Pail vs Bucket - What's the Difference?

Pail Vs BucketPail Vs Bucket

Are Pails & Buckets the Same?

Pails and buckets are very similar containers, but the one difference is their purpose. These containers can be used within any industry and are very durable. A pail will have a compatible lid that qualifies as a shipping container, whereas a bucket is an open-top container commonly without a lid.

Comparing Pails & Buckets

What makes a pail or bucket better for certain applications? Comparing the differences will help determine which is best for your products. 

Size & Shape Differences 

Pails come in round, square, and tight head options. Available in a variety of colors, plastic and steel pails are durable containers for your shipping and storage needs. Pails range from 1/2 to 13 gallons and have compatible lids for a proper closure. 

Buckets are smaller in size compared to pails, ranging from 2 to 10 quarts (0.5 to 2.5 gallons). Being smaller in size makes uses for buckets different than pails. They are better for smaller applications. Hygienic buckets range from 1.5 to 5 gallons. The variety of sizes makes it easy to determine which style is best. 

Metal bucket.Metal bucket.

Material of Pails & Buckets

Pails and buckets are made of HDPE, PP, or metal. Each of these materials are durable for a variety of uses throughout many industries. 


Metal is very durable, weather-resistant, and will not rust. This material is recyclable and can tolerate more heat over plastic.  


HDPE material logo. HDPE material logo.


HDPE (high-density polyethylene) plastic bottles are known for their strength and versatility. Natural, a frosted translucent finish (milk jugs) is HDPE’s clearest state. It has fairly good impact and chemical resistance. HDPE Bottles are commonly used for liquid products in the food, chemical and pharmaceutical industries.

PP plastic material logo. PP plastic material logo.


PP (polypropylene) plastic bottles are a versatile plastic used in many industries. They feature excellent chemical resistance and good impact resistance. 

Intended Uses of Pails & Buckets

Pails and buckets can be used for different applications. Pails can be UN rated to store hazardous materials when paired with the proper compatible lid. 

Use Pails for: 

  • Chemicals 
  • Hazardous materials 
  • Gardening Products 
  • Food storage 
  • Cleaning

Use Buckets for: 

  • Gifts 
  • Beverage holder 
  • Cleaning 
  • Home decor 
  • Farming needs


Uses for pails and buckets can be the same, but if certain shipping requirements are needing to be met, that can steer your decision. Open head plastic pails can be paired with a lid for transporting products, where some buckets may not. 

Tight head plastic pails on the other hand are commonly used for liquids, chemicals, paints, adhesives, additives, and more. These pails provide durability and have good impact resistance. 

Plastic hygienic buckets can be used to store raw materials and are practical containers for food storage. Color coding your buckets prevents cross-contamination within the food industry and keeps products organized. 

Black metal pail.Black metal pail.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between Pails & Buckets

If you need a container for hazardous materials, UN Rated pails have compatible lids that complete a UN rating needed for transportation. The UN Rating is a series or number and letter codes that show what a container is regulated to handle. They determine this from testing the containers. Current UN Rating regulations are enforced by the D.O.T.

Which Container Is Best for You?

Our wide range of buckets and pails allow you to choose the right style for your needs. With countless uses, pails and buckets are great due its versatility. Tools and accessories for pails enhance product protection and keep items intact. 

Personalize your pails with your logo for enhanced brand recognition. Our Cary Design Team can help your labeling and decorating needs. Can’t find a specific pail or bucket? The Cary Product Sourcing Team will help you find the best solution for your products. – Call 630.629-6600 or email us at