Does gasoline dissolve plastic containers?

Do gasoline and plastic work as a combination? Oh, alright. Aren’t all gasoline containers plastic? If it’s not plastic, then what is it? Wait, it is plastic, isn’t it?

Geesh, what a collection of questions! Luckily, all of them are to be answered in a little while! But first (!) – an (obvious) assumption… There’s a good chance you’re wondering if gasoline can dissolve plastic containers. Needless to say, you’re at the right address!

In short: gasoline can dissolve most plastic containers. Some types of plastic possess a similar chemical structure as gasoline. As the old saying goes: like dissolves like! Gasoline containers made out of HDPE are designed to resist the process. That’s why you should never store gasoline in non-HDPE containers. Milk jugs or plastic bottles are out of the question!

Is there more to it than the sentences above? Of course, there is! Continue reading and see for yourself!

Table of Contents

Gasoline storage – basic info you should know

Here we’ll point out some of the main questions one might ask about gasoline storage. It’s a very important topic everyone should be informed about.

Why’s gasoline storage such an important topic?

There are many reasons why that is so. Although, one of them stands out. Yup, that’s right – we’re talking about safety!

Improperly stored gasoline can cause quite a mess. We’re not talking about the I-spilled-some-wine-on-the-rug type of mess, oh, no. We’re talking about the wait-is-that-my-shed-on-fire? kind of a mess. By poorly storing gasoline, you’re putting your neighborhood’s safety in jeopardy.

How does gasoline burn?

Gasoline’s got a very low flash point. Those two words describe the temperature at which gasoline releases toxic fumes. Gasoline’s own flash point is at -40°F (-40°C). Here’s a fun fact: it’s exactly those fumes that burn, not the liquid itself. Also, breathing in the air that’s mixed with gasoline fumes leads to serious illnesses.

We know there are people who like the smell of gasoline, but that’s no excuse to inhale it! Anyway, even a spark from a thrown cigarette butt can ignite gasoline vapors and cause havoc. That all being said, it’s no wonder why properly storing gasoline is a must!

What do you mean by proper gasoline storage?

You’ll find many texts on this site dealing with this topic more closely. Here’s where you’ll find them. However, we’ll show you a condensed version of them right here:

  • Only store gasoline in containers approved by your government’s environmental agency. That way, you’ll not only secure the safety of your home but avoid potential legal troubles!
  • Check your local/state (or country) regulations on gasoline storage. You’ll know how many gallons of gasoline are you allowed to store. Also, consult your homeowner’s insurance policy because of the same issue.
  • Never keep gasoline in the same building you and your family live in. Make sure it’s an outside shed or garage at least 50 feet away from your living quarters.
  • Gasoline should be kept out of children’s reach. Playing near the gasoline storage isn’t recommended at all!
  • If the storage room has a concrete floor, put a piece of plywood beneath the containers.
  • Store gasoline away from any heating sources. Also, containers should be kept out of the path of direct sunlight.

In case we’ve forgotten to mention something, there’s a solution! Check out this link for a more in-depth analysis of proper gasoline storage.

Okay, but is it still possible to store gasoline inside plastic bottles?

We’re pretty sure not even the worst government would recommend that. Anyway, you should avoid storing gasoline inside plastic bottles. Or milk jugs, for that matter. Many folks don’t see a problem with the latter. We’ll show you why they’re wrong in the next section of the article.

A pile of old used plastic bottles.

Does gasoline dissolve plastic containers?

To put it quite simply: yes, it does. But, that’s not the whole truth. There are different kinds of plastic. Among them, there are materials able to withstand gasoline being stored inside of ’em.

The famous acronym

Ever heard of HDPE? If you were to check out any forum topic concerning gasoline storage… Yup, you’ll get used to seeing those four letters together a lot. The acronym HDPE stands for high-density polyethylene. HDPE (sometimes spelled PEHD) is the most common material gas jugs are made from.

What about other forms of plastic?

EPA-approved containers are much different from regular milk jugs. By pouring gasoline into the latter, the plastic won’t dissolve right before your eyes. The process can last for quite a while. Now, that doesn’t make any difference, it’s still very unsafe.

