How long can you keep diesel in a plastic container?

Quick Answer

Diesel fuel stored properly in an approved plastic container can last up to 12 months before it starts to degrade. However, factors like heat, exposure to air, and contamination can shorten its shelf life. For best quality, try to use diesel within 6 months of purchase.

Can You Store Diesel Fuel in Plastic Containers?

Yes, you can store diesel fuel in plastic containers as long as they are approved for diesel storage. Look for containers made of high density polyethylene (HDPE) which is resistant to diesel’s solvent properties. Make sure any plastic container you use is marked “Approved for Diesel Fuel”. Storage tanks made of cross-linked polyethylene are also suitable for diesel.

Avoid using plastic containers not specifically designed to store diesel. Diesel can eat through unsuitabled plastics and cause leaks. Don’t use jerry cans designed for gasoline, or general purpose containers not meant for fuel.

How Long Does Diesel Last in Plastic Containers?

With proper storage, diesel fuel kept in an HDPE plastic container can last around:

– 6-12 months for peak quality
– Up to 2 years before significant degradation

However, poor storage conditions can shorten diesel’s shelf life in plastic to just a few months. Factors like heat, oxygen exposure, debris, and contamination can speed up the rate diesel goes bad.

Here are some guidelines for maximum storage life:

– Store in a cool, dry place around room temperature. Avoid temperature fluctuations.
– Keep the container tightly sealed to minimize air and moisture exposure.
– Fill the container as full as possible to reduce air space.
– Wipe and clean containers before refilling to avoid dirt or debris.
– Avoid cross-contaminating diesel with other fuels.

With optimal conditions, diesel can potentially last up to 18-24 months before degrading in quality. But for best results, aim to use plastic-stored diesel within 12 months.

Signs Diesel Has Gone Bad

Watch for these signs that diesel fuel stored in plastic has deteriorated:

– Cloudy or hazy appearance – Particle and gums form causing haziness.
– Black color – Darkening indicates oxidization.
– Rotten egg smell – Bad sulfur compounds cause foul odors.
– Slime or debris – Bacterial growth and gummy residues.
– Increased viscosity – Fuel thickens and flows poorly.
– Engine problems – Hard starting, smoking, clogged filters.

Diesel with these degradations can damage injectors and clog fuel systems. Never try to salvage bad diesel – dispose of it properly instead.

Extending Diesel Storage Life

To get the maximum storage life from diesel fuel kept in plastic:

– Purchase high quality diesel with adequate additives
– Use proper HDPE storage containers approved for diesel
– Fill containers to 95% capacity or more to minimize air
– Seal lids tightly to reduce oxygen exposure
– Add biocides if storing over 6 months to control microbial growth
– Consider fuel stabilizers to extend storage life
– Store containers in cool, dry indoor storage if possible
– Rotate stock to use oldest fuel first
– Inspect containers periodically for any leaks or deterioration

Following these tips can help extend the shelf life of diesel fuel stored in plastic to 12 months or longer. But always check fuel quality before use.

Can You Add Stabilizers to Extend Life?

Yes, you can use fuel stabilizers and conditioners to extend the usable life of diesel stored in plastic containers. Products like Pri-D and Star Tron can help by:

– Controlling microbial growth and bacteria
– Inhibiting oxidation reactions
– Preventing formation of gums and insolubles
– Removing moisture and stabilizing fuels
– Cleaning tanks and lines

Adding antioxidants, biocides and corrosion inhibitors via stabilizers can potentially extend good diesel quality for up to 2 years stored in plastic. Follow dosing instructions carefully for optimal results.

However, you should still aim to use stored diesel within 12 months if possible, even with stabilizers added. They do not extend shelf life indefinitely. Rotate stock to use oldest fuel first.

Is Stored Diesel Safe to Use After Sitting?

Diesel can be safely used after prolonged storage in plastic containers if it meets these conditions:

– Has been stored for less than 2 years
– Stored properly in approved containers
– Shows no signs of degradation like hazing or smell
– Has stabilizers added at recommended dosage rates

Before using long-stored diesel fuel:

– Inspect for contamination and filter if needed
– Test a small sample in equipment looking for problems
– Be prepared to dilute with fresh fuel if necessary

With proper storage, diesel can remain safe to use even after sitting unused for over a year. But rotate supplies to use oldest fuel first, and test equipment with samples before refueling from long-term storage tanks.

Can You Mix Old and New Diesel Fuel?

Yes, you can mix old and new diesel fuel together – this process is known as blending. Blending can help rejuvenate old diesel to restore its usability. Here are some tips:

– Only blend old diesel under 2 years old with fresh fuel
– Use a ratio of up to 30% old to 70% new fuel
– Add cleaners and stabilizers to the blend
– Agitate or circulate blend thoroughly before use
– Test engine performance on a blend sample before full refueling
– Adjust blend ratio if needed based on performance

Blending old and new diesel, along with additives, can restore usable fuel properties. But a high concentration of old degraded fuel can still cause issues, so find the optimal blend ratio through testing. Rotate stocks to use up old fuel promptly.

Does Diesel Go Bad in Cold or Hot Weather?

Temperature extremes can accelerate fuel degradation:

Cold Weather

– Diesel gels and waxes up due to paraffin wax components solidifying. This can clog fuel lines and filters.
– Condensation buildup can cause water contamination and corrosion.
– Low temperatures slow microbial growth, but don’t fully prevent it.

