This article was published for those searching for the best 55 gallon barrel to buy. I have done a significant amount of research to provide detailed reviews of the best drums.
This page features 55 gallon drums suitable for homeowner, industrial, and farm jobs and projects.
In addition to reviews, this article includes a buyer’s guide and information on the following topics:
- How to build a burn barrel
- Using a barrel with your sawdust collection system
- DOT & UN markings
Use this page a resource to assist you as you search for a 55 gallon barrel that best meets your needs.
Table of Contents
- 1 Comparison Table
- 2 Best 55 Gallon Plastic Drum
- 3 Best 55 Gallon Metal Drum
- 4 Best 55 Gallon Fiber Drum
- 5 55 Gallon Metal Trash Can
- 6 Considerations When Buying a Barrel or Drum
- 7 How to Make a Burn Barrel With a 55 Gallon Drum
- 8 Other Uses for a 55 Gallon Drum
- 9 What are DOT and UN Markings?
- 10 Final Thoughts
|Eagle Black Drum (1656BLK)||Eagle Blue Drum (1656MBBG)||SKOLNIK (CQ5506)||Vestil Fiber FD-55||Justrite Cease-Fire Steel Drum (26054K)|
|Best For||General Use||General Use||Burn Barrel||Dust Collection System||Trash Can or Burn Barrel|
|Price||Check Price on Amazon||Check Price on Amazon||Check Price on Amazon||Check Price on Amazon||Check Price on Amazon|
|Capacity||55 Gallon||55 Gallon||55 Gallon||55 Gallon||55 Gallon|
|Material||HDPE (High Density Polyethylene Plastic)||HDPE (High Density Polyethylene Plastic)||Carbon Steel||Fiber||Metal|
|Color||Black||Blue||Black with White Cover||Tan||Black / Grey / White|
|Dimensions (Diameter x Height)||21” (top)|
22 ½” (bottom)
22 ½” (bottom)
|Weight||23.5 lbs.||23.5 lbs.||48 lbs.||22 lbs.||36 lbs.|
|Closure Method||Lever Lock||Lever Lock||Bolt Ring||Lever Lock||N/A|
|Solids - 1A2/X435/S|
Liquids - 1A2/Y1.5/150
Best 55 Gallon Plastic Drum
The best overall 55 gallon drum in my opinion is the plastic Eagle 1656BLK drum. It is a standard drum made of high density polyethylene plastic (HDPE).
It comes in black and blue colors.
The plastic is heavy duty. It is rated for the handling and transport of hazardous materials.
This drum is suitable for a variety of applications ranging from do it yourself projects to shipping hazmat materials. Continue reading for more information regarding its UN and DOT compliance.
The barrel stands 36 ⅜” tall. The top is 21” in diameter and the bottom is 22 ½” in diameter.
It weighs 23.5 lbs.
It is an open head drum. The barrel comes with a white lid and a lever locking ring. The lid seals up well, but is not guaranteed to be waterproof. If you want to tighten the seal, you could apply some silicone around the rim.
There is an area on the drum where you can lock the lid with a padlock.
It makes a great rain barrel. Since it is plastic, you can easily cut out a hole to catch the water falling from a gutter and a hole for the spigot as well.
It is DOT 49 CFR 173.12 hazmat compliant. For more information on section 173.12 of title 49, visit the government’s e-CFR site. For clarification regarding the DOT 49 CFR 173.12 compliance, visit the DOT’s website for its interpretation.
The UN rating for the black barrel is 1H2/X100/S and 1H2/Y100/S. This rating is broken down as follows.
- 1 = Drums/Pails
- H = Plastic
- 2 = Open Head (removable head)
- X = Packing Group Packing Group I (Highest Degree of Danger) / Y = Packing Group II (Medium Degree of Danger)
- 100 = Maximum gross mass in kilograms (100 kg = 220 lbs.
- S = It is meant for solids
Additional information on UN & DOT markings are in the section below.
Expect it to be shipped in a large box or wrapped in plastic. Either way, it will be packaged securely.
Best 55 Gallon Metal Drum
If you are buying a 55 gallon steel drum, the SKOLNIK CQ5506 is a good option. It works great as a burn barrel for burning landscaping waste and yard debris. You can burn 12 hours a day for months without this drum deteriorating.
