Drum or IBC: Which is easier for storage?

Drum Versus IBC

When it comes to storing large quantities of items such as chemicals, there is a choice of vessel.

How should you decide whether a drum or IBC container is the best option?


Drums are cylindrical in shape and are usually used for storing and shipping bulk chemicals and other hazardous substances safely.

They are normally made from steel, fibre (fibreboard) or plastics. Of these materials, steel tends to be the most popular choice for storing chemicals. That is because steel is more resistant to various corrosive chemicals.

There are two broad types of chemical drum; open top and closed top.

Open-top drums will have fully removable covers with a bolt to keep them secure.

Closed-top drums have secure, non-removable tops, and are also known as tight-head drums.

Tight-head drums are better suited for the storage of low-viscosity liquids such as solvents, resins and thick slurries.


Fibre drums continue to be popular because they are much lighter than steel, therefore cheaper to ship. They are also a cost-effective option because their material is less expensive. Manufactured from recyclable materials, fibre drums combine affordability with a minimal environmental impact.

However, they are not generally suitable for handling hazardous materials, and their relative lack of robustness can make them trickier to handle with forklifts.

Plastic drums are versatile storage containers, manufactured from high density polyethylene (HDPE). They have thick, leak-proof walls and are UV-resistant.

That makes them suitable for transporting food, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, and even some hazardous materials. And plastic is cheaper to produce than metal, making plastic barrels more affordable, as well as being reusable.

For situations where strength is a major factor, steel drums are the ideal option. Steel is a high-performance material in all kinds of conditions, making it the right choice for storing and transporting flammable and combustible materials.

The weight of steel drums can make them more expensive to ship, but their strength and damage-resistance ensures they are cheaper to insure. They are also reusable, providing long-term value for money.


Intermediate bulk containers (IBCs) are storage containers that are specially constructed for transporting and storing bulk materials, often liquids and chemicals.

They are usually made with a galvanised steel outer frame and an inner container of high-density polyethylene.

Depending on their classification, they can be used for the storage of hazardous materials such as corrosive chemicals.

UN-certified IBCs can be used for storing and transporting hazardous materials, whereas non-UN IBCs are for non-hazardous bulk storage.


Drums and IBCs each come with their own set of benefits, so choosing your container type will much depend on the material you are storing and what your purposes are for doing so.

Steel drums, for example, are robust and non-combustible. This makes them ideal for storing chemicals and protecting against any spillages.

Drums also have multiple uses, and they can be cleaned and restored for repeated use.

They typically contain volumes of 120 and 220 litres. They are therefore an excellent solution for storing a broad range of different chemicals in smaller volumes.

Intermediate bulk containers, on the other hand, have a much larger individual capacity of 1,000 litres.

This means you can maximise your storage of chemicals and other materials.

They can also help eliminate waste, while also enabling easy decanting of materials into smaller containers.

Because IBCs are a cubic shape, they are safe to stack on pallets, and easy to load and unload using a forklift or pallet jack.

This can reduce labour, saving both time and money.

IBCs are also made from recyclable materials, making them sustainable storage solutions.

Ultimately, ease of storage will depend on what you are storing and requirements for transporting it.

We are happy to advise you on the best solutions for your business.


For more details about drums and IBCs, please telephone 0333 987 4565, email hello@itppackaging.com, or complete our online contact form, and we will be in touch as soon as possible.

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