How to Store Fuel Properly

Written by The Ready Store

Fuel is one of the most important things that you can use in an emergency. Whether it powers a car, generator, or stove; you’ll need to make sure that your fuel is ready for when you need it.

Handle all fuels with care. Remember that all of these could light at a moment’s notice.

We’ve collected a few tips on how to properly store different types of fuels, where you should store them, and how long they can store.

Containers for liquid fuel
When storing fuel, or other fire-starting material, you’ll want to make sure to put them in a different colored container. Most of the time, liquid fuels are stored in red containers. At a minimum, containers should be obviously labeled.

Make sure that containers are sturdy, reliable and have a good seal on them. You want to make sure that the fuel won’t leak. You should also consider a container that isn’t clear or translucent.

Gasoline

The American Petroleum Institute recommends that you only store gasoline for up to two years. This recommendation does not include gasoline that has been treated with a stabilizer.

There are many types of stabilizers on the shelf that can get your gasoline to store for a few years longer.

While I’ve used gasoline that has been stored for years on my lawn mower, using “stale” gasoline that has been stored for an long time can have some diverse effects on your motor. The recommendation for 1-2 years of shelf-life would provide optimal gasoline.

Diesel Fuel
Surprisingly, diesel doesn’t have a very long shelf-life. It can only last for 6-12 months.

The problem with storing diesel is that it begins to oxidize as soon as it leaves the refinery. Sediments begin to form that would clog the motor. This reaction can be slowed by keeping the fuel cooler and by adding stabilizers. The condensation from the gasoline can also form algae.

Some people who store diesel for a long time (the Navy, gas companies) use methods to stabilize their supply. These methods can be pretty expensive though.

We recommend that you store only a maximum of two-month’s worth of diesel at a time and empty the canisters into your car or generator when you rotate. (Thanks to Oblio13’s blog for the insight.)

kerosene lampKerosene
Kerosene is one of the easiest fuels to store, and is more versatile than most people think. It does not evaporate as readily as gasoline and will remain stable in storage with no special treatment.

Kerosene has a shelf-life of about three months in a plastic container. Storing kerosene for longer than that can result in bacteria and mold forming in the container.

When you store the kerosene, be sure to label the container properly. You want to make sure that it doesn’t mix with gasoline or another type of fuel. You should store your kerosene in a different color container than gas to ensure that they are not mistakenly mixed.

Be sure to store the kerosene outdoors but protected from direct sunlight. Prolonged sunlight can degrade the kerosene.

Butane canistersButane
Butane isn’t as popular of a fuel as gasoline or kerosene but many people use the fuel for lighters or other small fire starters. Many backpacking kits use butane fuel.

Butane comes in pressurized containers and the canisters are required, by law, to have instructions on the label regarding storage and usage of the product. Following the instructions will ensure that you keep your butane supply safe.

Proper storage is the first element in butane safety. Keep it in a safe place at home that is out of any children’s reach. Many containers can withstand even high temperatures. Even if you live in a climate that is rather warm, your butane should still store well … find a dry and cool place, out of the direct sunlight and away from any other sources of extreme heat.

Additionally, also make sure that the tip of the butane container is not damaged or clogged. If the tip is damaged or is clogged through use, remove the clog or throw away the container and buy a new one. (Read the Ebay article.)

propane tankPropane
You’ll obviously want to store your propane in a well-ventilated area outdoors. Make sure that your propane tank is stored upright – probably on a concrete slab.

Don’t store the propane tank next to anything flammable. Also ensure that it is stored in an area where a large amount of water will not fall on the tank – for example, next to a gutter or in the open under the rainfall.

Never store the propane in a house or garage. Click here to read Propane 101’s article about proper propane safety.

charcoalCharcoal
Charcoal is a great option for cooking fuel. They might get your hands a little bit messier but that’s not always a bad thing. The good thing is that you can store this dry fuel inside your home! However, never cook with charcoal indoors!

You can store charcoal in a dry location – like a bin or metal canister. You can also make a waterproof container by placing the charcoal in a bucket and use a gamma lid to seal the top. This should keep the briquets by not letting moisture into the bucket!