The SKOLNIK CQ5506 is a 55 gallon drum. It is constructed from 1.2mm thick carbon steel.
Its dimensions are 22.5” in diameter and approximately 33” tall.
It weighs 48 lbs.
This is an open head drum. It is shipped with a removable metal lid and metal bolt ring to secure. To open the lid, you will need to remove the bolt that clamps the ring together. A torque wrench makes it easier, but is not required. After removing the ring, pry the top off with a screwdriver or small crowbar if you have one. This can be a bit challenging if it’s something you are not used to doing.
There is a rubber gasket between the drum and lid. The gasket is manufactured out of EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer) rubber. It is resistant to elements such as heat and water.
Be sure to remove the gasket if you are using it as a burn barrel because the rubber will melt.
It ships to your front door in a cardboard box. There is the possibility it could arrive dented during shipping. For most folks, this will not be a problem. If you are using it for a certain purpose that requires no dents, just be aware of this possible issue.
It has UN markings of 1A2/X435/S for solids and 1A2/Y1.5/150 for liquids. The UN markings break down as follows.
- 1 = Drum
- A = Steel
- 2 = Open head
- X = Packing group I, II, and III
- 435 = tested at a gross weight of 435 kg, or 959 lbs.
- S = Solids
- Y1.5 = Packing group I and II at a gravity of 1.5
- 150 = hydrostatic test pressure of 150
The manufacturer provides a couple of helpful documents for those interested.
Best 55 Gallon Fiber Drum
The Vestil 55 gallon fiber drum is ideal for capturing saw dust. If you have a woodworking shop, this drum is suitable for your saw dust collection system. When using it in conjunction with a Shop Vac, the seal is airtight.
It is also good for other light duty use and long-term storage of solid materials.
The Vestil 55 gallon fiber drum stands 35 ⅛” tall and is 22 ⅛” in diameter.
It weighs 22 lbs.
Vestil manufactures smaller sizes of fiber drums as well.
Fiber is manufactured from a dense paperboard material.
The primary advantage of this drum is its weight. Since it is made out of fiber, it is light weight.
A fiber drum is often referred to as a “cardboard drum”. Fiber is a great alternative to steel for light duty jobs.
It is an open head drum. That means the lid can be removed.
The lid is made out of steel. It is securely held in place by a metal side lever lock. There is a ring around the outside of the barrel lid.
The lever lock works by clamping the ring down to secure the lid. A drum with this locking mechanism is commonly known as a “leverpak” drum.
It is suitable for storing solids and other dry materials. It does not have a liner capable of holding liquids.
This fiber drum is UN rated for hazardous materials (solids only). It has a UN rating of 1G/Y200/S. This UN rating breaks down as follows:
- 1 = Drum
- G = Fiberboard
- Y = Packing Groups II & III
- 200 = Gross weight of 200 kg (441 lbs.)
- S = Solids
It will arrive packaged in a box to help ensure there is no damage during transit.
55 Gallon Metal Trash Can
The Justrite Cease Fire Steel Drum is a 55 gallon metal trash can. It is an ideal barrel to dispose of combustible waste.
This drum is made of heavy grade steel.
It has a nice powder coated finish. It comes in three colors – black, grey, and white.
The drum stands 34 ½” tall and has a diameter of 23 ¾”.
The biggest downside is a lid is not included. If you need a lid, it must be purchased separately. Justrite sells one, but expect to pay up. I recommend the Vestil DC-235 55 gallon drum lid. The Vestil lid has a 24 ½” ID. Since the diameter of this drum is 23 ¾”, the Vestil lid will fit over it easily and snugly.
It also cross functions as a burn barrel. If you plan to use it as a burn barrel, you will need to drill holes or knock out slots for airflow. A heavy duty bit will be required due to the thick steel.
This drum is very similar to the black SKOLNIK drum I am recommending. The Justrite drum is about 1” wider and 2” taller. The kicker is it doesn’t come with a lid. For that reason, I recommend going with the SKOLNIK drum.
Considerations When Buying a Barrel or Drum
When purchasing a drum there are several things to consider depending on the job it is intended for. Barrels with different features benefit different projects.
For example, if you are building a burn barrel, you need a steel drum. If you are building a dust collection system for your woodworking shop, a fiber drum is your best bet. A plastic drum typically works best for a rain barrel.
The following sections identify the primary considerations when purchasing a drum. Details are provided to back up each consideration.
