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What Oxygen Absorber to Use for Food Storage?

Knowing what size oxygen absorber to use is important because you need enough oxygen absorption to remove the oxygen in a sealed container. Remove oxygen from a container like a Mylar bag or ball jar and stop oxidation of food which increases the shelf life of certain foods by decades. I store the majority of my emergency dry staples in sealed Mylar bags with a treatment of oxygen absorbers because it is the easiest, least expensive, and most effective way to get a 30-year shelf life out of foods like white rice, dry beans, wheat and rolled oats.

I typically store rice, dry beans and wheat by lining a 5-gallon food grade bucket, filling it with the food and treating with 2000 to 3000cc of oxygen absorbers. Once sealed these foods will last up to 30 years so they don’t have to be rotated and you have an instant supply of emergency food whenever you need it.

Scott, Ready Squirrel

Lets take a look at what size of oxygen absorber to use by the type of food and the container size.

Chart #1 What Oxygen Absorber To Use by Mylar Bag Size

The chart below tells you what size oxygen absorber to use in Cubic Centimeters(cc) by Mylar bag size. Lets’ take a look at the size of absorber you need based on the dimensions of the Mylar bag.

Mylar Bag SizeGallonsWheat/Flour/Grains/Rice
More Dense/Less Air
Less Dense/More Air
20″ x 30″620003000
18″ x 28″ 520003000
14″ x 20″ 2 1000 2000
14″ x 18″ x 6″ 2 10002000
12″ x 18″1.5 800 1200
12″ x 16″ x 6″1.5 8001200
10″ x 14″1 500
8″ x 12″ 1/2200 400
6″ x 10″1/4100 200
6″ x 8″ x 2″1/4100200
Contrainer Must Be Full.

Chart # 2 What Size Oxygen Absorber To Use By Container Size (volume)

Chart #2 tells you what size oxygen absorber to use for the typical sizes of Ball or canning jar. Let’s take a look.

Ball Jar SizeWheat/Flour/Grains/Rice
More Dense/Less Air
Less Dense/More Air
1/2 Pint5050
5 Gallon20002500
6 Gallon23003000
Container must be full.

Next up, how to determine what size oxygen absorber to use.

How To Know What Size of Oxygen Absorber to Use

If you don’t know what size of oxygen absorber to use look at a chart. this is what a majority of people do when storing food oxygen-free. Most charts tell you how much oxygen absorption you need by container size and type of dry food. These charts are based on a container that is full so keep that in mind because empty space in a container means more oxygen which means you need more absorption. There are times when I put in more absorption than I need because I’m not sure exaclty how much to use.

If you aren’t comfortable using a chart to determine Oxygen absorption requirements you can do the math. Determining this requires a knowledge of headspace, void space,, and residual air volume. Take a look at Sorbents Systems website for the formulas you need to calculate oxygen absorption needs.

Let’s examine what an oxygen absorber is and what is it used for.

What is an Oxygen Absorber?

What is an oxygen absorber? An oxygen absorber is a packet filled with iron (metal powder) that eats a specific amount of oxygen based on the cubic centimeters of iron in the packet. The more cubic centimeters of iron powder in an oxygen absorber the more oxygen it will absorb.

You need oxygen absorbers in long-term food storage to remove oxygen to stop the spoiling of food by oxidation to increase shelf life. Another positive effect of using and oxygen absorber is by removing oxygen from a food container you kills bugs and bug eggs.

9 Reasons To Use Oxygen Absorbers (food storage)

Knowing what size oxygen absorber to use is important but you may also want to know why you should use them. Especially if you are stockpiling food for an emergency or natural disaster. Let’s examine the top 10 reasons to use oxygen absorbers when storing dry staple foods.

#1 Extended Shelf-life

Absorbers extend the shelf-life of dried foods by decades, providing a shelf-life of 30 years or more

#2 Oxidation

Oxgyen Absorbers prevent deterioration of food by oxidation when properly packaged.

#3 Kill Insects and Bugs

Oxygen absorbers removes oxygen from the storage container which kills insects at all stages: eggs, pupae, and adult.

#4 Stop Bacteria

The use of oxygen absorbers in a sealed food container slow or stop the growth of aerobic molds, mildew, and bacteria

#5 Discoloration

Oxygen-free storage delays the discoloration of food in long-term storage.

#6 Preservatives

An oxygen- free storage container eliminate the need for preservatives like sulfur dioxide and sorbates

#7 Oxidation of vitamins

Oxygen absorbers prevent the oxidation of vitamins like A, C, and E.

#8 Simple

Using oxygen absorbers is simple and the best way to store bulk dry food for maximum shelf life.

#9 Foods aren’t crushed

Foods aren’t crushed in the food container as with vacuum packing

Next up, the top 10 foods to store with oxygen absorbers.

Top 10 Foods To Store With Oxygen Absorbers

Once you use oxygen absorbers to store food, you’ll recognize how awesome they are. Inexpensive, easy to use, and effective. Besides purchasing professionally packaged food, there isn’t a better, more well-rounded method of preserving food for long-term storage. The only issue with absorbers is they are used primarily to store dry foods.

  1. Dried White Rice
  2. Dried Pasta and Macaroni
  3. Dehydrated fruit/veggies (below 10% moisture) They must snap. If they are still flexible, moisture is too high.
  4. Powdered Milk
  5. Dried Corn
  6. Dried hard and soft grains
  7. Wheat (to kill bugs and avoid adding water by freezing)
  8. Beans and Legumes
  9. Potato Flakes
  10. Oatmeal

Next, let’s examine 14 foods you should NOT store with oxygen absorbers.