Coal
According to the Fireplace Supplier Register, coal can be stored in damp places without harming it. It can also be retained in areas that have little or no protection from the rain and snow. If you choose, so you don’t have to handle wet coal, you can cover it outside with tarps to keep it dry.

Store bagged coal inside the bags until you’re ready to use it. It will be easier to store it and carry it to the stove. Coal either comes by the bag or by the truckload (if you order several tons). Loose coal is easier to contain if it’s stored in wooden bins, but it’s not necessary. (Reference to the eHow article.)

Firewood
Avoid the temptation to keep a lot of firewood in your home. You can obviously carry in a few logs indoors at a time, but the best location to store firewood is outdoors. It’s recommended that you keep your firewood at least 30 feet away from your house – not leaning against the house, next to the door. Ideally, wood should be kept off the ground too.

You can make a simple firewood holder out of two-by-fours in order to stack the wood properly. Be sure to stack the larger pieces of wood on the bottom of the pile. This will help the pile from leaning or falling over. Here is an article on how to build a firewood caddy.

You’ll want to use a cover to protect the wood from getting wet. You can purchase a specific log rack cover or a simple tarp will do. Make sure that the cover is secured so it doesn’t blow away in the wind.

You may notice that there are some bugs in your firewood. Do not spray your wood with insecticide! This can seep into the wood and fume in your house when you burn the log. Instead, the best thing to do is dry out the wood as quickly as possible. This will encourage most of the bugs to leave the wood.

Matches
There are a variety of matches out there. Avoid placing cheap matchbooks in your kits and emergency supplies. They can absorb moisture a lot easier.

Instead, focus on matches that are waterproof and have longer stems. This will allow you to light things from a safe distance and make sure that your matches are safe from moisture.

If you don’t have waterproof matches, you can place your matches in a waterproof container. Make sure that the container is a thick plastic and isn’t stored in direct sunlight.

Updated March 23, 2012

41 Comments

  1. lynn wrote:

    You can make your own waterproof matches by dipping standard wooden matches in melted paraffin, to give them a thin coat of wax.

    March 26th, 2012 at 12:32 am
  2. Icon wrote:

    I’ve stored gas for 2 years after being treated and still ran great.
    Kerosene??? I’ve got some going on 10 years old and still burns in my lamps and heater…
    These articles need to be from experience, not copying from another website.

    March 26th, 2012 at 2:36 am
  3. Rick (The Great White) Regalado wrote:

    Even buckets with gamma seal lids have the ability to allow air in over time, where air gets in so can moisture and even insects. If you “seal” charcoal in buckets as emergency back-up as I have you always want to use a Mylar bag to assure you will have a completely “fresh” product when or if you ever need it. Keeping the insect factor in mind, any other products like pet foods, etc should always be stored in Mylar as well.

    March 26th, 2012 at 2:44 am
  4. Bob wrote:

    Having tried gas preservatives StaBil and Seafoam,the Seafoam wins hands down. Tried the StaBil and you have a extremely hard time trying to start engines in the Spring after winter storage. The Seafoam was no problem starting my mower and generators. From experiance!

    March 26th, 2012 at 3:09 am
  5. Shreech wrote:

    I agree with Rick’s comments above. I store gas in steel 55 gal drums. I stabilize, remove and replace 5 to 10 gal about every 3-4 months. The new gas has stabilizers in it and the old gas gets diluted with the new gas in my SUV (flex fuel). I have been doing this for 3 yrs with no starting/running problems. For a test I ran the truck on 100% old gas which was 2.5 yr old on average. No starting problems whatsoever. So I recommend my system to you if you are going to store gas long term. SRR. Stabilize, remove, replace. Also if using steel drums I recommend you ground them with a copper grounding rod and alligator clips to the drums.

