Picture of Get project buckets for free!
Get 5-gallon plastic project buckets for free, keep them out of landfills.
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Step 1: Food-grade pickle buckets

Picture of Food-grade pickle buckets
Chain hamburger joints get their sliced burger pickles in sturdy food-grade 5-gallon plastic buckets, and these buckets cannot be reused for their original purpose. You can use the buckets to tote and store things in the shop, cut and shape them as parts of projects, or make a wooden rack that holds rows of buckets on their sides as wide-mouth storage bins for tools, components, materials. They are useful to crafters, farmers, gardeners, homeowners, boaters, the list is endless. These buckets are more sturdy than similar ones sold at hardware stores for $4 to $6 each, and the pickle buckets also have a snap-on lid. (Photo shows soft black seal ring on underside rim of lid). A busy burger joint will empty one to three buckets a week, depending on the season. It is inconvenient for most small businesses to recycle the buckets, so they get thrown into the business' dumpster, then go into a landfill. The plastic could be recycled, but reuse is more efficient, and it actually saves the business manager money to keep the buckets out of his dumpster.
I regularly visit a nearby chain burger joint, and its manager has his buckets rinsed and set aside for me to pick up when I drop by. I offer them free to friends and neighbors and to a charity that helps local folks. You could do the same in your neighborhood, or just get a few for yourself. Bakeries, donut shops and the cake departments of grocery stores also get ingredients in buckets, and they are all much easier to clean than buckets used to ship paint and drywall compound.
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I live in the OC and looking for bucket for a gardening project can any one help me
Panera (st. Lois bread company too) still uses pickle buckets, and the cherry filling for pastries comes in large buckets as well
rockluvr572 months ago

I HAVE been going to all the nearby sandwich & hamburger joints I can get to ...they are now saying that they get their pickles etc in bags...any ideas?

I am looking for white 5 gallon buckets with lids to make seats for our Sunday school club room at church. My email address is


It may be too late to reply, but I got 50 FREE large icing buckets from my local Sam's bakery for my daughter's Girl Scout troop to make camping seats. You can also check the WalMart or grocery store bakery. I had to check in several times a week to collect them, but it didn't take long.

LadySwag5205 months ago

I'm about to experiment on a DIY laundry detergent recipe. This bucket will be perfect!

joe.adamick.56 months ago

My son is looking for yellow and black 5 gallon and similar pails for a project.

does anyone have any?

I need these buckets for gardening.

I receive a dozen 5 gallon buckets every week with dry chlorine in them. After I use the chlorine I have no use for them. I have about 50 of them, I don't want them going to a landfill, if anybody wants any they can have them free, I'm in Manhattan Beach.

pmcreviss10 months ago
Hi I really need 5 of your buckets! Where are you? Can u email me your info at Moe
Thanks and good work :))
hlanelee11 months ago

When I need some 5 gallon buckets, I look for a logging operation. They always have buckets that they have to get rid of and are happy to give them away. I take the tops off, put in a couple cups of cheap liquid laundry detergent, fill with water, and let them sit for a couple of days. Repeat as needed.

maryshe5 years ago
I was thinking that 5 gallon buckets would be good for Lego storage.  You could even sort by color.  They were too expensive for me so I looked on this site.  What do ya know?  I find out how to get them for free.  Thanks.  Does the pickle smell really not come out though?  Icing buckets would at least have a vanilla smell, right?
mbear maryshe5 years ago
I wonder if you could get rid of the pickle smell with baking soda. It works in a refrigerator and my carpet. (I've even used it when the cat was sick to cover the smell so I could clean.)

Maybe mixing baking soda and water into a paste and "painting" the inside of the bucket would pull out the pickle smell.

Just a thought.
lime3D mbear11 months ago
just let them air out, without the lids on. the smell will wear off on its own.
Hi, I used to sell Tupperware and one of the tips they shared with us was that crumpled up newspaper left in a sealed up plastic container will help take the smell out. That was one that they told us for people that leave the leftovers in a little too long. I am sure it should work for a pickle smell too. Leave the crumpled up newspapers in there for a while. A week or two should be good.
Vanilla buckets have a chance of depends on whether it's real or fake, but I don't remember which. Still though, I wouldn't risk losing my legos to explosive vanilla bombs....
unclesam (author)  maryshe5 years ago
maryshe, if you want to use pickle buckets and keep track of Legossorted by color, you could paint the outside of each bucket thesame color, or spray just a spot of color. Krylon makes spray paintsespecially for plastic, sold at hardware stores. I have not testedit on these buckets.  To remove the pickle odor, follow thecleaning instructions, especially for cleaning the lid and lid seal, instep 2, and allow buckets to air outdoors for as many days asyou can before using the buckets. You can easily pass the word to othersabout the free buckets by forwarding the link , included inInstructables text, to web site I created just for that purpose.
w0x0f3 years ago
If you don't need food-grade buckets, check with your local swimming pool. Our pool uses a solid chlorine puck system and the pucks come in a 5 gallon pail with a screw on lid. I wouldn't use these for anything food-related, but they're clean pails that only need a rinse before you use them. Try not to breathe in any of the dust that may be in the pail, it's not good for you.
doo da do w0x0f12 months ago