New vs. Used
Choosing between a new and used drum generally comes down to usage, price, and availability.
Usage is the most important point.
With new barrels you know what you are getting. Many used drums previously held hazardous materials. It is important to know what the drum was used for. That’s not to say you shouldn’t purchase a used drum for any project. Just be cautious if you plan to build a cooker or store feed (such as horse feed) in a barrel that previously held chemicals.
The price of a used drums is almost always going to be cheaper than a new one of a similar model. If you are not concerned about appearance or the material they previously held, a used drum can be a good, cost effective option.
The last point to consider is availability.
We all know how convenient it is to buy online. A couple of clicks and a new drum arrives on your doorstep a few days later.
Finding a used drum may not be quite that easy, especially if you need it right away.
If you find a used drum online, shipping costs from smaller sellers can sometimes be cost prohibitive.
Closed Head vs. Open Head Drums
Open head drums are typically used for storing dry goods. They have a removable lid. The lid is secured to the drum with a separate piece called a ring. The ring is placed around the lid and is tightened to secure the lid to the drum. The ring is tightened by a bolt closure or lever lock.
The next section goes into more detail regarding closure methods.
Closed head drums are typically used for storing liquids. Closed head drums do not have a removable lid. The lid on closed head drums are permanently fixed. They are filled and emptied through two holes on the top of the barrel. Those holes are secured by “bung plugs.” Bung plugs are screwed into the barrel with a special wrench called a bung wrench.
There are three types of closure methods for drums. They are listed out below with a brief description of each.
- Lever Lock – Lever locks are found on open head drums. A lever lock is similar to a clamp that secures the lid to the drum. The lever lock is found on the ring of the drum. After the lid is on the drum, secure it by placing the ring over the lid. To engage, “clamp” the lever lock by pushing the lever towards the other side of the barrel. No tools are required to close.
- Bolt Closure – Bolt closure drums are common for open head drums with a UN rating for hazardous material. The drum is secured by tightening a bolt on the ring. The bolt closes the two ends of the ring by tightening it with a torque wrench. Bolt closures are less convenient than lever locks. However, they are typically more secure.
- Fixed Lid – A fixed lid drum is a closed head drum. Fixed lid drums are permanently closed. There are typically two bung plugs on the top of the barrel that can be removed with a bung wrench. If you need to remove the head of a fixed lid drum it will need to be cut off.
55 Gallon Drum Dimensions
Depending on the manufacturer, 55 gallon drum dimensions typically range between 20″ – 24″ in diameter and stand between 32″ – 36″ tall. Often times the diameter of the top of the drum is slightly smaller than the bottom.
Measurements are quoted as “ID” and “OD.” ID stands for inner diameter, or the diameter of the inside of the drum. OD stands for outside diameter, or the diameter around the outside of the drum.
The ID will always be smaller than the OD.
DOT and UN Markings
Barrels used for commercial purposes rely on the DOT and UN markings to ensure compliance with regulations.
There is an expanded section on DOT and UN markings in a subsequent section of this article.
You must abide by the DOT markings for federal regulations and the UN code to make sure you are meeting UN standards.
All certified containers must be properly marked.
How to Make a Burn Barrel With a 55 Gallon Drum
If you are buying a 55 gallon drum to use for a burn barrel, consider the SKOLNIK barrel reviewed in this article. Burn barrels can last through years of consistent burning. It’s more likely the barrel will rust out before it burns out.
You can purchase barrels and cages (incinerators) designed specifically for burning debris. If you are looking for convenience, that is the route to go. There is no construction involved. They are ready to go out of the box.
If you choose to make a burn barrel yourself, do so at your own risk. Use common sense. They are dangerous. Misuse can result in significant injury and/or cause damage to property.
Considerations When Building a Burn Barrel
Below are a few things to consider before you get started building your own burn barrel.
- Before purchasing a burn barrel, make sure it is legal to use a burn barrel in your area. Areas where burning is illegal could result in a $500+ citation.
- If you are building from a used barrel, make sure you know what the drum previously contained. If the barrel held a flammable material, cutting on the barrel and lighting a fire could cause injury.
- Make sure you have the right tools for the job. You must have an open head drum (drum with no top). If your drum has a top, it must be removed. For heavier gauge steel, you may need a pneumatic saw, angle grinder, or torch to cut off the top.
