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What Is An IBC Tank and What Are Their Uses?

Updated: Jan 11

What Is An IBC Tank & What Are Its Uses?

An IBC Tank, otherwise known as an IBC container or an Intermediate bulk container (IBC), is a type of reusable industrial container, designed for the safe transportation and storage of bulk liquids. They are a type of stackable container, mounted on a pallet that is designed to be moved using a forklift or pallet jack. In fact, they are also sometimes referred to as pallet tanks!

What Are The Different Types of IBC Tank?

There are three main types of IBC tanks categorised as; rigid, folding and flexible. In this article we will focus on outlining the uses and different types of the most prominent type of IBC; the rigid IBC containers, which most commonly come with 1000 litre capacity but are often found with 300, 600 and 800 litre sizes too.

On a rigid IBC, there are several frame and pallet options, with the main ones being wood, steel and a combination of plastic and steel.

The galvanised steel frame around the container guarantees the utmost stability. This also fits perfectly into the grooves of a pallet; both below and above the container which enables an exact positioning and problem-free stacking.

What Are IBC Tanks Used for?

IBC tanks are widely used in many different industries for the transport and storage of liquids, semi-solids and powders. They are commonly used in the following sectors: agriculture, cosmetics, catering, food and drink production and distribution as well as the pharmaceutical and chemical sectors.

They are very versatile and can be easily shipped because of the ability to easily stack them, whilst their size matches the common pallet size in the UK and other countries making them the perfect solution to transport large quantities of bulk liquids and powders.

Common product types that are stored or transported in IBC containers include:

  • Chemicals

  • Pharmaceuticals

  • Food (inc. spices and powdered goods)

  • Solvents

  • Other liquids

Depending on their previous use, IBC containers can be reconditioned and reused to increase the lifespan and sustainability of each container.

Other Common Uses of IBC Containers: Water Storage

IBC containers are also commonly used as water storage tanks, which can be used to provide water on sites where there are no mains water connections, such as at festivals and events or brownfield sites where demolition/development work is being carried out.

In the farming and equestrian industry, IBC containers are commonly converted into what is commonly referred to as a drinker tank or cube, used to provide a water source for livestock and horses.

Not only are IBC tanks great for storing water, but they are fantastic for collecting water too and are often used for rainwater harvesting, particularly in allotments and in the farming industry.

What Are IBC Tanks Made from?

The composition of IBC tanks depends on many factors including whether the tank will be reused or not, the durability needed and the legal requirements for the product it was initially designed to transport.

In the case of cube-shaped rigid IBCs, the inner containers are often made from a type of plastic such as polyethylene or high-density polyethylene (HDPE). The rigid outer cage is usually made from galvanised tubular steel. This can be a square or circular tube depending on the manufacturer.

There are hatched cages where the cage has both horizontal and vertical bars and some manufacturers have designed the cage with just vertical bars to hold the tank. Regardless of cage type, the integrity and strength of the tank remain the same for all sizes of rigid IBC tanks, whether 1000 Litre capacity or smaller.

IBC Container Pallet Types

IBC tanks come with a range of pallet types below. The 4 most common types are as follows:

Wood - a type of economy IBC which can be heavier when the pallet is wet.

Steel - a lightweight galvanised steel pallet that is extra supportive for heavier loads.

Plastic -robust moulded plastic ideal where the containers will be mechanically moved regularly

Combination - a hybrid of steel and plastic combined.

The Size/Capacity of IBC Tanks

The standard IBC tank size is 1000 litre capacity.

They have a standard UK pallet size of Length 1200mm by Width 1000mm.

Their height varies marginally depending on the manufacturer but typically they are 1180mm in height.

Their empty weight is approx. 50-60kg depending on the pallet type, with tanks on wooden pallets coming in somewhat heavier.

There are other less common capacity IBC containers, including 300, 600 and 800 Litres.

IBC Outlets & Taps

All rigid IBC tanks come with a bottom outlet or tap. There are many different types of IBC fittings, adaptors and accessories to facilitate different uses.

Most commonly they come with an S6x60 male thread. You can screw on a female adaptor to facilitate the use of various fittings such as pour spouts, hose pipe adapters and MDPE compression fittings to allow easy transfer of contents.

