Mylar bags (MBs) are hands down the best repackaging container for the do-it-yourself prepper. Mylar food storage effectively protects dry staple foods inexpensively. There isn’t a better DIY container for storing dry staple foods long-term.
What Are Mylar Bags? Mylar bags are made from thin layers of aluminum-coated plastic sheets of Polyethylene Terephthalate and PET plastic. NASA first developed mylar to protect spacecraft from the sun’s heat, and it is still used on satellites and spacecraft.
3 Reasons Mylar Is Excellent For Food Storage
Other than #10 cans, there isn’t a better container for long-term food storage. Mylar provides a real oxygen barrier; it is strong, light, and flexible. Let’s take a closer look.
#1 Oxygen Barrier
The one thing that sticks out about Mylar above most other containers? It blocks oxygen from entering the food container when sealed.
An oxygen-rich environment in a storage container destroys food via oxidation and allows aerobic bacteria and mold to grow.
Oxygen oxidizes food, changing its flavor, color, smell, and texture.
Food-grade plastic buckets do not protect food from Oxygen.
Foods that are high in fat will go rancid whether the environment is oxygen-free or not. For example, white rice stores 30 years because it is low in fat, and Brown rice has a 6-month shelf-life because it is high in fats.
#2 Light barrier
Mylar Bags 5mils in thickness or thicker protect food from light oxidation.
Mylar seals out moisture. Moisture is a food killer allowing anaerobic and aerobic bacteria and molds to thrive.
MBs also hold moisture inside the container.
Mylar’s ability to hold moisture in the container is one reason foods should contain less than 10% moisture when packaged oxygen-free. Oxygen-free storage and high moisture levels allow anaerobic bacteria like botulism food poisoning to thrive.
MBs are tough and somewhat puncture-resistant.
If you go, super-thin MBs are translucent, allowing in light.
Mylars’ most significant weakness in food storage is protection against chewing critters. This is why I always use the armor of plastic around my bags. Preferably food-grade buckets with lids, but other plastic containers work.
#3 Light and flexible
Mylar conforms to the shape of the foods you store and weighs next to nothing.
Mylar bag thickness
The material in MBs is measured in mils or one-thousandth of an inch, A Mylar bag that is 5mils thick is five-thousandths of an inch thick. All things being equal, the thicker the MB, the stronger it will be.
Mylar bags for food storage should be a minimum of 5 mils thick and should not be clear when storing dry foods like white rice, dry beans, and wheat. Also, thin Mylar or clear Mylar bags let light contact food, which reduces shelf life via oxidation.
If Mylar bags are used without a protective container like a bucket, consider using heavier seven mil Mylar bags.
When I store dry goods I typically use an 18″x28,” 5.5 mils Mylar bag in a 5 or 6-gallon food-grade bucket with a cheap lid and an oxygen absorber(s). I get most of my buckets and lids at Walmart in the food section, they are cheap and labeled food-grade.Scott, Ready Squirrel
Chart #1 Mylar bag uses by the thickness
|Bag In Mils||Common Use|
|1 MIL||Transparent/ Light oxidation of dry foods in Long-term storage, weak|
|2 MIL||Transparent/ Light oxidation of dry foods in Long-term storage, weak|
|3 MIL||Transparent/ Light oxidation of dry foods in Long-term storage, weak|
|4 MIL||Semi-transparent/ Light oxidation of dry foods in Long-term storage, easily damaged|
|5 MIL||Protects food from oxygen, moisture, and light, stored inside a protective container|
|6 MIL||Protects food from oxygen, moisture, and light, stored inside a protective container|
|7 MIL||Ideal For Long Term Food Storage/ Store in a lidded food-grade bucket for rodent protection|
|8 MIL||Super Heavy Weight, Expensive, Difficult to seal|
Test out your newly learned Mylar skills, and learn how to store rice in the Ready Squirrel article, “How To Store Rice In Long Term Storage: By the Numbers.”
