Which is heavier a gallon of milk or water?

A quick answer to the question of whether a gallon of milk or a gallon of water is heavier is that a gallon of water is heavier. A gallon of water weighs about 8.34 pounds while a gallon of milk weighs around 8.2-8.6 pounds depending on the fat content. So water is slightly heavier than milk when comparing equal volumes.

The Density of Milk vs Water

The reason a gallon of water is heavier than a gallon of milk comes down to density. Density measures the mass of a substance per unit of volume. Substances with a higher density have more mass packed into the same amount of space. Water has a density of 1 g/mL while milk has a slightly lower density ranging from 1.029-1.035 g/mL. This means there is more mass in the same volume of water compared to milk. We can think of it as the water molecules being packed together more tightly than the fat and protein molecules in milk.

The density of both milk and water do vary slightly depending on factors like temperature. Cold milk or water is more dense than warm milk or water. But under normal conditions around room temperature, water consistently has a higher density than milk.

Understanding Density

Density is defined as mass per unit of volume and can be calculated using the formula:

Density = Mass / Volume

The standard units used are g/mL or g/cm3. Substances with higher densities have greater mass in the same volume. For example, 1 mL of water has a mass of 1 gram. But 1 mL of mercury has a mass of 13.6 grams. So mercury is much denser since it crams more mass into the same volume.

Liquid density is typically close to 1 g/mL while solids are denser with densities of 2-3 g/mL or higher. Gases have very low densities, much less than 1 g/mL. We can see why a gas like air feels so light while liquids and solids have more perceptible weight.

Density of Milk

The density of milk ranges from 1.029-1.035 g/mL. The exact density depends on the fat content with skim milk having the lowest density. Whole milk has a higher fat content around 3-4% so is more dense at 1.033 g/mL. The protein, carbohydrates, minerals, and water in milk also impact the density.

Here are the typical densities of different types of milk:

Type of Milk Density (g/mL)
Skim milk 1.033
1% milk 1.032
2% milk 1.031
Whole milk 1.029

The fat content raises the density of milk slightly. Skim milk lacks the heavier fat so has a lower density. But the other components like protein and carbohydrates still make it slightly denser than water.

Density of Water

Water has a density of 1.0 g/mL at 4°C. This is the maximum density of water where the molecules are most tightly packed. As the temperature increases, the density decreases slightly because the molecules spread out more. At room temperature (25°C) the density is 0.997 g/mL. This is still denser than milk.

Seawater is slightly more dense than fresh water, around 1.025 g/mL. The salts dissolved in seawater add more mass without much change to the volume. So the overall density increases compared to pure water.

Ice is an unusual case where it is actually less dense than liquid water, about 0.92 g/mL. This is why ice floats in a glass of water. When water freezes, it forms an open crystalline structure that lowers the density. Water reaches its maximum density right before freezing.

Weight of a Gallon of Milk vs Water

Now that we understand the densities of milk and water, we can calculate and compare the weight of equal volumes. 1 gallon is approximately 3785 mL. Multiplying the density by the volume gives us the mass or weight.

1 gallon water:
Density = 0.997 g/mL

Volume = 3785 mL
0.997 g/mL x 3785 mL = 3770 g
3770 g x (1 lb / 454 g) = 8.34 lbs

1 gallon whole milk:

Density = 1.029 g/mL
Volume = 3785 mL

1.029 g/mL x 3785 mL = 3890 g

3890 g x (1 lb / 454 g) = 8.58 lbs

So a gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds while a gallon of whole milk weighs around 8.58 pounds. The higher density of milk results in a greater mass and weight when we calculate for the same volume. But the difference is fairly small with the gallon of water weighing just about 0.2 pounds or 3 ounces less.

Weight of Different Types of Milk

We can do the same calculations for different fat contents:

Type of Milk Density (g/mL) Weight of 1 Gallon (lbs)
Skim milk 1.033 8.43
1% milk 1.032 8.41
2% milk 1.031 8.39
Whole milk 1.029 8.34

Skim milk with the lowest fat content is the lightest while whole milk is heaviest per gallon. But the difference between types of milk is fairly small, within 0.2 pounds.