There is variation depending on the previous use of the IBC container; some IBCs are fitted with a camlock, British Standard Pipe (BSP) thread or a larger S6x75 outlet.

Most outlets can be repaired if they break, however, some are formed as part of the container and therefore cannot be removed or repaired. The tap design varies depending on the manufacturer, but all use the same principle of a lever valve.

IBC Lid Types

All IBCs have a top screw lid; some are vented and some are unvented. There are 2 standard lid sizes; the most common 150mm (6 inch) to the less common 220mm (9 inch).

IBC Container/Tank Colours & Their Uses

The most common IBC container is translucent which is great to see the level of liquid in the tank. Less common tank colours are pigmented matt white or black containers, which are often used for UV-sensitive products to protect them from changes caused by UV exposure.

If used for water storage, due to the high level of sunlight able to enter the translucent IBC containers, they can often rather quickly show signs of algae growth, often in a matter of days. Within a week it is common to see green slime beginning to show, hence matt white or black containers are more suitable in these cases.

What Is A Reconditioned IBC Tank?

A reconditioned IBC tank is an IBC container that has been previously used to transport various non-hazardous goods. They are sometimes referred to as “single-trip” IBC tanks or containers.

Often, they may have been transported once from point A, the manufacturer, to point B, its final destination where the product in the tank is emptied and used for whatever product or process it is needed for.

At this point, the IBC is collected and undergoes the reconditioning process, however, some IBCs may have contained hazardous materials and must undergo safe disposal.

Reconditioned IBC tanks are professionally cleaned and laundered to different grades, and depending on their previous use and the level of cleaning, can be almost as good as new.

The Reconditioning Process

Initially, IBC tanks are checked visually for their condition in terms of visual damage and wear and tear.

IBC tanks which are in excellent condition are selected for cleaning. The cleaning process involves a 3-stage process using a “spinner” attached to a steam cleaner.

The spinner is able to spin 360 degrees to ensure all the surfaces in the IBC are clean. The tank is first rinsed with cold water, secondly, hot water with a caustic-based detergent before a final rinse.

The pallet, cage and tank also get washed externally with a pressure washer. In the case where the tank cannot be cleaned because of the product it has previously transported but where the cage is in good condition, the bottle can be replaced.

Uses of Reconditioned IBC Containers

Once reconditioned, IBCs can be reused industrially to transport products or be used for a range of other uses. Here we discuss examples in certain industries.

Agriculture & Horticulture

In agriculture/horticulture, they can be used to harvest and move rainwater to irrigate crops or fill animals’ drinkers.

Building & Development

In the building industry IBCs can be used as scaffold weights or to transport water around building and development sites for plastering/drylining, cement mixing or welfare units.

Events & Festivals

In the events industry they can be used as marquee/tent weights and to supply non-potable water for welfare units and cleaning where a mains water supply is not available.


The cleaning industry uses IBC tanks to transport water to the site and as well as using them as header tanks to supply cleaning equipment with water for window cleaning and power washing services.

Upcycling IBCs

IBCs can be upcycled and made into all-in-one animal drinkers, septic tanks, composters and even glow cubes.

Transportation of Liquid Waste

In a multitude of industries, they can be used to store and safely transport liquid waste for disposal.

Looking to Purchase or Hire IBC Tanks?

At Dening & Co, we have a vast range of IBC tanks available for UK delivery (excl. Scotland), including 1000L IBC tanks, IBC septic tanks and drinker tanks, whilst we also offer IBC hire services throughout the South West, covering Devon, Dorset and Somerset.

We have many clients locally in the events industry who hire our tanks for water storage purposes throughout the summer months, and we also have many customers who have used us to install rainwater harvesting systems in their allotments or gardens.

If you would like some advice on the best type of IBC tank or other water storage tank, we will always be happy to help and advise you on the best product for your required use.

Just get in touch and we’ll be happy to help. If you are based in the South West and looking to purchase IBC tanks, please let us know your requirements as it may be that we can arrange a local courier, giving a small saving on the delivery costs.

Lastly, we also supply wholesale IBC tanks throughout the UK (excl. Scotland), of which we can also offer a regular supply in large quantities. Just fill out our IBC wholesale form and we will give you a quote.


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