There are a lot of people who want to live as frugally as possible, although recycling is a good idea but in certain cases like in the case of storing water, it is not a good idea to reuse milk jugs. A lot of people do store water in milk jugs, especially if they are using a lot of milk in their households. At first glance, a milk jug would be a perfect container for long term storage, but the truth is far from it.
No, it is not safe to reuse milk jugs for waters as milk jugs are biodegradable, they will leak, milk jugs absorb smells, they will make your water smell bad, they contaminate the water, they are difficult to clean and you are not able to stack them. The biggest problem with storing water in milk jugs is that sooner or later bacteria will multiply due to the milk residue, and at that point, the water will smell and taste bad.
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Generally speaking, most preppers store their water in stackable water bricks, water barrels, and even in water cisterns. In some cases, some preppers will store water in water bottles, although not ideal it is still better than storing water in milk jugs. No matter if you want to store water for the short or for the long term it is still a bad idea to store water in milk jugs. Milk jugs are made to store milk and not water, and if you store water in them you are just making things harder for yourself.
If you want to store water in milk jugs for longer periods of time then you should know that water will actually spoil a lot faster than in normal water bottles. Although water doesn’t have an expiration date, but most water bottles do have an expiration date. This expiration date is because the plastic will actually start to dissolve after a while and contaminate the water. Although we tend to ingest a lot of plastic every day but this also comes with a lot of negative health effects.
Some people will also add a couple of drops of bleach into the water and think that this way they will make their water last longer in milk jugs. The main problem with storing water in milk jugs is with the milk jugs themselves and not with the actual water. If you want to know for how long you can store water bottles then check out my recent article How long can you store bottled water? ( In your Home, Garage or Car ).
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Milk jugs are biodegradable and not ideal to store water
Biodegradable simply means that over time they will degrade, although they will not disappear one day from your storage but small holes will appear on the milk jugs. Depending on how the actual milk jug is manufactured they do have a set amount of time before they start to biodegrade. Most milk jugs will start to degrade in a couple of months, although they could easily start leaking before the deadline.
Milk jugs will leak water after a while
Milk jugs are not made to hold milk or other liquids forever, eventually, they will start to leak, this is the case both form milk jugs and plastic water bottles as well. The main difference between milk jugs and water bottles is their resistance to pH, the pH is used to measure how acidic water and other liquids are. Water tends to have a higher pH level than milk, although not by much but this will lead to leaks.
As milk jugs are not made for higher pH levels such as water has, then once you add water to the milk jugs the acid in the water will slowly eat away the plastic. This is why all bottled waters have an expiration date, the water doesn’t go bad but due to the pH levels, the acid in the water will slowly dissolve the plastic. If you are storing water in plastic jugs then you will notice that after a couple of months or years the milk jugs will start leaking. If you are planning to store water then you should use a water filter, for more information check out my recent article Do Lifestraws work? ( Or do They? ).
Milk jugs absorb smells which can make the water taste and smell bad
Due to the type of plastic which most milk jugs are made of, they will absorb different smells and vapors. This happens because milk jugs are made out of permeable plastic which allows it and other gasses to penetrate the milk jugs. So if you have been storing your water in milk jugs in your garage you have probably noticed that the water smells and tastes like gasoline. Gasoline tends to evaporate rather quickly and these vapors can contaminate the water even if you do not open your milk jugs.
Once a milk jug gets contaminated by some kind of gas, vapor, or smell it will be difficult to get the smell and the bad taste out of the milk jugs, at that point you should definitely throw out your milk jugs and all the water that you have stored in them. If you want to know how long a person can go without water then check out my recent article How long does it take to die from dehydration? ( Days or Weeks? ).
Reusing milk jugs for water will make the water smelly
If you store your water in milk jugs then sooner or later your water will develop a strange and bad smell. This is both due to the residue left from the milk and due to the type of plastic used for the milk jugs. No matter how well you clean your milk jugs you will still end up with smelly water after a while. This smell is coming from bacteria feeding and multiplying in the milk jug, and this is the last thing you would want.
If you store a lot of water in milk jugs then you probably noticed some kind of weird smell, and you have probably not thought that the water is actually the cause of this smell as all of your milk jugs have their caps on. The truth is that the plastic used for milk jugs is permeable, and this means that they will allow air to flow right through small holes, although these holes are not large enough for the milk or water to leak but they do allow air to flow through the bottle itself.
Reusing milk jugs for water will contaminate the water with milk residue
When water starts to smell then this is a sign that the water had been contaminated, especially if you store water in milk jugs. No matter how well you clean your milk jugs you will not be able to get rid of all the small particles found in milk and once you add water to the milk jugs this will be an ideal place for bacteria to live and reproduce. The permeable plastic which is used for milk jugs will trap a lot of fat and protein from the milk itself, and no matter how well you will clean it you will not be able to get all these particles.
Once the water is contaminated it is no longer safe to use, and this can be extremely problematic if you are storing water for the long term. The more contaminated the water is the worse it will smell, so if the water in your water jugs is smelly then you should throw it out.
Milk jugs are difficult to clean
One of the main reasons why you should not store water in milk jugs is because milk jugs are not meant to be cleaned and reused. Milk tends to be fairly greasy when you compare it to water, so you will have to use a lot of cleaning products to get the grease out of the milk jugs. The problem is that the milk jugs are made out of permeable plastic and the chemicals from the cleaning products will be absorbed by the plastic itself, and even if you manage to get out all the grease you will still contaminate the water with the chemicals from the cleaning products.
You can not stack milk jugs with water on top of each other
Although most milk jugs look like you can stack them, but the truth is that most of them are not stackable. If you stack a couple of milk jugs on top of another then sooner or later some of the milk jugs will start to leak. Milk jugs tend to be fairly sturdy, but they are not made to resist additional forces other than what their content is. If you stack water in milk jugs then you might notice that some of your milk jugs have started to deform and even to expand.
This tends to happen due to the increased pressure from the added weight on top of them, and due to bacteria multiplying. Once bacteria will start to multiply they will produce a lot of gas, and as more and more bacteria are living in the water the amount of gas will deteriorate and rupture the milk jug due to the increased pressure. The smelly water from the milk jugs comes from the bacteria producing gas.
As you can see it is not a good idea to store water in milk jugs, especially for the long term. If you store water in milk jugs for short term then odds are that you will not notice that the water is filled with bacteria due to the milk residue, as it takes a while for the bacteria to produce enough gas which alters the taste and the smell of the water. But even if you do not smell the gas produced by the bacteria it doesn’t mean that the water is clean and safe to drink.