Comparing Other Properties of Milk and Water

Density provides one way to compare the weight of milk versus water. But we can also look at other physical and chemical properties:


Viscosity is a measure of a fluid’s resistance to flow. Water has low viscosity and flows freely while milk is thicker with a higher viscosity due to the proteins, fat, and minerals it contains. The viscosity of milk is around 2 centipoise while water is 1 centipoise.

Boiling Point

The boiling point of water is 100°C (212°F) at standard atmospheric pressure. Whole milk has a slightly higher boiling point of around 100.17°C (212.3°F). The proteins and minerals increase the boiling point slightly compared to pure water.

Freezing Point

Water freezes at 0°C (32°F). Milk has a lower freezing point due to the solutes it contains. Whole milk freezes around -0.54°C (31.1°F). The fat content also influences freezing point with skim milk freezing at a slightly lower temperature.


Water has a neutral pH around 7. Milk is slightly acidic with a pH of 6.5-6.7. The acidity comes from the lactic acid produced by lactose breakdown.

Here’s a table summarizing some of the key properties:

Property Water Milk
Density (g/mL) 0.997 1.029-1.033
Viscosity (centipoise) 1 2
Boiling Point (°C) 100 100.17
Freezing Point (°C) 0 -0.54
pH 7 6.5-6.7

This gives a quick comparison of some of the basic physical properties between milk and water.

Factors That Impact Density

We’ve seen that water has a higher density than milk primarily due to its tight molecular structure. But there are some factors that can alter the density of both liquids:


Temperature has the greatest impact on density. As mentioned earlier, colder milk or water is more dense. Heat causes the molecules to spread out and take up more space, decreasing density. Water reaches maximum density at 4°C while milk is most dense around 0-4°C. Frozen milk and water are less dense than the liquid forms.


Increasing pressure compresses the molecules closer together, increasing density slightly. This effect is more pronounced with gases but liquids also demonstrate higher densities at high pressures deep underwater.


Dissolving solid substances like salt or sugar increases density slightly. The solute adds mass without significantly increasing the volume. Seawater has a higher density than pure water due to all the dissolved salts. Milk’s higher density compared to water also comes from the proteins, minerals, and other solutes it contains.

Fat Content

The fat in milk increases density. Skim milk has the lowest density while whole milk is more dense due to its higher fat percentage. Removing cream decreases milk’s density.


Acceleration causes slight momentary changes in density due to kinetic energy and internal forces. Shaking up a container of milk or water briefly increases density.

Outside of temperature, these factors have a relatively small impact. But temperature can significantly alter density which is why we see the curious phenomenon of ice floating in water as the liquid cools and becomes denser approaching freezing.

Uses of Density

Understanding liquid densities has many practical applications including:

  • Cooked dishes – Adding cream or milk can help thicken and add density to sauces, soups, and curries.
  • Baking – The density of ingredients affects the texture and rise.
  • Beverages – Syrups and dissolved sugars increase the density and viscosity of drinks.
  • Oceanography – Tracking dense cold water sinking helps predict currents.
  • Physics experiments – Density differentiates liquids and reveals changes of state between liquid and gas.
  • Industrial processes – Density control improves efficiency in industries like petroleum refining.
  • Medicine – Blood and urine density help diagnose conditions.

So density has widespread uses well beyond just comparing the weight of milk and water! It provides valuable insights into the properties of liquids.


In summary, a gallon of water is slightly heavier than a gallon of milk, by about 0.2 pounds. This comes down to water’s higher density of 0.997 g/mL compared to milk’s density of 1.029-1.033 g/mL. The tighter packing of water molecules results in more mass per volume. We can also see differences in viscosity, boiling point, freezing point, and other properties between milk and water. Density is a useful tool for comparing liquid weights and gives insights into internal structure and interactions at the molecular level.

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