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Can you store 5 gallon water jugs outside?

Quick Answer

Yes, it is possible to store 5 gallon water jugs outside, but there are some important factors to consider. The main concerns with outdoor storage are temperature fluctuations, sun exposure, and potential contamination. With proper precautions, 5 gallon jugs can be safely stored outside.

Storing Water Jugs Outside

When storing large volumes of water like 5 gallon jugs outside, temperature control and sun exposure are major factors. Fluctuating hot and cold temperatures can degrade plastic water jugs over time. The ideal temperature range for water storage is 55-70°F. Here are some tips for outdoor storage:

  • Store jugs in a shed, garage, or another covered, shaded area if possible.
  • Avoid direct sun exposure which can heat the plastic and water to unsafe temperatures.
  • During hot weather, wrapping the jugs in blankets or reflective material can help moderate temperature.
  • In cold climates, store in an insulated enclosure or bury underground below frost line.

Outdoor storage also increases the risk of contamination from dirt, bugs, rodents, or other environmental sources. Follow these precautions:

  • Place jugs up off the ground on shelves or pallets.
  • Seal lids tightly to prevent leaks and entry points for pests.
  • Consider adding secondary containment like vinyl sheeting under the jugs.
  • Inspect regularly for any signs of damage, leaks, or intrusion.

With the proper safeguards, 5 gallon water containers can be safely stored outside for emergencies or preparedness. Monitoring temperature extremes and preventing contamination are key.

Benefits of Storing Water Outside

While outdoor storage carries some risks, there are also advantages over indoor storage:

  • Space: Storing many large water containers takes up considerable indoor floor space.
  • Cool ambient temperature: Outdoors provides natural cool conditions, as long as shaded from sun.
  • Emergency access: Outdoor storage allows easy access for water reserves if unable to enter home during disaster.
  • Reduced indoor humidity: Humid basement air can potentially corrode containers and encourage mold growth.

With ample precautions taken, these benefits often make outdoor storage a good option for many households and emergency preppers.

Water Containers for Outdoor Use

Proper water storage containers are essential for outdoor storage. Look for the following ideal features:

  • Opaque plastic to limit light exposure
  • BPA-free
  • Screw-on lid with gasket for an airtight seal
  • Sturdy, molded construction that resists impact
  • Narrow opening to limit contaminant entry
  • Molded handles for easy transport

Plastic water jugs from most major brands designed for food-safe water storage meet these criteria. Some of the common options include:

Brand Model
Reliance Aqua-Tainer
Scepter Military Water Can
WaterBrick Stackable Storage Container
Coleman Water Carrier

Avoid using milk jugs, bleach bottles, or other household containers not specifically rated for water storage.

Water Rotation for Stored Jugs

To keep water fresh in stored jugs, a regular rotation cycle is recommended. Replace at least one-quarter of the water supply every three months. To remember rotation schedules, mark jugs with dates using labels or permanent marker.

Here are some tips for an effective water rotation system:

  • Use the oldest water first to flush toilets, water gardens/plants, wash vehicles, or other grey water tasks.
  • Refill emptied jugs with fresh tap water treated with water preserver like sodium hypochlorite.
  • Set calendar reminders for upcoming rotation dates.
  • Check for bottle damage each rotation and recycle compromised jugs.

Proper rotation keeps stored water fresh, safe, and ready for emergency use when needed.

Disinfecting Refilled Water Jugs

When refilling 5 gallon jugs after use, proper disinfection is essential. Here is a recommended cleaning process:

  1. Wash jug thoroughly with dish soap and hot water. Rinse several times.
  2. Sanitize by spraying or wiping interior with bleach solution (1 tsp bleach to 1 quart water).
  3. Let bleach solution sit for at least 30 seconds before rinsing again thoroughly.
  4. Air or towel dry jug completely upside down before refilling.

Adding water preserver when refilling will provide residual disinfection. Common preservatives like sodium hypochlorite at 5-8 drops per gallon are highly effective.

Safety Tips When Handling 5 Gallon Jugs

Full 5 gallon water jugs weigh over 40 pounds, presenting a safety hazard with improper lifting or transport. Follow these safety measures when handling:

  • Use proper lifting technique – bend knees, keep back straight, hold load close to body.
  • Avoid twisting body – pivot feet instead.
  • Use dollies or carts to move multiple jugs.
  • Wear gloves for better grip and protective footwear.
  • Store jugs at chest height to avoid excessive bending and lifting.
  • Do not overload shelves – check weight limits.

Proper handling protects from sprains, falls, and back injuries. Get help moving jugs whenever possible.

Alternatives to 5 Gallon Jugs for Outdoor Storage

While 5 gallon jugs are a very common water storage method, other effective options exist for outdoor storage:

  • 55 gallon plastic drums – Sturdy and stackable, often on pallet systems.
  • Rain barrels – Harvest rainwater from gutters.
  • Water bricks – Interlocking 2.5 gallon containers.
  • Pool storage – Use covered pool as large-scale water reservoir.
  • Water tanks/bladders – Larger capacities of 100-500+ gallons.

The right water storage system depends on space, budget, and quantity of water needed. Any outdoor solution should focus on temperature control and contamination prevention.


Storing 5 gallon water containers outside is convenient and cost-effective for emergency preparedness. With proper planning to control temperature, block sunlight, prevent contamination, and rotate supply, water jugs can be safely kept outdoors. Sheds, garages, and covered enclosures work well for storage with adequate shelving off the ground. Always use food-grade opaque plastic jugs designed for water. Handling full 5 gallon containers requires care to avoid injury. Outdoor water reserves provide easily accessible liquid reserves in case of disasters when indoor plumbing may be disrupted. With the right safeguards and maintenance, 5 gallon jugs are a versatile outdoor storage option for households and preppers.