5 Gallon Buckets: the Ultimate Airtight Storage Containers

I challenge you to think of a better airtight storage container than a 5 gallon bucket. They are the perfect size for nearly anything that needs to be stored secure from oxygen and moisture.

airtight storage containers

If a container is airtight, it’s also watertight. That’s a key factor because water is often more damaging than air. Too much moisture causes mold for instance, which ruins more than just food! I’ve seen a sleeping bag completely ruined by mold. Properly stored in an airtight 5 gallon bucket, that expensive sub 0 sleeping bag may still be usable today.

If you’re concerned with airtightedness – it’s best to buy your buckets and lids at the same time from the same place so you can be assured they will work together seamlessly. And make sure they’re labeled food grade if you’ll be using them to store food. Here’s a great example of food grade buckets that come with their own airtight lids.

Keeping 5 Gallon Buckets Airtight

Your 5 gallon buckets can’t be truly airtight without a rubber sealed lid. The lids I use most are snap lids with a rubber gasket. You have to make sure you press them down hard all around the rim until you don’t hear any more clicks – that’s how you know you’ve made your bucket airtight.

I lose my rubber seals frequently. So learn from my mistakes and always check to see if your seals are still in your lid before assuming that your bucket is airtight!

lids with and without rubber gaskets

When opening these very well sealed buckets, you will probably want to use a bucket wrench unless you don’t mind getting painful “bucket fingers!”

Gamma Seal Lids: Also Airtight!

A reader on our flood preparation with 5 gallon buckets guide helpfully informed me that rubber seal snap lids aren’t the only airtight lid for a 5 gallon bucket. Gamma Seal Lids work just as well.

I wasn’t so sure about this because I didn’t think Gamma Lids had a rubber seal around the rim of the screwing part of the lid – but I was completely wrong! They’ve snuck a seal in right against the top of the screw-on portion which seals them up tight as long as you screw them on all the way.


Small Scale Kitchen Airtight Storage Contaoneiners

Airtight storage is important for food kept in the fridge, but unless you’re lucky enough to have a walk-in cooler you probably don’t have room in your food chiller for even one 5 gallon bucket.

For leftovers, we use these glass containers with locking seal lids called Glass Lock containers. We have a really hard time now going back to flimsy plastic tupperware.



How’s that for a perfect seal!? When I snapped these photos I left the container upside-down on the carpet for about half an hour. Not one drop managed to sneak through! Read more about these on Amazon…

Larger Airtight Containers

If you need airtight containers larger than 5 gallons you have to ask yourself – how airtight does this really need to be? Rubbermaid 18 gal totes are sort of airtight, but the lids don’t secure as well as 5 gallon bucket. They’ll keep a loaf of bread fresh but any pressure changes or moderate jouncing will break the seal. I haven’t really come across truly airtight storage containers larger than 5 gallons, but I can’t wait to be proven wrong!

55 Gallon drums are certainly airtight – unless you cut the top off like we like to do – but they are really only good for storing liquids due to their relatively small spout. Even if you managed to stuff a bunch of your winter clothes into one of these, you can forget about ever getting them out again.

blue 55 gallon drum

Oxygen Absorbers and Moisture Absorbers

You can easily double or triple your food’s shelf life if you can keep it airtight. Two big enemies of food stores are moisture and oxygen, and an airtight seal will keep both of them out for good.

So you’ve got your airtight seal which keeps moisture and oxygen out – but what about the moisture and oxygen that you just trapped inside? Well that’s why moisture and oxygen absorbers are being used more and more to keep contents fresh. It’s sort of like getting the benefits of vacuum packing without actually having to vacuum pack anything.

You’re probably already pretty familiar with moisture absorbers. If you’ve ever found a packet of “silica gel” in amongst the packaging for shoes, electronics, or even dried meat – you’ve found yourself a moisture absorber. Might want to start hanging onto those, you can reuse them inside your airtight storage containers.

silica gel moisture absorber

I make my own low budget moisture absorbers by stapling fabric around some rice. I use just a paper towel if I don’t have fabric readily available. You can make these packs larger depending on the moisture level you’re dealing with inside your bucket.

Oxygen absorbers aren’t so simple to make yourself. There’s some slightly more advanced chemistry going on here, so it may be better to just buy a pack of 100 which should last a pretty long time.


Posted on by

4 thoughts on “5 Gallon Buckets: the Ultimate Airtight Storage Containers

  1. Buckets are great! but they really dont store(full) very compactly, circles waste alot of space between them, not so bad if you pack them in octagonal clusters but still not as good as square buckets if you want to put 20 of them on a shelf or whatnot.

  2. You are missing a few things. There is another round airtight lid for round buckets besides the press down and Gamma lids. These are ratchet screw top pails. They have the rubber seal and are much cheaper than Gamma lids. They come in other sizes too. I like the two gallon size. But you must buy them with the type of buckets they fit on so you can’t just buy some to go on buckets you already own like you can with a Gamma. So if you get your buckets free or almost free these won’t help. Also there are 55 gallon open top drums available that have removable rubber sealed lids. Check with Uline.com.

  3. Hi, I really like your website!! But I am having a terrible time trying to find out where I can buy buckets 6 gallon, that are not going to offgas chemicals etc. into the food. Do you have any recommendations? And now I’m going to make that question a lot harder, because I live in Canada. I would really appreciate any help you could give me. Thanks so much. Susan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>