- Make sure the burn barrel is located in an open area with bare ground and sand. A fire can get out quickly.
- A water hose should be nearby in case the fire gets out.
Air Circulation is Important
The key to building a burn barrel that burns well is cutting out slots for air circulation. The goal is to create a vortex of airflow where the smoke literally circles around the barrel once the fire gets going.
Your slots should be cut at an angle to promote air circulation. Increasing air circulation results in more oxygen being fed to the fire. An increased level of oxygen supplied to the fire will result in the fire burning hotter, contents burning faster, and less smoke being produced.
The air slots should be cut on the bottom of the barrel and on the side of the barrel about 5” above the bottom. The fire will suck the air in through these holes and push it through the top. You can get the holes started with a drill or with a hammer and center punch. You can finish cutting the slots out with a jigsaw after you get the hole started.
I am by no way advocating this, but some people choose to hook up a blower fan (or even a leaf blower) to the bottom of the barrel to increase airflow to the fire. There are videos on YouTube if you would like to research this method further.
Steps to Build a Burn Barrel
Here are the steps to build a burn barrel:
- Flip the barrel over so the bottom is facing up. You will mark on and cut the bottom of the barrel. Once you are finished making your marks on the bottom, this is what it should look like:
- With your marker, make a dot in the approximate center of the barrel.
- Using your straight edge, draw two lines making a “cross,” with both lines intersecting the center dot.
- Using your square, draw four 45 degree angles off the two lines as shown in the image above.
- You are basically drawing triangles with two of the points touching the straight line you drew in step 3.
- They do not have to be exactly 45 degrees. The idea is to get the air moving into the barrel at an angle to help with circulation.
- Pick one of the triangles you drew. Using a drill, drill two holes – one at each point where the triangle touches the straight line from step 3.
- You can also use a center hole punch and hammer to create the holes.
- The purpose is to create a hole to insert the jigsaw blade.
- Using a jigsaw, cut along two sides of the triangle, leaving the side bordering the 2 line cross you drew intact.
- Using a hammer, knock in the metal creating an air slot. There is no need to remove the knocked-in portion completely.
- Repeat the same process for the other three triangles on the bottom of the barrel.
- Draw 4 more triangles on the side of the barrel and repeat the same process of knocking them in to create slots.
- The triangles on the side of the barrel should be near the bottom with the lowest point of the triangle about 5” above the bottom of the barrel.
- Center the slots on the side of the barrel to be between the triangles on the bottom. In other words, the triangles on the side should not be directly above the triangles on the bottom.
Once you are finished knocking out the eight slots (4 on bottom, 4 on side), the burn barrel should look like this:
The next step is optional, but will help with getting more air into the barrel. Drill six holes in the side of the barrel slightly above the triangles you cut out on the side. The purpose of the holes is to insert three steel rods. The debris in the barrel will sit on top of the steel rods. This will create an air pocket in the bottom of the barrel where air can freely flow in, resulting in a better burning fire.
Setting Up Your Burn Barrel
Before setting up your barrel, you need to prep the ground where it will be sitting.
Burning ash will fall out of the bottom of the barrel. Make sure the ground is bare so when material falls out it will not catch the ground of fire.
Put sand down directly under the barrel and spread it out until it is well around the perimeter.
Sit the barrel on top of three cinder blocks. Sitting it off the ground will promote airflow into the barrel. Make sure it’s on a solid foundation so it does not turn over.
Keep a metal grate on top of the barrel while burning. This will help prevent material from floating out the top.
A Few Things To Keep In Mind
Be mindful of dry weather. If your area has gone several days without rain or the wind is blowing, play it safe and do not burn. Check the National Weather Service’s “fire weather map” to see if there are any advisories for your area.
Always have a water supply available in case the fire gets out. Keep a water hose nearby. It is a good idea to spray down the area around the barrel with water before you start burning.
A lid will prevent rainwater from going in the barrel when it’s not in use. This will help prevent the barrel from rusting. If water finds its way into the barrel, the slots you cut out in the bottom will act as a drain.
Other Information About Burn Barrels
Burn barrels can be a good option to dispose of landscape waste and yard debris. I do not advocate the burning of household waste and other trash. Decades ago it might not have been as harmful, but today toxic chemicals are used in almost every form of household waste. Also, most packaging contains plastic.
