Our Love Affair with 5-Gallon Buckets

I have shared repeatedly that Dad never met a five-gallon pail he did not want to take home. I am convinced that more uses for them appeared to him in visions as he slept. Restaurants all along the South Shore saved their empty cooking oil buckets for him.

Young Cabbage Plants In BucketsOriginally, Dad started his cabbage plants in 5-gallon buckets to protect them from the slugs. Unfortunately, he lost his first crop because he did not poke holes in the buckets to allow for drainage. From that point on, he punched the bottom of every pail, rendering them useless for other projects.


Dad used them for bathroom facilities aboard the boat. I admit his wasn’t as fancy as this Cadillac model.

He discovered the buckets could be used for DIY Sonotubes in which to pour cement to hold fence posts. After Dad died, our son-in-law was trying to remove a gatepost and it would not budge. He dug around it only to find the post was in a buried white pail filled with cement, but that wasn’t the worst part. Ed spotted an electrical wire running through the cement. He stopped in his tracks. Was it live? Not anymore. Phew!


Dad had run a 100-foot long extension cord underground from the house to the barn. The extension cord powered his tools, lights, radio, coffee maker, toaster, hot plate and three chest freezers. That must have overloaded the electrical service. I will never understand why the whole joint didn’t burn down.


I saved my all-time favourite for last. Dad used the buckets as a weather vane and anemometer to tell the wind direction and speed as they blew back and forth and up and down the property. During a telephone conversation, Dad would  comment nonchalantly, “I see the wind has changed. The buckets are blowing in the opposite direction.”

I did a little digging online and found websites and blogs dedicated exclusively to uses for five-gallon pails.

Rick M. posted the following: I’ve got just over 10,000 buckets I need to just get rid of for free. At least 5,000 are food grade five gallon, but the rest are a mix of non-food grade and smaller sizes. No hazmat ones though. Contact me.

The response to his offer was mind boggling. I chose a few of them to share with you.

Burke from San Antonio: I need just 10, in San Antonio. I would pay shipping and a reasonable price.

Pete from Atlanta: I need 50 buckets for an indoor garden.

Debra from Connecticut: I would be able to use and share with friends and neighbors – 100 buckets, please. I am also in Chicago suburbs visiting often and could use and share with friends and family- 50 buckets, please.

I. Rodriguez: I need 30 5-gallon buckets for softball and T-ball teams.

Jolene: I would like to get 18 of your free buckets, square ones, to support a dressage arena fence with PVC pipe between them. Thank you for your time!

Jim from Alabama: We need 100+ buckets for the Mobile Rock and Gem Society – nonprofit, for storing rocks and specimens for two local universities.

Omid from Florida: I need 50 buckets for an indoor garden. I live Oviedo, Florida.

Paul: I am in the epoxy installation and I use 5 gallons pails and would like where I can get them for free pick up or pay 50¢ for each pail. I need about 500 pails a year.

Joe: If you have I just need 2 with lids if possible, I’m looking for some that are ultra smooth inside for delicates and silk. My washing machine has ruined two of my delicate clothes and I am very angry with it. I can make a cheap and manual clothes washer with a bucket and a plunger. Unable to find anything I need at my local hardware stores.

It would appear that five gallon pails are exponentially more popular than I had imagined.

Chris Peterson has written a book “5-Gallon Bucket Book: DIY Projects, Hacks, and Upcycles.”

I even discovered a series of YouTube videos demonstrating uses of 5-gallon buckets:


Dad is not alone in his love affair with five gallon buckets. Apparently, the joke is on me. I must have been living under a rock for the last forty years.

What about you?
Are you a closet five-gallon pail hoarder?
I cannot wait to hear how you use them.
Please leave a comment to inspire other readers.


PS:What did the big bucket say to the little bucket?
ANSWER: You look a little pail.


About meldaclark

It is hard to believe that I have been blogging since late 2014. I will continue as long as I have one more story to tell. I have had the privilege to feature 20 of my favourite short stories in a book called "Life Matters." It is available for just $25 including shipping. Now that's a good deal. Readers' Digest shared one of my funniest stories "Sleeping With Roaches" in their publication called "More of Our Canada." was super exciting for me. The Nova Scotia Teachers' College Alumni Association has posted two stories on their website. Something unexpected has developed as a result of this. I have been invited to share my funny stories at the library, with community groups and retirement homes. I have a great voice for storytelling. You will feel as if you are in the story. I spend a large portion, okay, all day, sitting cross-legged in my Lazyboy chair typing away. I need to add a walk or two to my day. I love my life as a wife, mother, nanny, sister, aunt and friend. From 2004 to 2014, my husband and I operated Monk Funeral Services in beautiful Bobcaygeon, Ontario. During that time, I began to write human interest stories for a local publication called the "Kawartha Promoter." I discovered I enjoyed writing stories and, better still, people enjoyed reading them. When my husband and I are not at home in Bobcaygeon, we can be found at my family homestead in Lockeport, Nova Scotia.​

5 Responses

  1. Hilarious. We are not so secret bucket hoarders. Our old neighbour made wine which came in 5 gallon pails and he knew exactly where to send them when he was done. One peak in our garage gave the impression that we were raging wine lovers. Lol. We totally use them for mouse traps. It’s the only thing that’s worked.


  2. Patricia Freeman

    Loved your block about five gallon pails…is this a South Shore tradition, as we have some
    in our garage too, but not as many as needed.


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