    March 26th, 2012 at 4:53 am
  6. Woolval wrote:

    In the past I used to use StaBil, but after doing a lot of research I’ve switched to using PRI-G for my fuel stabilization. From everything I’ve read the PRI-G is much more effective stabilizer and it is more concentrated, so a quart goes MUCH farther than StaBil. A quart of PRI-G will treat 512 gallons of gas. Sometime around June I’ll fill all my gas cans and add the PRI-G. If we don’t have any storms I’ll slowly add the cans to my F-150 or in my lawn equipment until it’s all consumed. This is my 4th year of doing this and I’ve never had any problems. My riding mower always cranks right up, weed eater too. Every few months I’ll drag out my generator and crank it up, and it always cranks on the 2nd or 3rd pull. (Note: I always turn off the fuel cock and run the carb dry before storing again) I asked BatteryStuff.com if it would be effective in Coleman fuel, but surprisingly, they said to use the PRI-D (for diesel) instead. They also said I could use the PRI-D in gasoline, but I can’t use PRI-G in diesel fuel or Coleman fuel.

    Living in Florida I annually store 60 gallons of gas in my preparation for hurricanes (safely stored outside, far from the house). While it might seem like a lot, in 2004 we were without power for 7 days. During that time I was burning 12 gallons of gas a day to keep the fridge going and some comfort appliances, like our microwave, coffee pot and a 5500BTU window A/C unit so we could sleep. Why is it always the muggiest after a hurricane?

    Woolval

    March 26th, 2012 at 5:06 am
  7. Don Juan wrote:

    I agree with Shreech and Icon. I’ve been storing fuels for several years now. Gas has a good 1 year shelf life with stabilizers added. Aditionally you rotate 10-20% out every couple of month and it becomes stable for life. Diesel, along with additives can last over a year. I have 2, 100 gallon tanks. I rotate 10-15 galons out of each every month. Kerosene….I don’t think this stuff ever goes bad. Keep in mind also, all fuels need to be kept out of light and as cool as possible and rotate a percentage out regularly. I think the people that give thesde products a 2 month rating are the people that sell them. Kinda like cannned goods.

    March 26th, 2012 at 5:23 am
  8. Tom wrote:

    I also use a stabilizer with my gas storage and rotate like the others have mentioned and have had no problems in over 6 years of storing and using. One thing I suggest is to keep the fuel cans, metal or plastic, on wood above the concrete to avoid direct contact with the concrete surface. Years ago I was told this helps to avoid moisture buildup inside the cans during the changes in temperatures. I live in Missouri so we go from one extreme to another with lots of humidity. I have my fuel cans lined up so the oldest is used first. I keep the fuel tanks in my generator, lawn equipment and whatever filled to the max with as little air as possible. With the generator I rotate the fuel out once a year and use it in my vehicles replacing the fuel with new treated fuel. I have a tag on the generator that shows the fuel change date as well as the oil change and testing dates.

    March 26th, 2012 at 6:38 am
  9. Denise wrote:

    I agree with the above comments. I have almost all of the above mentioned fuel sources for use and emergencies. The Ready Store is suppose to help us with long term storage ideas and info, not short term. The safety comments are great but what do we do for long term emergencies??? I have enough kerosene to last for a winter in my garage stored in 30 gallon barrels (4 of them, suggested by Utah States Emergency and Disaster department). Utah state and the place I bought the fuel said with stablizer it can last as much as 15-20 years in the right conditions. It will turn a litte dark but will work just fine. Have had it 3 years now and used it a couple times ice fishing and works beautifully. The Ready Store needs give us useful info with good research or I am going to stop receiving emails from them!

    March 26th, 2012 at 7:40 am
  10. admin wrote:

    Denise and Icon,
    Sorry, you’re totally right. There was a bit of a mistake with the diesel fuel and gasoline sections. We have updated the article to reflect how it should really be. Sorry about that! Thanks for the help!

    March 26th, 2012 at 8:42 am
  11. John wrote:

    It’s probably a good idea to check your homeowner’s insurance for limits on the amount of fuel you can store in an insured structure. I think my policy limits me to 5 gallons of gas.

    March 26th, 2012 at 8:50 am
  12. Cindi wrote:

    Can you show us a picture of the ‘grounding’ method described….I’ve no idea how to do the copper wire thing…and where do you get steel cans in Utah for storage?

    March 26th, 2012 at 9:08 am
  13. Helper wrote:

    Cindy,

    A grounding rod is a copper rod about the thickness of your finger and about 5-7 feet long. Get one at your hardware/home store. It should come with a clamp and screw that you can stick thick wire into and then screw tight, to clamp the wire to the grounding rod.