14 Foods that Cannot be Stored with Oxygen Absorbers

.Oxygen-free storage is for dry staple foods. Any food higher in moisture or high in fat is not an ideal candidate. It’s either not effective, or dangerous, or to store high-moisture foods in an oxygen-free environment.

  1. Food High In Moisture (10% or higher)
  2. High-fat content foods
  3. Pre-milled grains
  4. Pearled Barley
  5. Nuts
  6. Meat Jerky
  7. Granola or trail mix
  8. Dried Eggs (commercially freeze-dried are different)
  9. Brown Sugar
  10. Dried Fruits (if not dried enough to snap when bent)
  11. Dried Vegetables (if not dried enough to snap when bent)
  12. Powdered foods like sugar, salt, and drink mixes will turn into a rock
  13. Baking Soda (may explode)
  14. Baking Powder (may explode)

Don’t use oxygen absorbers or oxygen-free storage with foods that are more than 10% moisture content or high in fat. Storing these foods oxygen free has a higher risk of anaerobic bacteria such as botulism. Botulism is a rare but deadly type of food poisoning.

Up next, the storage life of dried foods using oxygen absorbers.

Chart #3 Storage-life Using Oxygen Absorbers (dry foods)

Below is a list of foods stored oxygen free along with the shelf-life. It is incredible how much shelf-life you can get out of dry staple foods which also happen to be the best foods in the event of famine or food shortages. Lets take a look at the chart.

Food TypeShelf life Without Oxygen absorbersShelf life with Oxygen Absorbers
Wheat6 Months30 years
White Rice5 Years30 years
Rolled Oats6 to 9 months30 years
Bleached Flour6 months10 to 15 years
Dried Pasta/Macaroni2 years30 Years
Dried Bean & Legumes1 to 2 years30 years
Potato Flakes12 to 18 months30 years
Non-fat Powdered Milk18 months20 to 30 Years
Dried Dent/Field Corn6 months30 years
To obtain the maximum shelf-life foods must be sealed in a container that provides an oxygen barrier with the proper CC oxygen absorption and stored in a cool dry location.

Up Next, 5 containers that provide an oxygen-free barrier.

5 Food Containers to use with oxygen absorbers

Containers used with oxygen absorbers should provide a true oxygen barrier, such as Mylar bags or #10 cans. You can also choose to slow the transfer of oxygen by using plastic, which is not a true-oxygen barrier. Two containers that fit this description are food-grade buckets and PETE Bottles.

A package that provides a true oxygen barrier will keep additional oxygen out of the food container after the Oxygen absorber removes oxygen inside.

#1 #10 Cans

#10 cans are usually purchased and they are the best container for storing food long term.

#2 Mylar Bags

Mylar bags are the best do it yourself container for storing dry staples with oxygen absorbers because they are oxygen and moisture-proof. I use my Mylar bags by lining 5-gallon buckets for protection.

To learn more read the Ready squirrel article Mylar Bags For Food Storage: Beginners Guide

#3 PET Plastic Bottles

Some preppers use 2-liter soda bottles to store food because they are readily available and super cheap. Because plastic is not moisture proof you won’t get a maximum shelf life out of emergency food like you do with Mylar.

Before using PET bottles to store food they must be sterilized.

#4 Glass Jars (Ball Jars)

Glass jars are oxygen-proof but they will allow light oxidation of food if not kept in a dark location or covered up.

#5 Food-grade Buckets or Pails

Slows Oxidation but over time will transfer oxygen into the container. Excellent when lined with sealed Mylar bag, together they kill two birds with one stone, the Mylar keeps oxygen out, and the bucket protects the Mylar.

Next, lets examine if you need to use oxygen absorbers for long-term food storage.

Do I Need To Use Oxygen Absorbers For Long-term Storage?

You need oxygen absorbers when repackaging dry staples for maximum shelf-life. By removing oxygen from storage containers, the shelf life of dried staples like white rice, wheat berries, and dried beans is increased by decades.

Many staples have a pretty long shelf from 1 to 5 years, so if you plan on rotating through your panty, Oxygen-free storage isn’t necessary. For long-term survival, they are superior to any other DIY method of killing all bug life stages and increasing shelf life by minimizing damage to food via oxidation and bacterial growth.

Up next, will oxygen absorbers kill bugs?

Will Oxygen Absorbers Kill Bugs?

Most dry foods, especially grains have bug eggs so you have to get rid of them before packaging food for long-term storage. Removing oxygen from a container by using oxygen absorbers does kill bugs.

When oxygen absorbers remove oxygen from a sealed food package, they kill bug eggs, pupae, and adult bugs within 2 weeks.

How to store food in Mylar bag, food-grade bucket with Oxygen-absorbers


Oxygen Absorbers, Carolyn Washburn, FCS Agent, Associate Professor, Utah State University: Cooperative Extension PDF

USA Emergency Supply

Food Grade Plastic For Food Storage, Scott Foster, Readysquirrel.com

Oxygen Absorbers and Food Storage, Scott Foster, Readysquirrel.com

Mylar Bags: The Secret Weapon of Food Storage, Scott Foster, Readysquirrel.com

Top 6 D.I.Y. Containers For Long-term Food Storage, Scott Foster, Readysquirrel.com

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