What is the dry weight of a gallon?

A gallon is a unit of volume used to measure liquids. However, the weight of a gallon depends on the density of the liquid being measured. The dry weight refers to the weight of a gallon of liquid if all the water was removed. This allows us to compare weights of gallons of different liquids.

What is a gallon?

A gallon is a unit of volume equal to 4 quarts or 3.785 liters. It is commonly used to measure the volumes of liquids such as water, milk, or gasoline.

There are several types of gallons used around the world:

  • US liquid gallon = 3.785 liters
  • Imperial gallon (UK) = 4.546 liters
  • Dry US gallon = 4.405 liters

In this article, we will focus on the US liquid gallon which is the most common gallon used in the United States.

What factors determine the weight of a gallon?

The weight of any volume of liquid depends on two main factors:

  1. The density of the liquid
  2. Gravitational acceleration

Density measures how much mass is contained in a given volume. Substances with a higher density will have more mass and weigh more per gallon.

Gravitational acceleration on Earth gives liquids weight. The standard value of 9.8 m/s2 is used to calculate weights on Earth’s surface. Gravity varies slightly depending on location.

Dry weight definition

The dry weight refers to the weight of a substance with all water removed. Liquids contain varying amounts of water, which contributes significantly to their weight.

To determine the dry weight of a gallon of liquid, we calculate the weight with all water removed. This gives the weight of just the remaining substances.

Dry weight allows us to:

  • Compare weights of gallons of liquids with different water content
  • Calculate nutritional contents of liquids by removing water weight
  • Standardize shipping costs and pricing of liquids

Dry weights of common liquids

Here are the approximate dry weights of gallons of some common liquids:

Liquid Dry Weight (lbs)
Water 0
Milk 2.2
Gasoline 5.8
Vegetable oil 7.7
Honey 11.0
Glycerin 12.0

Key takeaways

  • Water has no dry weight per gallon.
  • Milk, gasoline, and oils have increasing dry weights due to higher densities.
  • Thick syrupy liquids like honey and glycerin have the highest dry weights.

As expected, pure water has zero dry weight per gallon. Milks, oils, and syrups contain increasing amounts of fat, sugar, and other dissolved solids – resulting in higher dry weights.

Calculating dry weights

The dry weight of any liquid can be calculated using its density and water content. Here is the formula:

Dry weight (lbs) = (Density of liquid – Density of water) x Volume (gallons) x 8.34


  • Density of liquid is given in g/mL or g/cm3
  • Density of water is 1 g/mL or 1 g/cm3
  • 8.34 lbs is the conversion factor between grams and pounds

Let’s calculate the dry weight for a gallon of whole milk as an example:

  1. Density of whole milk = 1.03 g/mL
  2. Density of water = 1 g/mL
  3. Volume = 1 gallon = 3.785 liters
  4. Dry weight = (1.03 – 1) x 3.785 x 8.34 = 2.2 lbs

This matches the dry weight of milk in the table above. We can calculate dry weights for any liquid this way using its density.

Estimating density to find dry weight

We can estimate the dry weight of an unknown liquid by comparing its density to common benchmarks:

Density (g/mL) Dry Weight Estimate (lbs/gal)
1.0 (density of water) 0
1.2 3-4
1.4 7-8
1.8 14-15

We can compare the density of an unknown liquid to these benchmark values. If the density is close to water, the dry weight will be low. If the density is approaching 1.8 g/mL, we know the dry weight will be quite high.

This allows us to estimate dry weights when we cannot precisely measure density. We can simply compare how thick or viscous a liquid is to these benchmarks as a rough guide.

Converting between weight and volume

We can convert between the weight and volume of a liquid using density:

Weight (lbs) = Volume (gallons) x Density (lbs/gallon)


Volume (gallons) = Weight (lbs) / Density (lbs/gallon)

For example, if we have 2 gallons of gasoline with a density of 6.3 lbs/gallon:

  • Weight = 2 x 6.3 = 12.6 lbs
  • Volume = 12.6 / 6.3 = 2 gallons

This allows us to interconvert between liquid weights and volumes. The density acts as the conversion factor.

Real-world applications

Knowing the dry weight of liquids is useful for:

Shipping and logistics

Dry weights allow standard shipping costs to be set for gallons of different liquids irrespective of water content.

Heavier liquids incur higher shipping costs due to fuel usage. Dry weights provide a standardized weight basis.

Nutritional labeling

Food labels specify nutritional contents per serving for liquids. Dry weights give a more accurate measure by excluding water.

This prevents overestimating calories, sugars etc. in watery liquids.


Recipes specifying liquid volumes can be adapted for weight. The dry weight of the liquid can be used to precisely weigh out sticky ingredients like honey.

This improves recipe consistency since liquid volumes can vary with temperature, surface tension etc.

Industrial processes

Industrial by-the-gallon pricing uses dry weight to standardize costs of liquids like solvents or coatings. More concentrated liquids cost more on a dry weight basis.

Dry weights also help calculate reactant ratios and material balances in chemical processes.


There are some limitations to dry weights:

  • It assumes liquid density is uniform, although sediments may settle.
  • Calculated dry weight is an approximation, not perfectly accurate.
  • Dry weight excludes all water content. Some water may be bound to solutes.
  • Does not work for solutions with volatile components like alcohol that would evaporate.

Despite these limitations, dry weight remains a useful standardized approach for comparing and working with liquids.


The dry weight of a gallon refers to the weight excluding water content. It depends on the density and composition of the liquid.

Knowing the dry weight allows us to:

  • Compare weights of different liquids
  • Calculate nutritional contents
  • Standardize pricing and processes
  • Adapt recipes and conversions

Dry weight provides a standardized weight basis for gallons of any liquid, despite differing densities and water content. It has widespread applications across shipping, nutrition, industry, and consumers.

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