Can You Store Water in 5 Gallon Buckets?

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Storing water for camping or driving can be challenging with such a limited amount of space to work with. If your vehicle doesn’t have a fresh water tank, you’ll have to find an alternative method, such as storing the water in buckets. Five-gallon buckets are budget-friendly and easy to come by, but are they reliable for water storage?

You can store water in 5-gallon buckets as long as the buckets are sealed with an airtight lid and the water is fresh when you put it into the bucket. It’s also paramount to thoroughly wash and clean the bucket before you refill it to prevent bacteria from growing. Make sure the bucket is BPA-free.

In this article, we’ll explain how long you can store water in a five-gallon bucket, what you can use the water for, and whether or not it’s worth the hassle. We’ll also dive into a few locations where you can store the bucket to keep it out of sight and prevent it from falling over.

How Long Can You Store Water in a 5 Gallon Bucket?

You can store water in a 5-gallon bucket for up to two years with a durable lid. Keep in mind that the water might taste a bit like plastic after several months or years in the bucket. Inspect the water weekly to ensure there aren’t any leaks, contaminants, or debris in the container.

Drink Heart Water recommends against storing sparkling water for longer than one year. Since you’re likely storing the water for van life purposes, you can store regular freshwater for twice as long. Thin, cheap plastic buckets will leach a gross, flat taste into the water.

If you’re driving and camping in hot locations, do your best to have a thick bucket that doesn’t get too hot in direct sunlight. Covering the water bucket with a cloth or placing it in a cabinet will prevent the flavor from worsening or becoming flat and stale.

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What Can You Use Water Stored in a Bucket For?

You can use water stored in a bucket for greywater purposes, such as cleaning dishes, washing a vehicle, or watering plants. If the water is clean, unused, and purified, it can be used to drink, brush your teeth, wash your hands, and bathe. Test the water with strips to look for 0 chlorine and between 7.2 to 8.0 pH.

Here’s why storing water in a five-gallon bucket is so convenient:

  • You can hook the water bucket to a hose and use it with a sink. Many campers use 5-gallon buckets as the water tank under their kitchen sink, allowing them to wash dishes or their hands with a faucet. Remove and empty the buckets when you’re done using them, then insert them back under the sink.
  • Distillata claims you can keep water in a bucket for two years and drink it whenever you want to. The more you close the lid, the longer the water will last. However, you don’t need to worry about closing the lid too often if you’re only using it for washing dishes, watering plants, and so on.
  • Wash your laundry in the five-gallon bucket whenever you want to. Five-gallon buckets are the perfect size for washing clothes, regardless of how long you’ve stored the water. As long as there’s no debris or bacteria in the bucket, your clothes will come out looking and smelling as good as if you used a laundry machine.
YETI Loadout 5-Gallon Bucket

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There are many other ways to use a five-gallon bucket to store, drink, and clean with fresh or gray water. The YETI Loadout Bucket holds up to five gallons of food, water, and other supplies. It’s ultra-durable and much thicker than the average hardware store bucket. Choose from a handful of colors and snap on a lid for the best storage longevity.

Where Should You Store 5 Gallon Water Buckets in a Van?

You should store 5-gallon buckets of water in a van under the bed, in a cabinet, or anywhere low to the floor. It’s important to secure the bucket with straps, belts, ropes, or wooden vices to prevent it from falling over when you drive. Always store the bucket near the floor to lessen the chances of it tipping over and causing a mess.

Try these three placement suggestions:

  1. Gnomad Home recommends using tiedown straps and anchor points to secure the bucket under a sink or bed. You can use the same straps you use in the back of a truck or van to secure heavy items. Screw four anchor points around the bucket and connect the tiedown straps to keep it from moving.
  2. Build a cabinet on the floor for the bucket. You can place the bucket in the cabinet and ensure it’s snug, preventing it from sliding around. Use cabinet latches to secure the door shut. All you have to do is unlatch the door, and you’ll have instant access to five gallons of water.
  3. Vice the bucket to the floor anywhere out of the way. You can drill 2 x 4’s into the floor surrounding the bucket. Feel free to add anchor points and straps as mentioned in the first suggestion or build the 2 x 4 wall high enough to prevent the bucket from wobbling or tipping over.

Although many well-known campers have done it, we advise against mounting the five-gallon buckets to the back of the vehicle. It’s convenient to always have access to the water supply, but you don’t know who or what might tamper with the water. It’s not worth risking, even if you have straps, locks, and so on.


Now that you know the best way to store water in a five-gallon bucket, you can stay hydrated and clean on the road. Remember to always seal the bucket with an airtight lid when you’re done using it. Scrub it with a clean sponge and dish soap every time you empty it and before you add new water.

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