Storing Pesticides Properly: Protect Others and Your Investment

    Pesticide storage. Photo: Garo Goodrow, Pennsylvania State University

    Pesticides are not cheap and some are not always easy to come by. Pesticides represent a significant investment for those who use pesticides regularly.

    Generally, most pesticides are intended to have a 2- to 3-year storage life. Too much time in storage or poor conditions during storage can ruin many pesticides. This can cost producers substantial time and money and can create disposal issues.

    Mishaps can also occur in storage, so those storing pesticides should plan accordingly to ensure that storage procedures provide containments in case of leaks or spills.

    This article highlights the basics elements of good pesticide storage.


    Pesticide storage areas should have easily visible signage to alert others and must be secured properly to keep out unwanted visitors. Post pesticide-warning signs on doors and windows to alert people that pesticides are stored there. Durable, high-visibility signs are available commercially.

    Only store pesticides in a locked cabinet, room, or building. This prevents children, animals, and other unauthorized people from having access to pesticides. Never transfer pesticides to containers that might cause children and others to mistake them for food or drink. Pesticides should always be transported and stored apart from fertilizers, other chemicals, feed, and seed.

    Protect Your Investment

    As pesticide quality can degrade over time, try to purchase only the amount of a pesticide you intend to use within the year, maybe two.  While this may sound easy, pesticide needs and available container sizes do not always align. So, you can protect your left-over products by carefully reading the Storage and Disposal section of each label for those pesticides you plan to store.

    Different formulations of the same product often have different storage requirements. Storage areas should be cool, dry, and well-ventilated. Always store pesticides in their original containers. Regularly check containers for leaks, corrosion, or deterioration.  Many dry materials should be stored in a cool, dry location with good ventilation. Partially-used bags of dry formulated pesticides can be stored in clear, sealable plastic bags to keep moisture out to avoid clumping or caking.

    Check to make sure caps on liquid containers are secured properly. Many liquid pesticides must be stored above a specific temperature to avoid crystallization, separation, or active ingredients otherwise falling out of solution. It may not be possible to re-suspend these materials for future use. Temperature requirements during storage are found on individual pesticide labels and will vary by product.

    Mark each pesticide container with the date of purchase before it is stored. Use older materials first. Keep liquids on lower shelves and dry formulations above them. Maintain a current inventory of your pesticides; this will let you manage ordering new products more effectively. I find it helpful to place pesticide containers into plastic tubs, so that if a leak occurs, it is contained to a small area.

    Protect Yourself

    Pesticide storage areas should be well ventilated and dry. Without proper ventilation, pesticide storage areas will collect volatiles from opened containers. Storage areas should have adequate lighting so that labels can be easily read. A well-lit area also helps to reduce accidents. Keep the area uncluttered; this reduces tripping hazards when working with pesticides.

    Have single-use towels, soap, eye-wash supplies, and change of clothes available. While larger facilities may have an eye-wash station, smaller storage areas may have bottles of eye wash solution. Store your Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) apart from your pesticides. Reusable PPE should be cleaned after each use and air-dried before storage, as well as stored in areas away from pesticides to avoid contamination during storage.

    Protect the Environment

    Store pesticides in an area with an impervious floor. The floor of the storage site should be made of sealed cement, glazed ceramic tile, no-wax sheet flooring, or another easily cleaned, impervious material. The area should be self-contained with no drains leading out of the area.

    Larger storage areas with more than 300 gallons of liquid pesticides are considered commercial facilities and need to have a curb around the floor that can contain a minimum of 110% of the volume of the largest container in storage. In these larger facilities, a sump will collect spills and pump them into a storage tank. Inspect the storage site to determine the likely path of pesticides in case of spills, leaks, drainage of equipment wash water, and heavy pesticide runoff from firefighting or floods.

    Be Prepared

    Have materials on hand to respond to spills and leaks. Spills and leaks will happen, so plan on them! Absorbent materials like kitty litter, sawdust, or floor-sweep compound are used to clean up spills. Use the 3 C’s to manage spills; Control, Contain, then Cleanup. Control means to stop the leak at the source.

    For example if a container has a leak on the bottom, invert he container to stop the leak. Contain means to limit the spread of materials that have leaked by surrounding the spill with absorbent material. The final step is to clean up the spill. Be sure to use all necessary PPE as listed on the pesticide label.

    It is a legal requirement to store pesticides properly and in a secured place to meet regulations and keep persons and the environment safe.  With the winding down of the growing season in the fall, now is good time to review your pesticide storage and update inventories.

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