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PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 12:25 pm 
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Milk jugs. When you have kids, you can collect mounds of them. And hey, they're free, there must be something I can do with them, right?

So, about a year and a half ago, I filled 44 gallon milk jugs with water and stored them outside in a shed. So, they have gone through 2 winters and hence 2 freeze thaw cycles.

I knew that relying on this for drinking water would be a bad idea, what with the plastic breaking down into the drinking water. I didn't have terribly high hopes for the project as I knew about the breakdown rate of milk jugs, but hey, they're free. I figured I would use the water for flushing toilets. I left approx 2" room at the top of the jugs to allow for expansion.


So, the results of the experiment are:

After a year and a half, I had 11 obvious failures where the water was obviously lower. Some were totally empty and some were empty from the handle down. (Yes math fans, a 25% failure rate). I did not examine each one in detail so there are probably some more with high pinhole leaks. etc. The half dozen empty juice containers I had filled with water and left in the same shed were all fine.

Causes of failure:

I expect some of them failed because I filled them a little fuller than the others and they split due to expansion. Also, when I stuck them in the shed, I had a bottom row of milk jugs and I stacked some more milk jugs haphazardly on the top. Those jugs on the top row had a much higher failure rate and generally looked more distorted and twisted.
Overall, the jugs look generally degraded and cruddy, even the ones that still hold water.
There was one cause of failure I didn't anticipate. At least half of the failures were jugs that had split seams in the handles. My guess is that while water freezing in the main part of the jug can expand upward, the water in the handle has nowhere to go and shatters the handle instead.


Conclusions:

Milk jugs are a lousy container to store anything in. You can't store them outside, as the freeze/thaw cycle will tear them up rapidly and you can't store them inside because they will invariably leak eventually. You can't store foods in them because you will end up with plastic filled food. Milk jugs are only good for taking down to the recycling center.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 12:40 pm 
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Good post. We need more posts and real world information like this. Thank you for sharing this information.

Can you post pictures of some of the failed jugs?

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 1:19 pm 
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My grandmother used to have a small cottage on the York river which had no water. We kept a supply of probably 50-75 gallons of water there stored in milk jugs. Any that we used were brought back home and returned full the next time we went, so they were being continuously rotated. She stored them in a concrete-floored bathroom with a drain, so the occasional leaker wasn't a problem, and I don't think they were really exposed to much, if any, of a freeze-thaw cycle. As Ron noted, the usual point of failure was the handle. We never used the water for drinking, just washing and flushing. I don't remember it ever getting any nasties in it, but the water was from a chlorinated municipal supply, and stored in fairly dark conditions. I'm guessing the average age of the stored water was probably about a year or so.

I've wondered how well the milk jugs would survive if they were stored empty. You wouldn't have the stored water supply, but you would have an essentially free way of augmenting your stored supply on short notice.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 1:55 pm 
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Plastic from milk jugs can be used for a whole world of things. Cut one in half, and the bottom can be used for a seed starter, and the top can be used for a funnel for pouring fuel.

Fill one up, put the cap on it and poke a bunch of holes on it, and you have an instant watering can.

Using PVC you can hook 2 milk jugs up to a shower rig, let them warm in the sun, and have a decent shower from it, if you regulate the flow.

In closing, "Milk Jugs: They're not just for water anymore!"

Kevin

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 2:31 pm 
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 4:50 pm 
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Last edited by Biff on Tue Nov 10, 2009 9:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 4:56 pm 
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I'm a big fan of 2-liter soda bottles for water...tougher plastic, less weight per bottle, easier to rinse out...

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 5:29 pm 
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Biff wrote:
It would be interesting to do a side-by-side test of gallon milk jugs vs. 2-liter soda bottles. Based on anecdotes here and elsewhere, I could hazard a prediction, but it would be interesting to have some actual testing.


does the plastic in the 2 liters break don the same as the plastic in the milk jugs?
how does plastic get into the food? what if I was to store rice in the milk jugs?

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 5:50 pm 
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I like thicker things, like juice jugs. A one gallon jug of Arizona Iced Tea makes a nice good sturdy container.

I usually cut off the bottom, tape on the lid, and use them as bailers. You know, for bailing out a boat.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 7:22 pm 
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+1 to juice jugs and 2 liter soda bottles. Before I could afford nalgenes, I used a 3 liter ocean spray juice bottle of water in my BOB and it held up great. I also keep 2 liter soda bottles of water in my car kit that have gone through at least 10 freeze-thaws and they're A-OK.

