How to Store Water Correctly

Written by The Ready Store

Water Containers

Previously, we addressed why rotating your water storage was so important. However, we had a lot of questions from people asking how to set up water storage. Here are a few tips to consider:

Type of container
Size. Make sure that the container is big enough for your needs. It’s recommended that you have 14 gallons per person in your family.

UV coated. You want to make sure that light isn’t getting in to your water. This can increase the possibility of contaminant growth inside the container or barrel. You want to make sure that it’s dark inside that tank!

Material. Besides making sure that you have a UV coating on the barrel, you’ll want to make sure that it’s BPA free. With some containers, BPA can seep into the water and create some problems.

Quality. You’ll also want to make sure that each of the containers is durable and won’t warp, crack or split easily.

Preparing the container
When you first purchase the tank or container, it might come with preparation directions. To ensure that the inside is clean, you can use a mild dish soap and clean water to wash out the inside walls, base and lid of the container.

We recommend using a Water Preserver to keep your water safe for 5 years. If you don’t use a water preserver, you’ll have to rotate your water storage every 6 – 12 months.

Installing the container
Place the tank or container in it’s final resting place.

You’ll want to place a wood board or block between the barrel and the cement. If you don’t, toxins from the cement can seep into your water supply. Don’t store water barrels directly on cement!

Fill the container half way. After you fill it half way you can check the seams the valves on your container, if you have them. (This is when you add the preserver.) Once the seals are checked, fill the rest of the container.

If you’re container is larger, you may want to strap the barrel or tank to the wall. This will prevent it from falling in an earthquake. I’ve seen many photos out there of people who staking their water barrels on home-made shelves and if you do this, you need to make sure that they are strapped down securely in case of an earthquake.

If you’d like to see a video demonstration, here ya go!

Updated March 8, 2012


  1. gray fox 114 wrote:

    Just a brief POST on what I have been doing to store water for 20+ years, not to cut out anyone selling dedicated water storage containers: My wife uses unscented bleach in her weekly washing. As she empties the plastic bleach bottles, I fill them without washing them out and store them. They are stored in a dark and dry place, they freeze often. None have broken or split, the plastic is still supple. There is no growth or smell in the containers, I have drank water that is 20+ years old. Shake to aerate and it’s good. I have not had any samples tested, don’t really see any need, Just a thought and a possible solution for those on a tight budget.

    March 10th, 2012 at 7:04 am
  2. Howard Bannister wrote:

    I would not rinse out the tank with a lead contaminated Chinese made garden hose. Use an RV type fresh water hose that is lead free and made for potable water.

    March 10th, 2012 at 7:42 am
  3. admin wrote:

    Storing water in bleach bottles can be dangerous if done improperly. FEMA recommends that you “use regular household bleach that contains 5.25% sodium hypochlorite. Do not use scented bleaches, color safe bleaches or bleaches with added cleaners.” Household bleach that is older than six months old, it might lose it’s potency. Be really careful when you use household bleach as a purifier, it can be very poisonous and adding too much can be deadly. If you want to use bleach, we recommend adding it before consumption instead of before storing.

    March 10th, 2012 at 9:48 pm
  4. Lauralee Hensley wrote:

    When I worked as a nurse for ventilator tracheotomy patients, I went to a respiratory seminar. I found out there that even sterile water will start to grow small amounts of bacteria and such within twelve hours after the sterile water bottle is opened and outside air gets inside the bottle. That is even if it is quickly recapped. They found that the bacteria level is about the same as in normal tap water in areas that have treated tap water from their city or community. So, even if you store your water safely in whatever form, I’d say boil it or use water purification tablets per the instructions that come with them, or still put the safely stored water through a purification filter right before using whatever amount you need. I wouldn’t process too much water than you can consume from your stored supplies though, or you’ll just end up having to retreat it, to be safe. That’s my opinion though.

    March 12th, 2012 at 2:04 pm
  5. Eric C wrote:

    I just bought a 30 gallon water storage container and was wondering if I can store it outside underground. More specifically, if i dig a hole that will fit the container, fill it and then bury it again, will the water inside last just as long as it would inside my garage?