    Drive the grounding rod straight down into the ground leaving only maybe 6″ sticking out of the ground when done. Screw all wires you need grounded to that clamp of the bit sticking up.

    For wires to the drums, the thickest copper wire you can find is always the best. Alligator clips on one end clip to the tank, the other end screwed into the clamp on the grounding rod.

    Walk around your house to your meter and look at the bare copper wires leading downward to the ground. They are screwed to a grounding rod.

    Use your own, very much separate grounding rod if you are going to ground drums. Keep them away from the house and in a safe place (away).

    March 26th, 2012 at 9:50 am
  14. kevin wrote:

    i use finger nail polish to make water proff match it better then using wax and it dont gum up

    March 26th, 2012 at 10:06 am
  15. Terry wrote:

    I usually purchase 25gallons of gas for my generator in May or June, using 5 numbered 5gal gas cans. I purchase premium grade which seems to store better (or maybe I just think it does). Over the course of the summer, it gets rotated by filling the mower, then refilling that container, using a different container each time.
    Around mid-November I will add the cans to my vehicle gas tank, then start over the following spring.
    I have never had a problem with fuel used and rotated in this manner.
    I suppose, in reality I should keep the 5 containers full year-round. Maybe I will start this year.

    March 26th, 2012 at 1:17 pm
  16. Reid wrote:

    you may want edit this article as it seems to contradict itself in some places ?? Otherwise it’s good to know.
    BTW “seafoam” , I have been told ,makes an excellent gas preservative.

    March 27th, 2012 at 8:23 pm
  17. Woolval wrote:

    Ready Store, I’m disappointed you removed the links in my first reply. If you were selling fuel treatment supplies I might understand, but you don’t, so I just can’t fathom why you would remove links for fuel treatment info. This company is in a totally different market than you, no competition, no threat to your sales. I’ve purchased from you and I’ve purchased from them, both of you offering items I deemed necessary.

    I’ll try again… maybe it was just a fluke. Here’s what was removed before:

    BatteryStuff.com has a couple good tutorials on fuel. You can read up on the PRI-G here if you’re interested… http://www.batterystuff.com/kb/articles/miscellaneous-articles/fuel-treatments-why-bother.html

    Like the ReadyStore, I’m trying to help you also, so I hope this helps!

    http://www.batterystuff.com/fuel-treatments/PRIG32oz.html

    Woolval

    March 28th, 2012 at 5:07 am
  18. admin wrote:

    Woolval, the comments system automatically takes out links in comments. We will bypass the system in your updated comment to allow for links to show.

    March 28th, 2012 at 8:43 am
  19. Woolval wrote:

    Admin, thank you for overriding your systems automatic removal of the links. I hope your readers find them helpful. I also hope YOU find them helpful, especially considering the context of this article you posted!

    I still like you guys and think you offer a good deal on your products, and I’ll continue to shop your webpage.

    Thanks again… sorry for being a “whiner”.

    Woolval

    March 28th, 2012 at 1:44 pm
  20. admin wrote:

    Haha. Oh no problem Woolval. We hope your link and our article will help! Thanks for the nice comments!

    March 28th, 2012 at 2:35 pm
  21. sharlo wrote:

    Will it harm charcole briquetes to store them on a concrete surface.

    September 2nd, 2012 at 10:05 pm
  22. The Ready Store wrote:

    Hey Sharlo, thanks for the question. As far as I know, it will not harm the briquettes. Just make sure that the briquettes are not absorbing moisture.

    September 5th, 2012 at 8:23 am
  23. Believe All Things wrote:

    For those of you storing gas in barrels or drums, which ones do you recommend? Also, do you store them in a shed or shelter away from your residence?

    December 26th, 2012 at 6:06 pm
  24. Vic wrote:

    I did a lot of research on this, and found only 1 company that I trust. This company “Only” does fuel saving additives and for the big tankers. Their product is called PRI. You can buy PRI-G for Gas, or PRI-D for Diesel, Kerosene, and some other similar liquids.

    Putting in your gas, can preserve it for a year. Then just add some more. They even used it on really old gas, and was able to return it to use. I’ve put it in my Generator, long term storage gas, and even my car to clean it out.

