Preparing Water Containers

There are three steps in preparing your water containers for long-term storage. Doing these three things correctly will go a long way in producing a successful long-term water storage.


Helpful cleaning solutions that don't require soap.


3 questions to ask yourself before you start filling.


Labeling tips that will help years down the road.

Water Storage
Cleaning & Disinfecting Containers

Once you purchase your containers, you're not quite ready to fill them with water just yet. Each will need to be carefully washed and disinfected beforehand. You will need to have some form of dish soap, water, and unscented bleach.


If you would rather not use soap, skip to disinfecting and use instead 1 part bleach to 4 parts water.

  • Wash inside with soap and water using as little soap as possible that will still get the job done.
  • Shake the container, or roll the barrel or drum, contacting all sides including the top.
  • Rinse out with plenty of water.
  • Repeat the rinsing one more time, making sure all soap residue is gone.


  • Add 1 teaspoon of bleach to every 1 quart of water. Make as much solution as needed to wash your containers / drums.
  • 5 & 7 gallon containers – use 1 quart
  • 15 gallon container – use 2 quarts
  • 50 to 55 gallon drums – use 1 gallon
  • Shake the container for at least 30 seconds, or roll the barrel to completely cover the sides, remember the top as well.
  • Discard the water solution and allow the container to air dry.
Water Storage
Filling Containers

Before you fill your containers, ask yourself 3 questions.

#1 How long am I storing my water?

Decide how long you would like to store the water before replacing it. Your decision will let you know whether or not you need to add a water preserver before you seal the lid. This is explained more next: Do you need a water preserver.

#2 Is my water safe to drink?

If you are using municipal city water, you're good to go. If you are unsure about the safety of your water or are using well water, captured water, or water from any untreated source that has not been chlorinated, you must treat it first, then add it to your containers.

#3 Am I using a water hose?

If yes, purchase a food grade plastic hose, the kind that are used in RVs. Regular garden hoses can contain lead and are not meant for drinking. Using a power nozzle will help you control the flow of water especially if you are filling away from grass.

Do you need a water preserver?

Rotation at 6 Months

No preserver is needed if rotation takes place by or before 6 months. Municipalities pretreat their water with chlorine before it is piped to customers so further treatment is unnecessary.

Rotation at 5 Years

A water preserver is a good insurance policy for any amount of time that *exceeds 6 months. By adding a few drops, a water preserver helps your stored water avoid any buildup of organisms over time. But that protection will only last up to 5 years.

There are at least two choices on the market today that can help: Water Preserver & H20 ResQ - use as directed.

*Some believe if stored water is kept in an extremely controlled environment, there is no need to add a water preserver for storage longer than 6 months. They go even further stating that water in this envirnoment can last longer than 5 years in storage. If you are unsure, it's best to be safe.

Filling 5 to 15 gallon containers

  • If filling with a water hose, use a food grade plastic hose.
  • If filling in a bathtub or shower, first clean your shower head or water faucet with sanitizing solution.
  • Carefully fill your container to the fill line.
  • Add the water preserver if storing longer than 6 months.
  • Tightly screw on the lid, being careful not to touch the inside of the lid during handling.
  • Be sure to store a bung wrench for easy opening later.

If possible, fill the containers close to where they are going to be stored as they can get very heavy when filled.

Filling 50-55 gallon drums

You will need to fill your containers or drums in the location where you are storing your water. You will need to build a platform first. Once built, proceed with filling each drum.

  • When purchasing a food grade water hose, be sure to buy one that will reach into your garage.
  • Carefully fill each drum.
  • Add the water preserver if storing longer than 6 months.
  • Close the fill hose with bung nuts, being careful not to cross the threads.
  • Tighten with bung nut wrench to seal your water.

You can purchase a dolly sold specifically for 55-gallon drums. This allows you to wheel the drums into place if filling in your garage is not possible.

Water Storage
Labeling Containers

As with long term food storage, keeping accurate dates on your water storage is vital.

Tips for Labeling

Never write directly onto your storage container unless you don’t mind scribbles. Instead, try one of these two ideas.

  • Use a sticky label with added tape. Because most containers are stackable, avoid placing your expiration label on top.
  • Use a label that is affixed with twine and tie securely to each handle.

Make sure to switch out the labels at the next rotation.

Include the following information
  • storage date
  • planned rotation date
  • additives added, if any
  • potable or non-potable
Add a Reminder

Labeling your containers will help remind you when it comes time for rotation. For added security, place your rotation date on your calendar as a good reminder.