    August 3rd, 2012 at 4:54 pm
  6. The Ready Store wrote:

    Hey Eric,
    Yes, the water should store the same. Our water containers are high-grade plastic so you won’t have to worry about seeping chemicals into your water supply. Burying them might also shelter your water from bacterial or algae growth due to the lack of sunlight underground.

    August 3rd, 2012 at 12:17 pm
  7. Captain Don wrote:

    I purchased two 60 gallon blue plastic drums from a cullenary school for 20 dollars each. Swiming pool supplies have them to.I put 1 cup of bleach from a comerical dish washer company that has 20% sodium hypoclorite solution. This will allow the safe storage of water for quite a long time. I then purchaced a perfect water filter from a company called cheaper than dirt. They take 2, 6 gallon pails and put the filter between the two and pour water in the top pail which then filters 99.9% of chemicals including bacteria out through the filters. You then end up with 14 gallons of as pure a water as you get from the tap per day. The difference is you can use any source of water short of atomic wastewater to supply your water. I have sent samples to water testing companies( one down the street from me) and they have given me the ok on very good water that actually came from the two barrels that had stored water for 8 months. The filter also filters out lead.

    August 6th, 2012 at 2:44 pm
  8. Frank S wrote:

    Hello, I live in Northern Nevada (Sparks) and in the winter it can get down to freezing. What are suggestions for eliminating the possibility of freezing if the container is stored in my garage? The concern is that the tank could rupture; disabling the tank and creating a cleanup problem. Thanks for getting back to me. FRank S.

    November 5th, 2012 at 9:01 pm
  9. Knottactical wrote:

    I live in Fernley and we have used heat tape before to keep water troughs from freezing in winter. I don’t think it would cause any issues with plastic barrels since it doesn’t get hot, just warm enough to prevent freezing.

    November 7th, 2012 at 10:19 am
  10. One wrote:

    I purchased a 650 gallon water tank several years ago. The tank is a heavy black tank made for water storage and is not in direct sunlight. I have treated it with bleach several times over several years but I have not kept it maintained religiously. Do I need to replace the water?
    It is “emergency” water and when and if ever needed I would boil before consumption. Advice please.

    November 10th, 2012 at 10:35 pm
  11. mark wrote:

    Regarding what Lauralee said about treating your water right before using… friend created the smallest pressurized DC (battery) powered Ozone generator and had a batch manufactured in durable otter boxes. Ozone is 20 times more powerful than chlorine to kill bacteria in water….with our unit you can purify water a glass at a tome before using in about 2 minutes….great for camping….easier to store than bleach and reuseable….check out.

    November 16th, 2012 at 5:00 am
  12. JC wrote:

    This might be a stupid question, but.. here it goes anyways.

    Tiled pantry floor counts as being the same as concrete floor? Therefore I should not my water bricks on tile? The large container in the garage be on wood board, so no problems there.

    December 20th, 2012 at 11:08 am
  13. The Ready Store wrote:

    @JC That’s a good question! I’m pretty sure you’d be fine placing them on tiles.

    December 20th, 2012 at 12:17 pm
  14. Linda wrote:

    Living in florida, my garage gets very hot in the summer. Can I still store treated water there?? any special considerations?? thanks

    February 21st, 2013 at 3:24 pm
  15. Bob in Denver wrote:

    I store water in several ways. I drink sparkling water every day from 2-liter plastic bottles. When Krogers has a sale (like now – 66 cents per bottle), I buy 20 cases (8 bottles per case) and store them in my basement. They’ll last me about a year, and I save the empty bottles and refill them, adding 5 drops of unscented Clorox bleach to each bottle (per Washington State Dept. of Health website). The bottles go back in their cardboard cases, which I store in my cool, dark crawl space.

    I bought several dozen square 4-gallon food grade buckets with snap-on lids from craigslist for a dollar each, cleaned and filled them with water and 1 teaspoon of bleach, and stacked them up in my crawl space.

