Checking/refilling my 5-gallon jugs

Hey all. About ten months ago, I filled up a handful of 5-gallon Sceptor water jugs. This was my first foray into long-term water storage. 

I was advised at the time that I should periodically empty and refill these jugs with fresh water. How often do you y’all do this? 6 months? A year? 

Also, for the first time today, I tasted some of the water I’ve been storing. It has a very mild plastic-y flavor to it. Very drinkable otherwise. Is this normal? What should I be checking for to make sure that my first efforts to store water were “proper”? I’m trying to avoid a situation where the worst-case scenario happens and I only find out then that my preparations were bad. 

If it’s helpful, here are the high-level steps I followed when I originally filled these last year: 

– Rinsed them thoroughly inside with warm water and dish soap
– Filled each 5-gallon jug with water and about 1.5-2ml of bleach. Let sit for 15 minutes. Flip, let sit for 15 more. 
– Dumped out the bleach water, rinsed it really good
– Filled with tap water
– Screwed on caps tightly. Stored in a cool, dark place

Would you recommend that when I empty the jugs to fill them fresh, I repeat all of the steps above? Or is a simpler process ok after the first time? 


  • Comments (9)

    • 3

      Just responding because no one else did. I just keep purified water jugs from grocery store. But I found some links that may help you.

      This guide has some basic tips on water storage. Stored water should be good for at least a year. Soap and water is adequate for cleaning – no bleach needed. I wouldn’t worry about that plastic flavor.


      ThePrepared also has a paid course that goes into more depth. I have not taken that course myself, but was very happy with TP’s first aid course.


      • 1

        Thanks. I’ve considered the water safety course and may go ahead and sign up. 

      • 1

        I believe that chemical taste you mentioned is the migrated plasticizer which keeps plastic from becoming brittle. This is in the class of endocrine disrupters and not good for your body. Your liver has to clear the stuff. Without much fuss about it, I would just replace the water regularly. It might not be harmful by itself but we have many assaults like this in our daily lives that can eventually harm us. 

    • 3

      You are ahead of me here!  I did the same as you – except three years ago at the beginning of the pandemic, and despite my best intentions I haven’t gotten around to refilling them.  I’ve sort of told myself that I could run the water through my LifeStraw or Berkey, or even boil them, if push came to shove.  

      But when I do get motivated, I intend to redo all the steps. I did have to use the emergency water in my car once, and it was only one year old, and the taste was just – awful.  Clearly perfectly safe because I’m still alive but I’d rather not have to go through that with multiple gallons!

      • 2

        Got it. Thanks for your reply! It’s hard to get motivated to refill them but I’m going to try and push through. 

      • 1

        M.E., We’re in sync here.  I also plan to run the clean water through a filter if needed in an emergency and it’s just too icky tasting while still being potable.  I also plan to filter the rain barrels if necessary, but have that mostly for gray water needs. 

        I also found the water in my car kit was also pretty stale tasting and it’s in a stainless steel Kleen Kanteen jug.  

    • 2

      We refill ours every 4-6 months depending on whether I remember or not.  We typically run 4 rain barrels off of the roof.  We keep one going through the winter with a stock tank heater.  We keep this in case we need “gray water” for toilets etc.  

      • 1

        Cool, thanks. Do you clean the drinking water containers every time? Or just empty and refill them? 

      • 1

        Just refill.   I do give them a quick sniff.  If anything smelled off, I’d for sure clean them.