Using Oxygen Absorbers With Mylar Bags
Oxygen absorbers remove oxygen from the void area inside a sealed Mylar bag; moreover, removing oxygen from food storage containers extends the shelf life of certain foods by decades and kills all bugs, eggs, and pupae within two weeks.
See the Ready Squirrel article, “Don’t Freeze Wheat Before Long-term Storage.”
27 Foods Stored In Mylar Bags With Oxygen Absorbers
Foods low in fat and 10% in moisture or less can be stored in Mylar with Oxygen absorbers. Following is a list of the “Big hitters” in long-term food storage.
- White Rice (inexpensive comfort food, complimentary or whole protein when eaten with beans)
- Dry beans (highest protein content of any seed)
- Dry Pasta
- Hard White Wheat berries (mild flavor, enough gluten for leavened bread, foundational staple)
- Hard Red Wheat Berries
- Ancient Wheat (Emmer, Teff, Spelt) Spelt was eaten by Roman Legions; they called it” the marching grain.”
- Rolled Oats (One of the few soft grains that will store 30 years, Oats made up a major part of the Scotch highlander diet. Highlanders were known for uncommon strength and stamina.
- Steel-cut, Irish Oats
- Dent Corn (grain corn, not sweet corn)
- Flour (all-purpose white flour will store a maximum of 10 years, white wheat berries will store for 30 Years)
- Hard and Soft Grains
- Dried Lentils
- Split Peas
- Powdered Milk
- Dry Cereal
- Home Freeze-dried food (home freeze-drying is expensive but awesome for preserving a high volume of food like produce from a survival garden or large quantities of meat. Stored oxygen-free most freeze-dried foods will store for 30+ years)
- Dried Apple Slices
- Potatoe Flakes/Dried Pearled Potatoes/other dried potatoes
- Dried Onions
- Oat Groats
- Oat Bran
To learn More About Oxygen Absorbers, check out the following Ready Squirrel article, Oxygen Absorbers: “Why You Need Them For Emergency Food Storage.”
Don’t Store These 18 Foods Oxygen-free in Mylar Bags
For two main reasons, some foods shouldn’t be stored oxygen-free in sealed Mylar bags. One wet food and foods high in moisture that is stored oxygen-free are susceptible to anaerobic bacteria like botulism, and two foods high in fats will go rancid whether oxygen is present. Here are 18 foods NOT to store in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers.
#1 Food high in moisture
Food Above 10% in moisture is susceptible to anaerobic bacteria such as botulism food poisoning.
#2 Food high in fats or lipids
Fats quickly turn rancid regardless of whether oxygen is present in the container.
#3 Pearled barley
Pearled barley is a high-moisture and high-fat food.
Dehydrated (freeze-dried eggs are ok to store oxygen-free if less than 10% moisture)
#5 whole wheat flour
Whole wheat flour is high in fat. Instead, store whole wheat berries for a 30-year shelf life. Also, processed All-purpose white flour can be stored oxygen-free.
#6 Milled grain
Don’t store milled grain in oxygen-free storage. Rolled oats are the exception. They can be stored for decades in Mylar.
Granola is high in lipids and moisture.
#8 Beef jerky
Don’t store beef jerky or other dried meats oxygen-free. (Moisture content and possibly fat content are too high)
There is too much oil in nuts. They will go rancid regardless of Oxygen-free packaging. Instead, plant nut trees in your survival garden.
#10 Brown rice
There is Too much oil in brown rice. It will go rancid within nine months, regardless of packaging. On the other hand, white polished rice will store up to 30 years oxygen-free in Mylar bags..
#11 Table sugar
Sugar will turn to stone in an oxygen-free environment, but it’s still edible. Store sugar in a plastic food-grade bucket (without oxygen absorbers) for an indefinite shelf-life.
#12 Brown sugar
Brown sugar is high in moisture and should be refrigerated for maximum shelf-life. Do not store oxygen-free.
#13 Table salt
Salt will turn to stone in an oxygen-free environment, but it’s still edible. Store in a plastic food-grade bucket for an indefinite shelf-life.