Most areas have a trash collection station and recycling center. Take your garbage there and always recycle when you can.
If you live in close proximity of your neighbors, be respectful of which way the wind is blowing when burning. They might not appreciate getting smoked.
If you are buying a new barrel, expect the paint to disappear from the barrel within a few minutes of starting the first fire. This will happen no matter what kind of barrel you buy.
Other Uses for a 55 Gallon Drum
There are many uses for a 55 gallon drum. Especially if you are a homeowner with acreage. A quick web search will give you plenty of inspiration if you are short on ideas.
Here are several projects that many people use a 55 gallon drum for.
- Rainwater collection
- Fire pit
- Smoker grill
- Feed barrels (domestic animals including horses, cows, chickens, etc.)
- Deer feeders
The sections below contain a few more uses with more detail.
Sawdust Collection System
If you have a woodworking shop, you can use 55 gallon drums (or smaller size drums) as part of your dust collecting system. Using a barrel as part of your dust collection system will save your Shop Vac from becoming clogged and keep your filters clean.
The Vestil fiber drum reviewed in this article works well. It is lightweight since it is a fiber drum. Fiber drums are made from a cardboard-like material called paperboard.
The basic idea behind using a fiber barrel with your sawdust collection system is to allow the barrel to act as the intermediary. The vast majority of dust is routed to the barrel rather than your vacuum.
Most people use their shop vac as the vacuum. Run a length of flexible PVC dust collection hose from your Shop Vac to the barrel. Then, run another length of dust collection hose out of the barrel. This is the piece that is used to vacuum the dust. Using this method, very little (if any) dust actually makes it to the Shop Vac. Most of the dust is collected in the barrel.
Many people use a product called Dust Deputy in conjunction with the barrel. This product is not required, but you may find it helpful.
This write-up on using a barrel with your dust collection system is a high level overview. For a more detailed step-by-step tutorial of setting up a barrel for use with your dust collection system, play the YouTube video below. It is courtesy of Joe Johns.
What are DOT and UN Markings?
If you are buying a barrel for personal use, the DOT and UN markings may not mean very much to you. However, if you are purchasing for commercial use, they certainly do.
Manufacturers include the markings on containers to show what they certify to.
DOT stands for “Department of Transportation”. If you are inclined to research certain codes, the Federal Register maintains a website called e-CFR (Electronic Code of Federal Regulations) where you can search all codes across the 50 titles of federal regulation. Title 49, parts 100-177 of volume 2, and parts 178-199 of volume 3 cover hazardous materials.
SKOLNIK Industries has a helpful cheat sheet of DOT regulations linking directly to the respective CFR paragraph at ecfr.gov.
UN Code Identification
UN stands for “United Nations”. They provide regulations and guidelines for transport and storage of hazardous materials. Drums are assigned a UN certification code to identify the type of container, specific gravity, performance level, hydrostatic test pressure, and other information.
The information below breaks down further what each part of the UN codes mean.
Types of Packaging
- 1 — Drums/Pails
- 2 — Barrels
- 3 — Jerricans
- 4 — Box
- 5 — Bag
- 6 — Composite packaging
Material of Construction
- A — Steel
- B — Aluminum
- C — Natural wood
- D — Plywood
- F — Reconstituted wood
- G — Fiberboard
- H — Plastic material
- L — Textile
- M — Paper, multi-wall
- N — Metal (other than steel or aluminum)
- P — Glass, porcelain, or stoneware
- 1- Closed Head
- 2 – Open Head
- X — for packing groups I, II and III
- Y — for packing groups II and III
- Z — for packing group III
Density (Gross Mass) or Specific Gravity
- Density for Solids – the maximum gross weight in kilograms the package can weigh.
- Specific Gravity – for liquids hazardous materials, the maximum specific gravity allowed.
- Solids – An upper case “S”.
- Liquids – Hydrostatic test pressure, rounded down to the nearest 10 kPa.
The Cary Company has an excellent video posted on YouTube explaining the UN certification codes. The video is embedded below.
I hope you found the 55 gallon drum reviews and buyer’s guide informative. The goal in publishing this article was to provide a holistic write-up on the best 55 gallon drums and their uses.
If you think this article would benefit others, feel free to email the link or share it on facebook.
You can always contact us if you would like additional information or need further clarification on anything published in this article.