    Do some research on it. GREAT STUFF. It’s the only thing that I recommend now.

    March 15th, 2013 at 5:50 am
  25. mrs julie a neary wrote:

    very well written and informative
    but some premises are small and best not storing some of the materials and in small quantoities if they do and can do safely

    re matches waterproof there is an element of risk in them relighting as often water is used to extinguish fires and matches safely
    PLEASE USE A METAL TIN TO ESSENITIALLY SUFFOCATE THE SMALL PIECE OF MATCHWOOD>>>care re how hot it gets…DO NOT KEEP THE LIVE MATCHES with those you are trying to extinguish

    March 15th, 2013 at 6:27 am
  26. Bill wrote:

    What is the best way to store Coleman fuel? How long does it last?

    March 15th, 2013 at 7:13 am
  27. Greg wrote:

    Keep It Simple: If you want to store gas long term, use non-ethanol gas & PRI-G. The neighborhood gas station has 10% ethanol and will go bad quickly. The ethanol is the culpit. Purchase gas from a small airport or a marina. Not all marina’s are ethanol free, so make sure you ask. Store in well sealed metal has cans and your good for years. DO NOT use Stabil it has a short shelf life! Go to pure-gas.org for a list of ethanol free gas.

    March 15th, 2013 at 7:37 am
  28. confused wrote:

    Info on propane safety but not 1 word on how long it stores????

    March 15th, 2013 at 8:19 am
  29. Boy Scout wrote:

    Woolval has it right. PRI-G is the go to product.
    Been using it for over 8 years storing gas in Scepter Military Fuel Containers “MFC” and a couple NATO style steel cans. Marking them/roatating them within a 18 month to 2 year time frame just to be sure that my fuel is fresh as possible.The Pri-G guys will tell you that if you add the product yearly to your stored fuel, your fuel will store for years and years on end. I know guys who have used it and used gas that was stored 4 years! but prepping,as it seems most of you are doing are aware that no matter what you store it’s all about rotate,rotate,rotate. As for the home owner insurance concern, really? Trust me, your house goes down for any reason? they will find a way to short you on your claim.

    March 15th, 2013 at 11:23 am
  30. Bob wrote:

    Gas can go bad. Enough air space can cause moisture to precipitate. The water then feeds organisms. My son lives in the coastal desert. I thought I would have gas storage problems in Texas but actually he did not stabilize his gas (kill the microbes) and after a year it burned with black smoke. Rotation with stabilizers will work over time very well as stated. Thank you all for the product reviews. I am next using a new one now for storage as a result of reading about PRI-D. I just bought a diesel car.

    About PROPANE I found this quote: “I have spent the better part of my professional life working on hydrocarbon systems of all ages, and I assure you, unless the liquid was contaminated prior to entering the tanks, propane could not go bad.” The long post on a forum followed and told how the various valves need to be high quality and you are set. This has been my experience over 20 years. It is the low maintainence choice for hydrocarbon storage it seems. Also on the TV show Mythbusters they tried over and over to shoot a full tank to explode it. A 007 movie started this myth. They failed. The gas must be released into oxygen then combusted with a spark or flame. Good thing to know.

    If no Jerry cans available, I bought two METAL CANS at Northern Tool- they usually have a sale in the mid to late summer-that are much easier to use than those confounded knuckle braking plastic things available widely. In Texas I found that to keep the air out filling to near the top was too much heat expansion pressure for pressure. One of mine began to split. The ppl above recommending metal cans reflect my experience over a few years. Much safer, they also work and pour better.

    March 15th, 2013 at 5:07 pm
  31. Glennon wrote:

    I have a different question. We discovered a five gallon container full of gas under one of our porches when adding fresh boards to it. We have been here for seven years and we don’t have any recycling facilities for hazardous materials in our area. Are there any good ways to dispose of this gas safely. I do not want to just dump it on the ground as I was told by a neighbor down the road. Thanks.

    March 15th, 2013 at 7:10 pm
  32. JCM wrote:

    Thank you again for the pithy article (and for being able to save it as a PDF for future reference).

