How to Select the Right Intermediate Bulk Container | IBC Tote Guide

Selecting the Right IBC Tote

Selecting the right Intermediate Bulk Container (IBC) is critical to ensuring the efficient and safe storage and transportation of your company’s cargo, such as proprietary commodities, ingredients, final products, hazardous material and chemicals used in company operations. Our guide to selecting the right IBC will help navigate through the various options available on the market.

As an industry professional, you understand the importance of choosing the right storage solutions for your company’s unique challenges and requirements. Among the myriad of storage options available today, Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBC) stand out due to their versatility, robustness, and efficiency as they are not only used for storage but in UN/DOT transit, non-reg shipping, dispensing, and even direct integration into on-site applications.

But how can you ensure that the IBC you select is the perfect fit for your organization? Here are some top recommended points to consider first:

Evaluate Your Business Applications

First and foremost, undertake a comprehensive exploration of your company’s applications. This involves delving deep into the intricacies, functionalities, and potential of each application to gain a thorough understanding of their roles within the organization. By immersing yourself in this process, you will be able to uncover valuable insights and identify areas for improvement, ultimately driving the success and growth of your company.

The answers to these questions will help guide in your IBC decision-making process.

  • What exact materials will the IBC be housing?
  • What volume or weight is expected regularly based on workflows and logistics?
  • If it’s a chemical, what concentration? And does it present any safety hazards or material incompatibility concerns?
  • If it’s a UN/DOT regulated material, what packing group and regulations apply?
  • Are there any specific handling or storage requirements these materials necessitate?
  • What is the company’s position and use of the cargo to be held by the IBC?
  • Are there any integration or compatibility issues between different applications?
  • Are there any workflow areas that could be improved or streamlined?
  • Are there any specific work needs the IBC must meet?
  • What is the company’s budget and needs aligning with overall goals and objectives?

Understand Different IBC Materials

IBCs come in four different material types: polyethylene, carbon steel, stainless steel, and composite with a polyethylene liner and steel frame. Each type has its own benefits and drawbacks. For instance, stainless steel IBCs are highly durable and suitable for storing high purity cargo and substances corrosive to plastic, but require a larger initial investment. On the other hand, plastic IBCs are lightweight, cost-effective, and resistant to many chemicals and liquids, making them ideal for a wide range of applications for a smaller initial investment.

Consider the Volume Requirements

The volume of material your company regularly needs to store or transport from one use or logistics point to another can significantly influence the type of IBC you should choose. IBCs are available in many sizes, not just the commonly used 275 to 330 gallon capacities.

Selecting a container that aligns with your volume requirements ensures efficient utilization of space and resources, and can allow your company to transport more of the cargo you need faster and more securely. Choose the IBC tote volume and fleet size that matches with your company’s typical product handling needs.

Understanding Your Options

IBC containers come in a variety of types and materials to suit different applications:

  • Material Options: IBCs are available in caged, all plastic, carbon steel, and stainless steel metal variants. Each material offers unique benefits relevant to specific uses. For instance, metal IBCs are suitable for flammable materials, high temperatures, and strict hygiene applications.
  • Capacity Options: The capacity of IBC containers can range from 110 gallons to 550 gallons, allowing for versatility in storage volume based on your company’s needs.
  • Types of IBCs: The market offers a wide variety of IBC types, including caged totes, standard square stackable, premium square stackable, wide mouth square stackable, Ultratainer, wide mouth Ultratainer, Megatainer, Megatainer LX, Excalibur, stainless steel, and carbon steel intermediate bulk containers.

Popular IBC Container Products

Key Engineering Aspects

IBC containers are designed with specific engineering features to ensure durability, safety, and ease of use:

  • Durability: IBC tanks are durable, easy to fill, stack, and load, all while maintaining strength resistance against impact, tearing, and puncturing, many times allowing IBCs to be reused.
  • Safety Standards: All IBCs are UN/DOT approved for handling different types of hazardous materials and can withstand typical transport pressure and stress.
  • Efficient Design: IBCs are cube-shaped, stackable, and forkliftable, promoting efficient handling, storing, and transport. Some IBCs have combination lifting lugs for hoisting. Wide mouth variants and metal IBCs have a large diameter manway that improves container access.
  • User Convenience: IBC containers are designed with user convenience as a top priority with an integrated discharge ball valve, enabling effortless and controlled flow, quick connect capabilities, and secure lids that are easy to remove and replace, resulting in exceptional efficiency and user-friendliness.
  • Chemical Compatibility: Metal, all-poly, and composite IBC material options allows chemical compatibility to be maximized.
  • Payload Protection: Their robust design ensures cargo security and safeguards internal payloads against potentially damaging external conditions.
  • Environmental Resilience: IBCs are capable of withstanding various elements including human handling, machine handling, rain, wind, dust, and sea salt corrosion.
  • Waste Prevention: IBCs promote zero waste from spillage or overflow, contribute to reduced physical waste and disposal costs, and many can be recycled at service life end.

