IBC Tank Cleaning and Maintenance of Used Containers


January 12, 2023


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IBC Tote Cleaning Guide

There are a number of different types of industrial reusable containers available. This article focuses on intermediate bulk containers, or IBCs. These containers are used widely in both hygienic processing and other industrial applications.

The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of the products currently available in the marketplace for the maintenance of these unique containers, both hygienic and non-hygienic.

Materials used in the processing industries can be stored and moved more efficiently with IBCs than with standard drums.

The purpose of this guide is to provide guidance to processing plant operations personnel responsible for moving and storing bulk materials and ingredients. By properly using and maintaining IBCs, their hygienic nature will be preserved, if required, and their efficiency in daily operations will be maximized.

Used IBC TOtes

Used IBC Totes


In addition to storing and transporting bulk liquids, pastes, and powders for food production, health and beauty products production, and other non-sanitary chemical processing applications, IBCs are used in the processing industries. Stainless steel IBCs are also known as TranStore tanks (note that they are also called IBC totes, IBC tanks, or IBC pallets).

Stackable, reusable IBC totes are stackable and reusable vessels with an integrated pallet base mount that allows forklifts and pallet jacks to maneuver them. They come in flexible and rigid configurations. In contrast, flexible IBC totes can be collapsed into a smaller package for return shipment or storage when the sides fold inward.

Materials used to manufacture IBC totes include:

  • Polyethylene, for example, is a high density plastic

  • A container enclosed in a galvanized steel frame (e.g., under a galvanized steel frame)

  • Steel made from carbon

  • Stainless steel

Food & beverage operators prefer rigid stainless steel totes for storing and transporting sanitary products. However, the majority of the totes used in commercial operations are made from composite materials or rigid polyethylene.

Despite the fact that these containers have a volume in between the capacities of large storage tanks and traditional 55-gallon drums, the term “intermediate” in their name refers to the volume that these containers can carry. In sanitary processing operations, rigid IBC tanks typically have a capacity of 275 or 330 gallons.

275 Gallon IBC Totes

275 Gallon IBC Totes

IBCs offer several advantages over other methods of product storage and transportation, including:

In most cases, IBCs are cube-shaped, which makes them easier to package, stack, store, ship, and generally take up less space.

For easier maneuvering with a forklift or pallet jack, rigid IBCs come with integrated pallet bases. Most of them can also be stacked vertically on top of one another to minimize storage space. Generally, IBCs are equipped with a built-in tap (valve, spigot, or faucet) at the bottom that can be connected to hoses, or from which contents may be poured or pumped into smaller containers. Totes may also be filled or emptied through a large opening at the top.

It is important to note that IBCs can carry equivalent volumes of product in less space than pallets containing 55-gallon drums, and they require fewer logistical steps to transport. The volumetric equivalent of twenty-four 55-gallon drums occupying six pallets would be contained in four 330-gallon IBC pallets, resulting in two pallet spaces being saved. The top of an IBC can be manufactured in a variety of heights, resulting in a variety of container volumes (although the bottom dimension is fixed to ensure standardized shipping and moving).

Maintenance and cleaning guide

The following materials can be shipped, handled, and stored in IBCs:

  • Ingredients for liquid foods.

  • Molasses, corn syrup, maple syrup, and other food syrups.

  • Fermentation of wine

  • Kombucha

  • Rum, Vodka, and Other Spirits

  • Yogurt

  • Water

In addition to cleaning portable IBCs every time they’re used, totes are also cleaned with clean-out-of-place methods rather than clean-in-place methods since they’re not integrated into process lines.

It is recommended to follow the following best practices when maintaining IBC totes:

Ensure that regular inspections are conducted.

In order to comply with federal regulations, the EPA, and the Department of Transportation mandate that IBCs are inspected after manufacturing, and every 2.5 years thereafter. During these inspections, totes must pass a leak test to ensure that liquids and solids are contained. A tote’s liner must be inspected for damage every five years.

Use professional and certified cleaning services.

IBC totes should be cleaned by a professional cleaning service if you are uncertain about how to do so or if you are unlicensed to do so. This guide will provide a brief overview of specialized products that allow process plant operators to thoroughly and safely clean and maintain totes in the processing industries that require frequent tote cleaning (if not daily).

Use caution when moving or lifting totes.

Whenever moving or lifting totes, be careful not to damage the discharge valve, which drains products. The most common method of lifting totes is from the front or back. The valve should not be touched by the operator when lifting. Avoid sudden weight shifts by moving slowly and keeping the contents steady.

Remove the lid properly.

Moving and storing a tote’s contents can cause pressure to build up, especially if liquid is inside. To let the pressure out gradually, slowly release the bung on the tote’s lid. By failing to take this precaution, the bung may fall off, or the container’s contents may burst.

Avoid overfilling the container.

Prior to moving the IBC, ensure that the tank valve is tightly closed and a second closure is in place.


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