Plastic containers are made from different polymers, the combination of which results in a product that is or is not of food grade quality, as defined by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). All plastic containers used to store food must be of food grade quality (pharmaceuticals are stored in containers with even higher requirements), and may not have any dyes or recycled plastics that have been determined to be harmful to humans. The type of plastic must also be suitable for the application since foods that are highly acidic, or that contain alcohol or fats, can leach plastic additives from the packaging or container into the food. Finally, any plastic container that is made of food grade plastic but has been used to store non-food items, in particular chemicals or detergents, is no longer considered food grade.
Note that not all HDPE plastic is of food grade quality. Check that it is marked “Food Grade” before purchasing it. If you cannot confirm that the plastic used is food grade, then assume it is not and look for something else.
Other types of plastic containers to avoid:
- Garbage cans
- Mop buckets
- Laundry detergent or kitty litter buckets
- Dry pet food buckets
- Household storage containers
- Garbage bags
In the United States, the following codes, known as the Resin Identification Codes, are stamped on all containers used for food. They identify the seven categories of plastic used in nearly all plastic containers and product packaging:
Removing Odors And Stains From HDPE Buckets
- Wash the bucket inside and out with warm, soapy water, then rinse.
- Pour 1 cup of baking soda into the bucket and fill with warm water all the way to the top. Stir to dissolve and let it sit for a couple of days in a warm location.
- Empty the bucket, then pour in 1 cup of bleach and fill with warm water all the way to the top. Stir to mix, then let it sit for a couple of days in a warm location.
Rinse thoroughly multiple times, replace the lid and let it sit for a few days. Carefully remove the lid and take a whiff. If you can still smell the remnants of what was in there, the bucket is probably of no use as a fermenter.
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