The Importance of Manufacturing Material

The manufacturing material of your IBC container should align with your storage needs:

  • All Plastic IBCs: These are rotationally molded from high-density polyethylene to produce a thick, heavy duty, long lasting service container.
  • Composite Poly IBCs: These are blow-molded polyethylene liners supported by a galvanized steel cage frame. They are lighter in weight, but thinner and overall less durable in the long run compared to all-plastic IBCs.
  • Metal IBCs: Metal IBCs are fully welded from 10 gauge thick steel, excellent for applications involving flammable materials, high temperatures, or strict hygiene standards.

Match Selective Engineering and Design to Application Needs

The engineering and design of an IBC can greatly impact its functionality. Look for features that enhance ease of use, such as a wide mouth manway and lid, combination lifting lugs, and customization options such as different discharge valve locations as is available on stainless steel IBCs.

1. Material Options

Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBCs) are available in a variety of materials, each possesses distinct attributes tailored to unique applications:

  • Caged IBC Totes: Feature portable plastic tanks encased within a rigid steel framework and pallet. They are predominantly utilized for the bulk storage and transportation of both hazardous and non-hazardous liquids, solids, and semi-solids, often in one-way, one-use applications. Caged IBC totes are the IBC of choice for water applications.
  • Plastic IBC Totes: Fabricated from high-density polyethylene (HDPE), these totes exhibit exceptional resilience against impacts, punctures, tears, and to a wide range of frequently used, corrosive chemicals.
  • Carbon Steel IBC Totes: Built from 10 gauge, mild carbon steel. Engineered for demanding applications, these robust containers excel in rigorous industrial settings due to their heavy-duty construction and are a leading choice for select solvents, fluids, oils, and greases.
  • Stainless steel IBC Totes: Built from 10 gauge, 304 grade stainless steel (316L SS available on request). Renowned for their exceptional durability, longevity, and corrosion resistance, stainless steel IBC totes are ideal for applications requiring the utmost reliability and cleanliness. They are highly preferred for handling sensitive materials, such as pharmaceuticals and food products, where hygiene and integrity are of utmost importance.

Selecting the appropriate material for your IBC is contingent on the specific requirements of your application. Consider factors such as the nature of the substance being stored or transported, the environmental conditions, and any applicable industry regulations when choosing the most suitable IBC tote by material.

2. Capacity Options

IBC container products most often have capacities that range from 110 gallons to 550 gallons, but can be manufactured with capacities greater than 550 gallons. However, to be Title 49 CFR approved and UN/DOT certified for hazmat handling, intermediate bulk containers have to be made with a volume between 120 gallons and 793 gallons. The right capacity depends on your specific storage or transportation needs.

3. Applications

IBCs are versatile and can be used for a very wide-reaching range of applications, including storing and transporting chemicals, food grade products and ingredients, fuel, DEF (diesel exhaust fluid), hand sanitizer, liquids, oil & gas materials, solvents, greases, water, rainwater, and winery products. More on this in the section below.

4. Manufacturers

Renowned manufacturers like Snyder, Custom Metal-Craft, Maschio Pack, and Mauser produce high-quality IBCs and have for decades, leading to brand renown and respectable manufacturing experience. Our product offerings from these manufacturers include rebottled IBC totes, reconditioned IBC totes, premium stacking IBC totes, standard stackable IBC totes, Ultratainer IBC totes, Megatainer IBC totes, Supertainer IBC tanks, and TranStore IBC tanks.

5. Pricing

Pricing for IBCs vary widely based on their capacity, material, and features. For example, a reconditioned IBC tote can be priced at $199.99, a 330-gallon new tote at $449.99, a 275-gallon all-poly IBC at $1,494.99, while a 550-gallon Megatainer LX IBC tote can cost over $3,909.99 and a 550 gallon Supertainer over $4,899.99.

6. Engineering

IBCs offer several engineering advantages and options:

  • Pallet Style Base: The pallet style base is a key engineering feature of IBCs and many times is reason enough for companies to opt for IBCs versus drum containers. An IBC’s base pairs the size and maneuverability of a pallet with an integrated storage container to streamline workloads and handling.
  • Discharge Valve: IBCs feature a 2” ball valve style discharge outlet, standard on most IBC containers. Valve material can vary by IBC type with polypropylene common to plastic IBCs and 316 SS ball valves common to metal IBCs. Most IBC discharge valves feature quick connect capabilities for use with camlock couplers.
  • Standard Lid: Most poly IBCs feature a 6” to 7” threaded screw cap lid with built-in automatic pressure buildup release vent. An IBC’s replaceable lid provides easy filling, cleaning, and reuse of IBC tote containers.
  • Wide Mouth Variants: Wide mouth IBC totes feature a lid at least 3x larger in diameter compared to standard lids. Their manway size is similar to 55 gallon drums and therefore provides superior access to inside the tote for cleaning, inspections, and work operations such as mixing. Wide mouth IBCs include the Wide Mouth Ultratainer, carbon steel IBCs, and stainless steel IBCs.
  • Hoist Equipment: Several IBC tote products feature combination lifting lugs, a lift package, or have the option for hoist eyelets. Metal IBCs come standard with lifting lugs. The Megatainer HD includes a lift package. The Ultratainer IBC can have hoisting eyelets added as an upgrade option.