    I bought a new water bed bladder which holds about 280 gallons which I put on top of carpet in my crawl space. I hooked it up with RV hose to my basement utility sink – gravity feed. I drain and refill it every year with one cup of bleach, to be used for non-drinking purposes.

    Water from the water heater (50 gallons) can also be used. If there’s warning of a water outage, I’ll fill all the bathtubs while the water is still on.

    September 18th, 2013 at 9:58 am
  16. joy wrote:

    Is hydrogen peroxide (edible type) useful in preserving water for storage? Thanks.

    October 13th, 2013 at 11:01 pm
  17. Denise wrote:

    Does water from one’s water heater have to have chlorine added to it or be boiled before drinking in an emergency?

    February 1st, 2014 at 8:40 pm
  18. Denise wrote:

    Oops, sorry. One more question. I live in the middle of a city, not near any lakes or rivers. I am 10 miles from the ocean, though, and wonder if ti would just be smarter to save for a desalinization device for water. Can pool water be used? If so, what precautions are needed? THanks for any help you can give.

    February 1st, 2014 at 8:52 pm
  19. Daniel wrote:

    Here in Texas it gets up to 105 degrees.. If I keep my water storage in the Garage. ( which is the most practical). It gets up to 90 degrees inside..but I don’t want to change a 200 gal. water tank every 6 months, Any suggestions?

    April 3rd, 2014 at 4:45 am
  20. Barbara wrote:

    Is there some kind of device that we can test our stored water with to make sure it is clean for drinking and cooking? I don’t want to have to boil water before every use, but want to be sure it is not full of bacteria and other harmful things.

    April 3rd, 2014 at 7:07 am
  21. Name wrote:

    If you are posting on here it means you have access to the internet which means you can check your spelling before you submit your comment. So… DO IT!

    April 3rd, 2014 at 9:04 am
  22. Irked wrote:

    @Name: And who appointed you Spelling Czar? Each commenter can run his/her own railroad. You just run yours, please.

    April 3rd, 2014 at 10:00 am
  23. Keith wrote:

    Stupid question here;

    Sorry, but I’m new to this and this is probably a stupid question but I would appreciate the feedback, so I’ll risk it.

    I have yet to purchase a large container to store water but have some bottled water. What would be the recommendation on purchasing water preserver and putting that into 16.9 fl oz bottles to try and preserve them? Would that at all be feasible or probably just a bad idea? Is the amount too small? Will the commercial bottles not hold up? Thanks.

    April 4th, 2014 at 4:58 pm
  24. frank wrote:

    I’m using the 55gallon drums from costco and storing them in my garage. I have gas cans and paints among other chemicals used for working on my car. Will the fumes Get absorbed into the plastic and into the water?

    July 27th, 2014 at 2:13 pm
  25. Patrick wrote:


    Was once at a friends place and saw him pull the bladder out of a wine BOX. He had been serving the wine all night and I thought it wasn’t too bad.

    The bladders are 5 liters each, food grade and stack great.

    For back packing I carry the bladder only and have macramé’d holders / carriers. Each bladder is 11 lbs.

    Rinse them out with very hot water. Fill from the tap and add your fav bleach.

    (wine drinkers. the Franzia “Chillable Red” is my fav.)

    Happy Drinking……………..

    July 30th, 2014 at 11:54 pm
  26. Curious wrote:

    I too am new to water storage. There are several questions on here that have not been answered and I think the answers would be helpful. Don’t think there IS such a thing as a stupid question when learning something new.

    August 18th, 2014 at 4:08 pm
  27. tommy wrote:

    would it be smart or useless to stockpile bottled water? and if so what would the shelf life be on it?

    September 21st, 2014 at 7:55 pm
  28. don wrote:

    What about storing larger containers outside on bare or grassy ground? Or would it be better to place a tarp underneath. There would obviously be no control of temperature, and minimal protection from the elements with only a tarp cover. How long would the containers last in these conditions?

    January 23rd, 2015 at 12:55 am

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