#14 Baking soda
(May have a chemical reaction with oxygen absorbers)
#15 Baking powder
(May have a chemical reaction with oxygen absorbers)
#16 Dehydrated vegetables
Fruit and Meat (Home-dehydrated foods contain 20% moisture content or higher)
Raisins and dried fruits generally have a high moisture content and should not be stored in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers.
Chocolate is high in lipids and should not be stored oxygen-free.
What Size Mylar Bag And Oxygen Absorber Should I Use?
Following is a basic chart showing how many cubic centimeters (cc) of oxygen absorption you need for a specific container and type of food.
Various food types are more compact, say wheat and rice; others are less compact, say dry beans and pasta.
The less compact foods leave more oxygen in the container, so they need more CC of oxygen absorption.
Keep in mind you can’t use too much oxygen absorption, only too little.
Chart #1 Size of Oxygen Absorber For a Mylar Bag
|Mylar Bag Sizes||Cubic Centimeter(s) cc Oxygen Absorption Required|
Foods are more compact, with less air volume
|Cubic Centimeter(s), cc Oxygen Absorption Required |
Foods are Less Compact and/More Air Volume
|——————————||Wheat, Flour, Grains, White Rice||Beans, Dry Pasta|
|20″x30″ for lining a 5 and 6 Gallon Bucket(s)||2000||2500 to 3000|
|18″x28″ for lining 5 and 6 Gallon Bucket(s)||2000||2500 to 3000|
|14″x20″ (2 gals)||1000||1500 to 2000|
|14″x18″x6″ (2 gals)||1000||1500 to 2000|
|12″x18″ (1.5 gals)||800||1200|
|12″x16″x6″ (1.5 gals)||800||1200|
|10″x14″ (1 gal)||400||400|
|8″x12″ (1/2 gal)||200||400|
|6″x10″ (1/4 gal)||100||200|
|6″x8″ (1/4 gal)||100||200|
Want to know more about Oxygen Absorbers? Check out the Ready Squirrel article, “What is an Oxygen Absorber: Long Term Food Storage.”
Up next, how to store dry food in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers.
Storing Food with Mylar Bags and Oxygen Absorbers: 7 Easy Steps
Step 1: Line A 5-gallon food-grade bucket with an 18 x24 Mylar bag
The Mylar method of packaging dry foods is the same for white rice, wheat berries, dried beans, rolled oats, etc.
See chart #2 above for the proper cubic centimeters of oxygen absorption for specific types of dry staple food.
Using only food-grade buckets for food storage is a good idea because it builds redundancy into your survival food system.
Down the road, you may want to reuse the bucket for moving water, pickling, or fermenting fruit or honey for mead.
Leave your options open.
Step #2 Pour the dry food into the Mylar bag
Fill the bag with food but leave an inch of space at the rim. If the food mounds too high, you’ll have difficulty getting the lid on.
If you are storing big bulk bags of food, it’s much easier to have all your buckets ready with Mylar bags before you start pouring food in.
Another suggestion, try to get someone to help you by holding the bag open. I do most of my oxygen-free packaging and always get rice, beans, and wheat all over.
Step # 3 Drop in the proper cubic centimeters of O2 Absorber(s)
Once your Oxygen absorbers are out of the package, they start scavenging oxygen; you’ll notice they begin to heat up. I suggest filling all your buckets with food before placing the absorbers.
Once the package of absorbers is open, put them in a ball jar and place the lid on until you are ready to take an absorber out.
Step # 4 Seal the bag with a household iron
Place the top edge of your Mylar bag over an old 2″x4″ piece of wood or something similar.
Seal the Mylar bag with a clothes iron, a hair straightening iron, or an Impulse sealer/ Mylar bag sealer.
I use my household iron on the hottest setting, which is the Linnen setting. It has worked well for me, and I don’t have to shell out money for an impulse sealer.
My wife was worried about Mylar sticking to the iron, but this hasn’t happened.
You might want to practice sealing an empty Mylar bag before you seal the real deal to get a feel for it. I’m not practicing what I preach, and I just did it the first go.
Step # 5 Write the date and food type on the outside of the bag
Once you get going on your long-term food storage, you’ll have buckets and bags everywhere.