To improve storage in cold climates:

– Use winter grade diesel with anti-gel additives
– Maintain storage temperatures above freezing
– Add biocides to inhibit microbial growth
– Use sealed containers to minimize condensation

Hot Weather

– Heat speeds up oxidation reactions and polymerization resulting in sludge.
– Warmer temperatures accelerate microbial contamination and algae growth.
– Increased evaporative losses occur.

For warmer area storage:

– Store containers out of direct sunlight to reduce exposure to heat
– Add antioxidants and stabilizers to counteract oxidation
– Ensure containers are well-sealed to minimize evaporation
– Monitor fuel quality closely when storing above ground

Proper stabilizers and fuel blends can counteract some of diesel’s sensitivity to temperature extremes. But avoiding storage in very hot or cold conditions is best when possible.

Is Stored Diesel Less Efficient?

Diesel fuel that has been stored for an extended time period is likely to suffer a decrease in combustion efficiency compared to fresh fuel. This is due to factors like:

– Oxidation resulting in a slight loss of heating value
– Contaminants blocking injectors and reducing atomization
– Increased viscosity impeding pumping and flow
– Deposits forming in the combustion chamber

However, proper storage with limited oxidation or contamination will have only a minor impact on diesel performance. Blending in fresh fuel can help restore lost efficiency.

Significant drops in power, fuel economy and performance points to severely degraded fuel well past its usable life. Proper testing and blending is recommended before using diesel stored over 6 months. Rotate supplies to use oldest fuel first.

Can You Filter Out Contaminants from Diesel?

Yes, you can remove various contaminants from degraded diesel fuel by filtering it. Some options include:

– Particulate filters to remove sediments and solids
– Water separators and coalescers to draw out water
– Microfilters to catch algae and microbial growth
– Absorbers to reduce oxidation byproducts and dissolved metals

Filtering can rejuvenate stale or contaminated diesel to restore its usability. But filters have limited capacities – heavily degraded fuel may overload the filtration system. Proper fuel rotations and limited storage times make filtering more viable.

Always pre-filter diesel from long-term storage before adding to vehicle or equipment fuel tanks. Start with course filters and move progressively finer. Monitor filter change intervals to avoid overloading issues.

Can Old Diesel Damage My Engine?

Using degraded or contaminated diesel fuel past its usable life can cause these engine issues:

– Increased wear and scuffing from fuel injection system deposits
– Sticking injectors due to clogs and gumming
– Fouling and restriction in fuel filters and lines
– Reduced power and performance
– Increased smoke and emissions
– Hard starting or stalling
– Higher run temperatures

While minor degradation may only cause a slight power decrease, heavily oxidized diesel with significant particulates or water contamination can severely damage fuel systems.

Always drain and dispose of badly degraded diesel. Never try to recondition fuel that is hazy, smells rotten, or has significant buildup – the risks aren’t worth the small amount of fuel saved. Instead, focus on proper storage and rotation to maximize usable lifetime.

How Can You Restore Bad Diesel Fuel?

Moderately degraded diesel fuel stored in plastic over 12-24 months may be restorable using:

– Blending with fresh fuel at up to a 30% ratio
– Filtering through 10-20 micron particulate filters
– Adding cleaners and corrosion inhibitors
– Improving winter flow with anti-gel additives
– Settling and separating excess water if needed

Test blends on equipment initially using small samples. Increase the ratio of fresh fuel if performance issues arise. Multiple passes through filters may be required.

Dispose of badly degraded diesel. Fuel that is very dark, hazy, high in sediments, or has a rotten smell likely can’t be economically restored. The effort isn’t worth the small salvageable amount left. Maintain fresh stocks and proper rotations instead.

Can You Recycle Used Diesel Fuel?

Diesel fuel can be recycled and re-refined using specialized processing methods. Techniques like vacuum distillation, hydro-treatment, and centrifuge separation are used to reclaim usable fuels from contaminated diesel stock.

Recycling is typically focused on industrial quantities like ship engine fuels or diesel generator supplies. It requires intensive processing and handling of hazardous wastes.

For individual end users, the best option is to properly store and rotate diesel supplies. Use fuel before degradation occurs rather than trying to restore bad fuel. Dispose of severely contaminated diesel appropriately.

Focus on preventive steps like:

– Using high quality diesel with stabilizers added
– Storing in suitable containers out of sunlight
– Sealing containers to limit air exposure
– Filtering before use after long-term storage
– Rotating stock to use oldest fuel first

With proper planning, diesel can retain good combustion quality for 12+ months when stored in plastic containers.


Diesel fuel has a usable shelf life of 6-12 months when stored properly in approved plastic containers. Degradation from oxidation, microbial growth, condensation, and contamination can start reducing diesel quality quickly.

To maximize storage life use high HDPE plastic containers, keep them sealed and filled, and store in stable moderate temperatures out of sunlight. Adding stabilizers can prolong storage up to 2 years. But rotating stock to use within 6-12 months is ideal for peak fuel quality.

Test old fuel blends in equipment before full use. And filter diesel from long-term storage tanks through progressive micron filters to catch particulates. With proper precautions and testing, stored diesel can retain suitable performance for use even after prolonged storage in plastic containers.

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