Nice idea, I go to the pool 2 or 3 times a week and know the manager. Enjoy your day. Doodado

doo da do12 months ago

Like the idea

fretted2 years ago
All the stores around here including restaurants sell them for 1.00 - 5.00 depends on where you go !
The preserved animals used in biology dissections are usually shipped in buckets. These buckets are also much better than the ones you find in hardware stores. Unfortunately, biologists know this and never have enough buckets.
dwebb52 years ago
Use baking soda to clean them. It neutralizes the acid (vinegar) and takes away the scent!
I use some lemon scented dish soap, then rinse in a baking soda solution, then rinse with clean water.
hopit5 years ago
I've found these buckets in market dumpsters while rescuing discarded good food and other items. They've proven useful or putting compost scraps and using in the garden to store mulch, etc. It would make a lot more sense for the stores to return the buckets to the vendor to be refilled. If all the discarded buckets were actually put to other uses and not thrown out, before long everyone would have more buckets than we needed and would have to throw them out because we don't have a place for them. The only sustainable society is a zero-waste society. Otherwise we'll use up our resources and filling up our land with trash heaps.
luvit hopit5 years ago
i once looked for food in the dumpster on a hot day. it was a bit cooler in the dumpster, so i took a nap.
menusetc luvit2 years ago
Bad idea. Coming from a Garbage driver. I have dumped people into my truck before, thank God for them screaming - or they would be dead.
Yeah man, please PLEASE do not do that- a friend of mine was homeless for awhile and was trying to get out of the cold so he get in a dumpster- he was dumped into the truck but was still half way crushed (couldn't hear him and this was the 90's so I don't think they were as easy to shut down then?). He's fine but the whites of his eyes were blood red for months.
unclesam (author)  hopit5 years ago
hopit, I agree with your sentiment to see used buckets returned to their source for re-use, and I have often considered how this might be done. However, I fear the logistics would be difficult. Imagine trucks carrying used empty buckets all along our highways, some still having resIdue of various food products. Imagine warehouses where they are piled waiting for sterilization and re-use. Add a few weeks in the hot sun, and you have a recipe for public health disaster. Would people eat at restaurants that they knew got food packed in used buckets after seeing photos of this process? I think not. Soft drinks (and beer) used to be distributed only in returnable glass bottles, and the bottles were cleaned and re-used, not broken up and made into new glass. I used to pick (filthy) bottles from ditches to turn in for cash, and I later handled the mountains of empties that came back into the grocery store where I worked. The truck that delivered the beverages picked up the empties. Once I bought a coke out of a machine, took a long cool swig from the returnable glass bottle, and only then noticed that there was a layer of mud and a large snail in the bottom of the bottle. Urk! Re-using food containers for food has some risks that our society is not currently willing to take. U.S.
Yes BUT if every supplier took back the buckets to send back to the supplier of those then it would work.
I remember the days when we used to take our 'empty glass bottles of soda' back to the vendor for recyciling( probably re-use ) and we would get 2 old pennies or even 3 for each bottle.
Some children made up their pocket money by going around collecting discarded bottles :-)
why can we not do that now?
hopit unclesam5 years ago
Yes, there are issues in reusing the buckets and they should be addressed. With our current system our toxic landfills are growing and raw materials are getting depleted. We've got concerns about sanity on one side, and the desire to not trash our planet on the other. Which is more important?
Schmidty162 years ago
dude all u would have to work at DQ and u can get free buckets there or at an ethonal plant
moonchylde4 years ago
If you're not above a little trash-picking, you could always look for empty cat litter buckets. They're usually 2 1/2 gallon square buckets, and people toss them all the time. But always be sure that the buckets are empty before you toss them in your car; I've gotten a few that were refilled with used cat litter before.
Those are great for oil storage too!
How do you ask for them? So I am not rude
unclesam (author)  Dsanders20143 years ago
Dsanders2014, I suggest making a print of the bucket to take with you, could save some arm-waving. Choose a business that you patronize, if possible, where your face may be recognized by the employees. Visit at a time when the place will not be busy, between meal times. Best to buy and eat a meal indoors there, so you can scope out the place and the employees, then after you finish, choose best time to approach an employee. Explain about the buckets, ask if you need to speak to the manager, and if not available, ask for some other time or day to return for a talk with the manager. If you just want a few buckets for your own use, make arrangement with manager for day and time to come back to pick them up. Good idea to have a meal there on pickup day as well. If you want to pick up buckets on a continuing basis, mention possible users that will likely create sympathy in the manager, such as Scouts, Little League, Youth sports leagues, and that you will keep buckets out of the landfill. Take some kids with you, in their uniforms (buckets are great for storing lime for marking fields, baseballs, for racking bats). Ask to have the buckets and lids rinsed, stacked in the back indoors where an employee can get them for you when you drop by regularly. In this case, it is very important that you are diligent about picking up the buckets regularly, otherwise they will become a nuisance for the business. If you are going to get buckets on a continuing basis, you might recruit a re-user organization, such as scouts, to make the pickups and thoroughly wash the buckets, as a community-service project.
Best of luck, Unclesam
Takelababy3 years ago
I place a new white "kitchen catcher" inside a plastic pail then I don't have to worry about what it held altho I will still give it a good soaking in bleach water first.
splazem3 years ago
SIRJAMES093 years ago
even buckets that once had clorine pucks can be use for food BUT, you need to run water thru the bucket for about 30 minutes(minimum-I preferr 1hour) and use HOT water. after that, Scrub out the bucket really good with soap & water. if there is no clorine smell after this, you're fine, BUT if you smell clorine scrubb again & again till there is no smell.

this I learned from experience.
I'd rather buy a new bucket, it would even be cheaper than half an hour of warm running water.
I'm thinking this might be good for holding my son's cloth diapers. Will have to see if I can scrounge some up.
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