How do you choose the drum that fits your needs?

Mass distributors and manufacturers with large shipping departments know the differences between the various drum types.  But for the average person or smaller business it is difficult to know what your options are when buying a drum.  Below are the different things to consider when purchasing a drum, written in the order you should consider:

Plastic, Steel, or Fiber Drum?

The first question to ask is what type of drum do you need?  Some obvious benefits to plastic drums are they are lighter, cheaper and don’t rust.  Most people prefer plastic for some food and water storage.  When using a drum for food or water storage, you will want one that is FDA compliant.

The benefits of a steel drum is that it is sturdier and can carry higher UN ratings (see below). 

Fiber drums are less commonly used than steel or plastic, but many use fiber for shipping and storage of dry goods.

Open-Head Drum or Closed-Head Drum?

Closed-Head drums are for used mostly for liquid products. There are plastic closed-head drums that meet UN Specifications for hazardous products if that is something you need. Most importantly, closed head drums have a cover that does not come off. There are openings (called bung openings) for pumps or pouring, but not convenient for dry products. 

Open-Head drums can be used for liquid too, but are primarily for dry products.  The open-head (or “open-top” with a lid) allows you to get in and out of the drum with your product easier.  Open-head drums come with one of two mechanisms for opening and closing your drum: either lever-latch or bolt ring.

For the Open Head Drums, Lever-latch or Bolt Ring?

Both bolt rings and lever-latches are rings that go around the top circumference of the drum and the drum’s lid, which is then secured to keep the drum and lid together.  The lever-latch has a lever, or leverage mechanism that you pull and secure against the ring. A lever-latch allows for easier opening and closing of your open-head drum.

A bolt ring has a bolt and nut that fasten and tighten the ring in place.  A bolt ring is more secure and tamper resistant.

What is a “Bung Opening”?

The holes on top of the drum or on the drum’s lid are called “bung openings “.    All closed-head drums come with bung openings (in order to get product in and out), but not all open-head drum lids do.  All drums with bung openings come with threaded plugs to keep the contents inside.

Plastic drums generally have two openings that are each 2 inches. One has course threading (known as a “buttress plug”) and the other opening has fine threading (called NPS, also known as national pipe straight thread).

Steel drums come with two different sized bung openings. One is a 2 inch opening and the other is 3/4 inches. Both have fine threads (NPS).

Knowing what type of bung opening your drum has is important because the accessories you buy for your drum attach at the opening.  In other words, you wouldn’t want to buy a faucet for a 3/4 inch opening if you are buying a plastic drum with only two 2 inch fixtures.

What is a Round-head or a Hex-head?

Each drum will come standard with either a hex shaped or a round shaped opening. Knowing which type you have will be important if you want to buy extra plugs or capseals. An opening with a hex shape will have a round-head plug, and an opening with a circular base will have a hex-head plug. When ordering capseals, make sure that you know which type of plug you have so that you get the correct cap.

Need Accessories?

Unless you already have a faucetpump, or drum wrench you will probably need some accessories. carries everything you need for your drums. Check out our Equipment and Supplies section for these and other things you may need for your drum.

Shipping Hazardous Material?  What UN Rating Do You Need?

If you are shipping or storing hazardous material, you will need a drum that is UN rated.  An older standard than UN for hazardous material is DOT ratings.  NOTE: we do not give advice on UN ratings or recommend drums for specific uses.  Requirements vary greatly, depending on what you’re shipping/storing and the locality they are stored or shipped through.  If you are unsure if or what UN rating is required, contact the US Regulation Agency at 800-467-4920.