In my opinion, a half life of 3 years is too fragile to make milk jugs a viable option. The best thing that you can do with them is find a way to re-use (thanks, famine and squirrely) or recycle.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 8:03 pm 
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Last edited by Biff on Tue Nov 10, 2009 9:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 10:26 pm 
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Good post. Sounds like our experience. The 2 liter soda bottles are immensely stronger, as anyone who has screwed around with the dry ice bang-bangs on the 4th of July can testify. They are designed to hold pressure. Juice containers are great, too. I totally wouldn't waste my time on milk jugs. They will get recycled and turned into park benches or something.

We use 55 gallon containers (not enough of them yet) for our primary storage but they are not... ahem... terribly portable. So a combination of big and small containers is handy.

Now that I think of it, the only use I can think of for a milk jug is at the other end of the water supply. We used to use them on boating trips for an extremely portable outhouse. (#1 only.)


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 09, 2008 10:28 am 
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i accept that the jugs are not good for water....but they have other applications. one of the best i have seen (and tried on a small scale - i live in a condo and have a very small balcony) is the portable garden as per this website:

http://www.recycling.moonfruit.com/

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 09, 2008 10:32 am 
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Milk jugs are porous. As such they can never be truly cleaned, small amounts of milk soak into the plastic itself.

I've tested them as water storage containers in the past. Forget failure of the container itself. No matter how thorough the cleaning, how heavy the chlorination, after a month or two- the contents reek of rotten milk.

2 liter soda bottles, FTW.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 09, 2008 9:48 pm 
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I keep all of my long term stored water in 6 gallon plastic jerry cans, and cases of one litre bottled water. But i also keep all of my cleaned and dried out 1/2 gallon milk jugs boxed up and empty in the basement, if i have any extra time i can supplement my water on a pretty large scale...and if i don't ...i just wasted a few minutes a week and a few cubic feet of storage space. seems harmless enough as insurance.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 10, 2008 2:54 am 
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Biff wrote:
Beanhead wrote:
does the plastic in the 2 liters break don the same as the plastic in the milk jugs?

It will break down, but over a much greater period of time.

Quote:
how does plastic get into the food?

I don't think that plastic gets into the food. Rather, over time the plastic will off-gas various chemicals. There's much speculation as to precisely which chemicals, how much is off-gassed, how much is absorbed by the food, and whether or not the chemicals or the quantities absorbed into the food constitute a hazard. Name your plastic, and some Chicken Little will have an issue with it. I personally don't have any worries about storing consumables in PET, PETE, or polycarbonate. I would stay away from milk jugs and anything made of that same polyethylene as it is very gas permeable (ever notice that when you put that left over spaghetti in the fridge the milk takes on the taste of garlic?) If you're paranoid about the plastics, there's always glass.

Quote:
what if I was to store rice in the milk jugs?

Then the rats and mice in your area would enjoy a nice feast.

A widely accepted procedure for grains is to put an empty mylar bag into a 5-gallon bucket, fill the bag with grain, displace the air inside with nitrogen or CO2, toss in a desiccant pouch or two, seal the bag, and seal the bucket.

Yeah that's how I've been doing it, but it would be nice to find a way that is cheaper and less time consuming.
IMO glass is to fragile for long term storage.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 10, 2008 8:41 am 
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I think that milk jugs have plenty of use without resorting to using them for long term water storage. I have used the at portable water jugs for watering a distant garden, cutting a notch out of the side and hanging them from the handle on my belt for a berry picking jug, holding sand, holding feed for my animals. The plastic soda bottles are much better in my opinion for storing water...mine have never failed and I've stored water for up to 2 years in them. :)

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2008 5:43 pm 
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bumping, coz it's helpful. :)

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2008 6:58 pm 
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Although I would be reluctant to use the milk jugs for long term water storage, I did like the idea of cleaning them and storing some emptys if space permits. As part of your disaster plan: in this case you are bugging in and have some time. Fill up those empty jugs along with any other containers you might have.
You can always use the extra water.
I have always thought that the use of water is seriously underestimated by most individuals.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2011 12:04 am 
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At walmart they have those apple juice bottles, without handles of course, that are made of very very thick plastic. They hold up very well, heck I even shot one with birdshot once at about 30 feet away and only a third of the bb's went through; versus the milk jug that turned into confetti


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