -Run the generic tap water through the new style Brita filters (blue) and refill the containers. Takes about a month total to go through all of them.

    The stored water I use, which is generally on camping trips, is run through the blue Brita filter again. So far…..plants are alive……dogs are alive…….we are alive. This part of “the plan” seems to be working.

  5. I’ve often wondered what the effect all the billions or trillions of gallons of bottled water has on our environment? If it’s bottled up and stored in warehouses for years it’s not interacting with the environment. The planet doesn’t create new water it just recycles it. Unless we get hit by a water bearing comet, we have the same amount available today that the cavemen had. We just have better access to it. So what effect does all that warehoused water have on the environment? Not just the bottled water, but also sodas, beers, drinks of all kinds, and even processed foods. Would be interesting to find that rapid climate change has less to do with CO2 and more to do with us slowly drying out the planet. 😁

    1. Grits;
      Interesting thoughts, thinking the same could be said for absolutely every thing Humans get their hands on huh?
      Even the Air we breath.

      1. NRP,
        You’re right, we do have tendency to crap on everything we come into contact with. It’s just a curious thought though. Like, maybe the melting of the ice caps and recent uptick in storm frequency and intensity might just be the planet’s way of replenishing water where it needs it, while we of course continue to drain and bottle it.

    2. Grits, i concur with NRP, interesting idea to ponder, if following the KISS principal that would make the most sense, good post!

  6. Okay, I need to explain my aversion to plastics. Many years ago we had a bottle of ibuprophen still sealed in its plastic container stored next to bars of soap. They probably sat next to each other for well over a year. When it came time to use the ibuprophen it tasted like the soap and smelled like the soap that it was stored next too. I remember what soap tasted like from my childhood as my language was not up to my parents liking, hence the soap in the mouth.

    We are slowly converting everything over to glass as we accumulate new bottles for the safety factor as well as the longevity factor. One of our large blue containers similar to what Ken is showing started leaking, hence the need to change. Ours are well over 25 years old now, so it stands to reason that they will break down and leak eventually.

  7. FDA regulates bottled water. Bottled water has an indefinite shelf life and no expiration date is required. I would guess manufacturers put a date in order to increase sales.

    I had an experience similar to Peanut Gallery’s only it was laundry soap. I now keep cleaning supplies and other nonfood items far from food.

    If anyone is interested, there’s an exhaustive review of the regulations (21 CFR Part 165) here:


  8. I worked for a bottled water company many years ago. I learned that bottled water was not what we were told. The three types of water were spring water, purified water, and distilled water. They used city water for everything. We started the day bottling distilled city water then went to purified “filtered” city water and then spring water. To make spring water we used one tanker truck with real spring water in it and mixed it with filtered city water to a ratio of 10 parts city to 1 part spring.

    1. Wow, Left Coast, thank you for that information. Another example of corporate greed.

      1. Peanut Gallery;
        I too worked at a “Water” company before Water was invented.
        Learner one thing for sure, do NOT drink Distilled Water for any period of time, the water will literally draw the minerals out of your body.
        Also that Spring water, the Feds allow this process, among millions of others to deceive the public consumer, ever see how they process Bananas or tomatoes for instance? Picked 100% green than chemically “steamed” to turn them “Ripe”.

        1. NRP
          We drink spring water from a natural spring daily. We use distilled water for long term water storage.

  9. Can’t help but remember a story of a couple at Sea World. Lady asked the staff at the seal pool what the water was made of. He replied 2 parts hydrogen one part oxygen. She looked at her boyfriend and said ‘See, I told you it wasn’t real!

    We store extra water in eight 50 gallon olive barrels. 3 of them collect water from a galvanized steel roof so might pick up a bit of iron and zinc. 3 get there water from a Lexan roof so I’m not use what that might put into the system. 2 get water off of an asphalt roof. That water has a rather unhealthy green tint to it. Bats under the eaves manage to get guano into the collection system. High in phosphates and that has caused those barrels to have an algae problem.

    Algae blooms can cause toxins that can be fatal. It is my understanding that they can’t be filtered out. I visited the Berkey site and was not able to find anything on this. We reserve this water for toilet flushing.

    My wife like to buy smartwater. IMHO it’s marketing. They do add some electrolytes but they don’t say how much. They do vapor distillation which they claim mimics clouds. Which is a difference you can taste unless you like the taste of water from underground, like spring water.

    I love my well water. Best water I’ve ever tasted!

    1. me;
      “She looked at her boyfriend and said ‘See, I told you it wasn’t real!”
      OHHHHH now that’s a hoot, gata love people.

      Had to also chuckle at “vapor distillation” not sure if there is any other type of Distillation…. 100% Marketing. BTW Smart Water, use the well water and add 1/4 teaspoon full of Gatorade….. Poof, instant savings of $.90 on the Dollar.

  10. We keep a good supply of the 5 gallon jugs (The kind you refill at Walmart or Lowes).

    We continually go through them, to make sure the water doesn’t go bad, and just refill 1 or 2 every week when we are getting groceries.

    To make sure they are water tight, we buy the snap on (one time use only) caps from Amazon:

    Bottle Caps for 3 & 5 Gallon Water Cooler Jugs

  11. One time use only? no way…I use mine TWICE and refill it with the same water…though not in…ahem…in the drinkable version. I’m not walking to my outhouse when it’s below freezing out and two in the morning!

  12. From the above linked article: What is the shelf life for bottled water?
    Bottled water is considered to have an indefinite safety shelf life if it is produced in accordance with CGMP and quality standard regulations and is stored in an unopened, properly sealed container. Therefore, FDA does not require an expiration date for bottled water. However, long-term storage of bottled water may result in aesthetic defects, such as off-odor and taste. Bottlers may voluntarily put expiration dates on their labels.

    1. I was told by the water department manager here, that my area has water tanks that aren’t in use because there weren’t enough people using it and that after so long chlorinated water turns to methane gas. So, I wouldn’t be storing any “city” water or any type of bottle water that comes from a city source of water that has chlorine in it.

  13. Is it safe to store drinking water in a 250 gallon plastic container that previously contained copper ethanolamine if the container has been cleaned?

    1. Substance is Toxic, cannot be completely removed from plastic container! only if you want all who drink it to die.

  14. For everything I’m reading, you have to rotate (and treat) your water every 6-12 months and it should be stored
    between 50-70 degrees. When SHTF and we can’t access water…how safe will the “old” water be? Also, I live
    in Florida, when the A/C no longer works, and my house is hot and it’s hotter outside, will the water be safe to drink?

  15. I store water in blue 55 gallon drums specifically designed to keep light at a minimum to reduce algae/bacteria growth and I treat it with aqua mira. After more than 2 years the water is still fine to drink but may it be flat which is fixed by shaking it and re-oxygenating it. I keep the drums in the basement which stays dry and around 65 degrees. Old water is better than no water and having a water filter system like a Sawyer or Big Berkey or even a Lifestraw will be a life safer…literally.

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