    Only one thing to add: Be very careful with ethanol. Even the lower blends (“…up to 10%”) in most gas stations can do damage quickly, as ethanol is corrosive and begins to break down in as little as two weeks. After replacing a carburetor on a 6-month old generator I ran every other week, he told me to use ethanol fuel treatment if there was even the possibiliy of the fuel containing ethanol. This was echoed by my mechanic, after a check engine light came on with a “lean mix” code (as ethanol breaks down, it releases an oxygen molecule that gets picked up by the O2 sensors as extra oxygen, resulting in a leaner mixture).

    March 15th, 2013 at 7:30 pm
  33. Bob wrote:

    Try making a Bengazi burner with it and see if it burns. There is a Wikipedia site and many others that will show you, but a metal container half full of sand soaked in petrol is a great makeshift or emergency unit for warming people(barrels were used in WW2) or boiling water for tea/coffee for pufrification(ww2troops in Benghazi used empty metal ammo boxes thus originating this name) . If it works in a small can then save it for an emergency burner-the old gas. If you don’t like that then burn it that way in a barrel until it is all gone. Be careful not to have fuel standing in a pool. And keep the source can way off from the flame. Gas is explosive-the sand starves it from enough oxygen to explode or something like that.

    March 15th, 2013 at 7:31 pm
  34. mike mcdaniel wrote:

    thanks for your article on propane storage i was storing mine incorrectly. i am 62 and still learning.

    March 15th, 2013 at 11:37 pm
  35. Glennon wrote:

    Bob, thanks so much for your reply and a solution to my problem. As they say, ‘Live and Learn’ and I have today.

    March 16th, 2013 at 9:57 am
  36. Gilbert Schmitt wrote:

    I have worked with and sold a few types of gasoline stabilizers. The Stabil brand only floats on the surface of the gasoline to keep out air. If the can is disturbed that can break the seal. Seafoam is great for stabilizing but Startron is the best for all gasoline and diesel. You can get Startron for each type of fuel and it will keep gas stable for up to two years. I keep it in my four and two cycle gas and have no problems starting my yard and garden equipment after sitting over winter.

    August 5th, 2013 at 11:48 am
  37. aviator wrote:

    Duh… do NOT buy gas from an airport to use in generators or your car. All aviation gas (such as 100 octane Low Lead, or 100LL Which is blue in volor) contain LEAD. Unless your engines are 40 yrs old and require lead you will cause severe damage to your engine from overly hot combustion gasses and burn out your emissions systems. It will also require you to remove and clean your spark plugs with a brush every 100 hours of operation.

    December 14th, 2013 at 2:53 pm
  38. E.P wrote:

    I store diesel in 500 gallon tanks and gasoline in 100 gallon tanks. With the PRI stabilizers added.
    I have used 2 1/2 year old gasoline in my 14 yr old truck with no problem. My hwy diesel is routinely 2 years old by the time I empty the tank and it runs fine in my 12 year old truck.
    All my tanks have filters attached and are gravity fed.
    My used farm diesel tank had 3 year old diesel in it and I added double strength PRI-D to my tractor before I filled the tank……it ran a little “sutty”, but ran fine.
    Real Experience.

    February 6th, 2014 at 11:38 am
  39. Mark wrote:

    Hands down PRI-D I have stored 500 gals of diesel for over 20 years for use in my generator. I’ve never run the tank dry just toped off 10 to 20 gal as the generator was used. Just follow the directions on the jug and retreat each year. I also use the PRI-G in gas for my storage needs never had an engine that would not start.

    February 6th, 2014 at 1:02 pm
  40. Dan wrote:

    Having burned coal for many decades I don’t agree with the claims that it can be stored outside uncovered. Eastern coal tends to be harder than what we have out west so this might not apply there. When I’ve left coal out it has turned from hard solid like lumps to crumbling, easily busted pieces, that are harder to start on fire and seem to produce less heat. Old crumbly coal will still burn but best storage practices would be to keep it in a weather protected coal bin and the fresher from the ground the better.

    February 6th, 2014 at 5:59 pm
  41. nancy wrote:

    I have some stored gas that is about 2 yrs old,without any stabilizer. Would it be better to use stabilizer before I use it or is it to late for the stabilizer?

    February 7th, 2014 at 5:07 pm

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