Can you store full gas cans outside?

Quick Answer

Storing full gas cans outside is generally not recommended, as it poses several safety and environmental risks. However, there are some precautions you can take if you need to store gas cans outside for short periods of time. The most important things are to store them securely, upright, and away from sources of heat or ignition. Proper ventilation is also key. Make sure to check on gas cans regularly and never exceed storage time limits set by local fire codes. Consider constructing a detached outdoor shed or enclosure designated for fuel storage if you routinely need to keep spare gas on hand.

Safety Concerns of Storing Gas Cans Outside

There are several potential hazards associated with keeping full gasoline containers outside:

Fire Risk

Gasoline is highly flammable, so storing it outside poses a fire hazard if not handled properly. Gas vapors can ignite from sparks, open flames, or heat sources like hot lawn mower engines. A fire could then quickly spread to surrounding structures.

Explosion Danger

Gasoline vapor buildup in an enclosed area also creates an explosion risk. If concentrates reach high enough levels, any ignition source could set off a blast.

Environmental Contamination

There is a risk of spilling or leaking gasoline from containers stored outside, allowing the toxic chemical to soak into soil and groundwater. Runoff could spread the contamination even further.

Health Hazards

Gasoline gives off harmful vapor emissions that can be inhaled. Prolonged exposure may cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, and other symptoms. The benzene component is a known carcinogen.

Property Damage

Gasoline could also damage nearby materials like wood, fabrics, and paints if spilled or leaked. The costly damage may not be immediately noticed or could occur gradually over time.

Proper Storage Guidelines

If it’s necessary to keep full gas cans outside, follow these safe storage guidelines:

Use Proper Containers

Store gasoline in containers approved for fuel with no leaks. Use portable gas cans designed for outdoor use with automatic venting caps. Ensure cans have tamper-resistant spouts to prevent spills.

Restrict Access

Keep gas cans in locked storage or within a fenced area to prevent access by children or pets. Locking containers prevents siphoning fuel as well.

Limit Quantity

Only store the necessary amount of gasoline for short-term needs. Some areas prohibit storing more than 10 gallons without a permit. Adhere to local fire codes.

Select Shaded Location

Heat accelerates fuel evaporation, so store cans in a shaded or covered area. Avoid direct sun exposure or other heat sources.

Elevate Cans

Keep cans off the ground on blocks or pallets to prevent moisture damage and rust. Elevation also allows any leaked gas to dissipate versus pooling.

Use Stable Surfaces

Store cans on a firm, flat surface like concrete to prevent tipping over. Avoid dirt, gravel, or grass.

Ensure Adequate Ventilation

Gasoline vapor is heavier than air, so store cans in well-ventilated areas. Vapor can accumulate in confined spaces and low-lying areas.

Install Barriers

Use noncombustible materials like concrete blocks to create barriers around fuel storage areas. This prevents adjacent ignition sources from reaching cans.

Post Warning Signs

Post highly visible warning signs indicating flammable material storage. List any restrictions, warnings, or emergency contacts.

Inspect Regularly

Routinely check gas can condition and look for signs of leaks like drips or discoloration. Address any issues immediately.

Avoid Ignition Sources

Prohibit smoking, open flames, sparks, or running engines near stored gasoline. Maintain a perimeter barrier from any heat or electrical sources.

Prepare for Emergencies

Keep a fire extinguisher rated for gasoline near storage areas. Have absorbent materials on hand to contain spills. Know how to handle emergency situations.

Outdoor Storage Options

If you need more substantial fuel storage outside, consider constructing a secure weather-resistant enclosure:

Detached Shed

A standalone utility shed offers covered storage outside the home. Use metal or exterior-rated composite materials. Add proper ventilation.

Lockable Cabinet

Secure metal cabinets provide controlled access and protect against weather and pests. Anchor cabinets firmly in place on a concrete pad.

Walled Enclosures

Construct partial outdoor enclosures with concrete block or other sturdy barriers. Limit access with a metal gate and keep an open top for ventilation.

Weatherproof Boxes

Plastic or metal protective boxes can help protect portable gas cans from sun, rain, and debris. Ensure adequate airflow.

Curbside Lockers

Specialty curbside lockers provide a permanent outside repository for combustibles like gasoline. Drainage and ventilation systems prevent vapor accumulation.

Maximum Gas Can Storage Duration

Gasoline degrades quickly with age and prolonged exposure to elements. Limit outside gas storage duration as follows:

1 month Ideal maximum storage time for gasoline
3 months Absolute limit for gasoline storage
6 months Maximum for fuel stabilizer treated gasoline
1 year Maximum for aviation fuels like AvGas

Signs of Bad Gasoline

Look for the following indications that gasoline has degraded and should not be used:

– Dark or muddy appearance
– Separation into layers or water accumulation
– Particles or “gunk” floating in fuel
– Rancid or rotten egg smell
– Difficulty starting engines
– Poor engine performance or abnormal operation

Final Warning About Storing Gas Cans Outside

Storing gasoline outside long-term introduces substantial safety risks. While taking proper precautions can mitigate those dangers, it’s wise to avoid outdoor gas storage whenever possible. Only keep the minimal quantities needed and bring extra cans back inside immediately after use. Invest in permanent outdoor storage solutions like sheds or cabinets if you routinely require spare fuel. And be sure to check on gas cans frequently when kept outside – the hazards can escalate rapidly. With careful attention and caution, outdoor gas storage can be managed responsibly.


Storing gasoline in containers outside is generally not recommended and poses significant fire, health, and environmental hazards if not done properly. However, taking precautions like using approved containers in shaded, ventilated areas and limiting quantity and duration can mitigate those risks in the short term. Constructing detached, secure outdoor enclosures provides a safer option for protecting fuel stores. Be sure to follow all local fire codes and exercise extreme caution when keeping gasoline outside, even temporarily. The volatile nature of gasoline means containers must be monitored closely. With deliberate care and attention, outdoor gas storage can be done prudently. But whenever possible, the safest choice is to avoid keeping full gas cans outside altogether.

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