Best IBCs for Select Applications

Choosing the right IBC for your specific application is ideal if seeking to optimize your operations. Different industries have diverse requirements, and understanding which IBC fits best can greatly improve efficiency, safety, and product integrity. Here, we will compare and contrast the various intermediate bulk container options and their suitability for different applications across industries.

Agriculture: Plastic & Caged IBCs

In agriculture, the storage and transportation of liquids such as fertilizers, pesticides, and water are common. For such applications, plastic and caged IBCs are highly suitable. They’re resistant to many chemicals, easy to clean, and their translucent nature allows for visual content level inspection.

Construction: Metal & Poly IBCs

In the construction industry, materials like paints, solvents, and concrete additives need storage solutions that can withstand tough conditions. Metal IBCs are excellent choices due to their robustness, resistance to high temperatures, and ability to safely contain solvents and flammable materials. Wide Mouth Ultratainers and poly caged totes are also frequently used in the construction industry.

Petrochemical: Rigid Poly & Metal IBCs

The petrochemical industry often requires the storage and transport of hazardous and volatile substances but also chemicals used in work processes. Rigid poly and stainless steel IBCs are ideal for this purpose, offering superior resistance to corrosion and excellent durability for long-term use.

Food & Beverage: Stainless Steel & FDA Compliant Plastic IBCs

For the food & beverage industry, hygiene and safety are paramount. Stainless steel and FDA compliant plastic IBCs are perfect, as they meet stringent health standards and are easy to clean and sanitize.

Pharmaceuticals: Stainless Steel IBCs

In pharmaceutical applications, where strict hygiene standards must be met, stainless steel IBCs are an excellent choice. They offer an easily sterilized surface and are resistant to the aggressive cleaning agents often used in this industry.

Chemicals: Recommended IBC Dependent on Chemical

In the chemical industry, substances can be highly corrosive and hazardous, requiring robust containment solutions and selective materials based on chemical compatibility. All IBCs can be used to handle chemicals with material preference determined by chemical resistance.

Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF): Composite & Rigid Plastic IBCs

Storing and transporting diesel exhaust fluid requires containers that can maintain its purity. Composite poly totes and rigid plastic IBCs are ideal as they provide a non-reactive interior surface and are easy to clean, ensuring DEF purity. We offer dedicated DEF IBC totes with ISO 22241 certified dispensing equipment for DEF handling and to ensure DEF is not contaminated.

Fuel: Metal & Carbon Steel IBCs

For fuel applications, safety is paramount. Metal and carbon steel IBCs are chosen for their ability to safely contain flammable and/or combustible materials. Their robustness and resistance to high temperatures and their built in fusible vents make them ideal for fuel storage and transport.

Rainwater: Rebottled Poly Caged IBCs

For rainwater collection, rebottled poly caged IBCs are commonly used. They are UV-resistant, durable, lower in cost, and their translucent nature allows for easy monitoring of water levels. Moreover, they are easy to connect to guttering systems, making them ideal for rainwater harvesting.

Takeaway | How to Select an IBC Tote

In conclusion, selecting the right IBC container involves considering your specific application requirements, understanding the engineering aspects, choosing the right manufacturing material, and determining the right storage volume. Take advantage of the variety of options available to enhance your operations and promote safety and efficiency by using the best IBC for the job.

Remember, the right IBC not only ensures operational efficiency but also enhances safety, reduces waste, and promotes environmental sustainability. Understanding your specific needs and matching them to the right container type is key to choosing the right IBC for your application.

Lastly, don’t hesitate to consult with industry experts. Many manufacturers offer consultation services to help you select the most suitable IBC for your needs. These professionals have a deep understanding of the product and can provide valuable advice based on your specific applications and requirements.

Choose IBC Tanks, The IBC Tote Authority, for a wide selection of IBC containers at competitive pricing and custom fabrication options. Bulk pricing benefits and wholesale discounts may be available for large-quantity orders on select cage IBC totes. Use the contact details below to connect with our support experts today.

Additional Resources

Consider our following resources for additional information and insight on intermediate bulk container products.

Wholesale IBC Totes

Looking to improve your company with the benefits of intermediate bulk containers? We offer the industry’s most versatile IBC at wholesale discount rates.

IBC Knowledge Base

Visit our knowledge base for more info, details, and articles on intermediate bulk containers, specifications, charts, uses, brochures, and more.


Review our FAQ page for a significant resource with answers to many frequently asked questions on intermediate bulk containers.

Wholesale IBC Totes

Looking to improve your company with the benefits of intermediate bulk containers? We offer the industry’s most versatile IBC at wholesale discount rates.

IBC Knowledge Base

Visit our knowledge base for more info, details, and articles on intermediate bulk containers, specifications, charts, uses, brochures, and more.


Review our FAQ page for a significant resource with answers to many frequently asked questions on intermediate bulk containers.

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