To avoid confusion, place food information on the bag. At least the food type and the date. (I put it on the bucket too).
Otherwise, you’ll end up staring at a big bag or bucket of food, wondering what’s inside. The only way to figure it out is to open the Mylar bag and expose food to oxygen.
The true prepper would have a well-organized log of everything marked out, but I’m just too lazy to do this.
Step #6 Fold the top of the bag into the bucket
Oxygen absorbers are expended within 4 hours; wait for at least this long before gently folding the bag and placing the lid on the bucket.
Step # 7 Place a lid on top of the bucket and gently pound it around the rim of the bucket with the heel of your hand
You can also use a rubber mallet if it makes it easier to get the lid on.
Because you are using Mylar bags, you don’t have to worry too much about getting fancy lids or expensive buckets. The bucket is just there to protect the Mylar and for ease of organization.
Most of my buckets came from the paint section at Walmart, and they are marked food-grade. The lids don’t have a rubber seal or anything, but they keep the bucket sealed up.
Can Mylar Bags Be Reused For Food Storage?
Mylar bags can be reused for food storage.
To reuse Mylar bags, cut the top of the bag below the heat seal, wash it out, and let it dry thoroughly. Refill, place oxygen absorbers in the bag and reseal it.
Reseal bags as close to the top of the bag as possible.
Mark the bag with the type of food stored inside.
Can Mylar Bags Be Frozen?
Mylar bags can be frozen or stored in the freezer, but they tend to get brittle over time and are easily damaged when moved around.
.Vacuum bags are preferred over heavier Mylar bags for freezer storage of wet foods.
Who Sells Mylar Bags?
There are a lot of places to get Mylar bags online, but sometimes it’s hard to tell what you are getting. As you know, Mylar comes in all shapes, sizes, and thicknesses.
Look for Mylar bags advertised as “for food storage” or “for long-term food storage.” If you look up Mylar bags, you’ll find every kind under that sun; many of them won’t be fit for long-term food storage.
Here’s a short list to get you started in the right direction. Remember your looking for bags between 5 and 7mils in thickness. The bags I use most are 5.5 mils thick.
- USA Emergency Supply
- Discount Mylar Bags
- LDS Church Online Store: You don’t have to be a member of the church to purchase from them. They sell huge packs of 300cc absorbers for an excellent price. I have purchased quality oxygen absorbers and dry canned food from them.
- Mylar Bags Direct
- Sorbent Systems
- Amazon-See my affiliate link below
If you are looking for Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers check out Ready Squirrel’s Amazon Affiliate link to check prices. I get paid for beans and bullets out of Amazon’s profit, not your wallet.
Can Mylar Bags Be Vacuum-Sealed?
If you are storing foods long-term, i.e., white rice for 30 years, vacuum sealing is not a great option because it doesn’t remove as much Oxygen as O2 absorbers, and it hasn’t been tested like the Mylar and Absorber combination.
Purchase Mylar Bag Vacuum Ready Food Storage bags individually or by roll. They are readily available at big box stores like Wally Mart and Amazon.
Mylar bags are superior to vacuum bags as an oxygen barrier, and the correct quantity of Oxygen absorbers (cc) is more effective than vacuum sealing. Overall, Mylar and Oxygen absorbers are exponentially better than vacuum packing for long-term dry food storage.
Chart #3 How Long Will Food Last (Mylar Bags with Oxygen Absorbers)
|Food Type||Shelf- Life In Years *|
|Non-fat Powdered Milk||15|
|Corn Meal||25 to 30|
|Popcorn||25 to 30|
Do not use oxygen-free storage
|Iodized Table Salt||Indefinitely|
Do not use oxygen-free storage
|White Rice||30 +|
|Hard White Wheat||30 + (wheat berries with the husk removed)|
|Hard Red Wheat||30 + (wheat berries with the husk removed)|
|Dried Potato Flakes||20|
|Dried Whole Corn||25|
Thank you for visiting Ready Squirrel. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments.
Keep on prepping!
Best Regards, Scott