Also, that kind of plastic will release gasoline vapors outside. We’ve already said they can cause serious issues if breathed in. Also, these vapors are highly flammable. You’ll be asking for a fire by storing gasoline in non-HDPE plastic containers.

How does gasoline dissolve non-HDPE plastic containers?

Here’s the catch. Certain plastics dissolve in gasoline since they possess a similar chemical structure. Do you remember something from chemistry classes back in the day? If so, you might recall substances being dissolved in similar substances. In other words: like dissolves like. For example, that’s exactly why a number of ionic salts are soluble in water.

A vast number of plastics are made from molecules that come from petroleum. Now, hydrocarbons we find in gasoline interrelate freely with those in plastic. That interaction might turn out to be less energetic than that of the bonds found in plastic. If that’s the case, the plastic will easily dissolve.

As we’ve already said, a lot of unfortunate events can unfold if gasoline’s not properly stored. HDPE containers are specifically made to stand up to gasoline. For example, when the temperature changes gasoline can either swell or shrink. Manufacturers design and produce HDPE containers so they could withstand these “turbulences”.

How to recognize approved and safe gasoline containers?

You can do this by following a certain color code. Here we’ll point out which color goes with which substance:

  • Red – Gasoline.
  • Olive/Yellow – Diesel fuel.
  • Orange – Ethanol.
  • Powder blue – Kerosene.
  • Mist blue – Water.
  • Bright blue – Chain and bar oil.
  • Black – Oil. 
  • Nutbrown – Biodiesel. 

While we’re at it, what color is gasoline itself?

Originally, gasoline is completely colorless. The color is added later so it’s easier to differentiate gasoline from other liquids. Or: so manufacturers don’t unintentionally mix up different kinds of gasoline. Additionally, it also helps folks check for water contamination.

Different types of gasoline come in different colors. Here’s how to notice ’em:

  • Regular gasoline (octane rating of 87) is usually green or light blue.
  • Mid-grade gasoline (octane rating of 89) is generally dyed yellow.
  • Premium gasoline (octane rating of 90+) is pinkish.

For more info on this topic, feel free to read this article.

Okay, and where do people buy proper gasoline containers?

You can find them in many (offline and online) stores around the country. Also, most petrol stations sell them. We’ll give you a hint: there’s a good offer at Amazon, you can check out now.

Bonus tips on gasoline (storage)

Alright, so we’re nearing the end of this article. It might be good to give you some bonus tips on gasoline (storage). These will come in handy at a certain point:

  • Gasoline goes bad after a while. Adding a fuel stabilizer can prolong its so-called shelf life.
  • Once it goes bad, it’s best you dispose of it. Bad fuel can damage your car’s engine. 
  • Dispose of gasoline in accordance with your local gasoline storage regulations. There are hazardous waste dumps designed exactly designed for that. More tips on safe gasoline disposal, you’ll find here.
  • Pure gasoline goes bad after three to six months in storage. Ethanol-blended gasoline lasts less. Its shelf life’s about two to three months.
  • It’s best you don’t have any electrics installed in your gasoline storage room.

Does gasoline dissolve plastic? – A summary

Okay, let’s see what’ve learned today about the relationship between gasoline and plastic.

So, yeah, gasoline does dissolve plastic. But, some types of plastic (most notably: HDPE) are made to hold gasoline. Without it dissolving the container, that is. If you’ve ever thought of storing gasoline inside regular milk jugs – forget it!

As the age-old chemistry saying goes: like dissolves like! Many types of plastic are composed of elements that come from petroleum. And, as you might know, we get gasoline by refining petroleum. Since some types of plastic have a similar chemical structure, they easily dissolve in gasoline.

Improper storage of gasoline generates many safety risks. Not only are gasoline vapors highly-flammable, but they’re poisonous if inhaled. You need to make sure gasoline doesn’t release those deadly fumes when stored. You’ll do that by storing it inside HDPE containers.

Also, you’ll easily recognize them at your local home-appliances store or petrol stations. EPA-approved gasoline jugs are red. There’s no way you can miss ’em.

Final words

So, that’s that when it comes to gasoline dissolving plastic and similar topics. For more gasoline-related info, visit our blog page.