Steel Pails 101

The plethora of steel pails in the industry can be a bit daunting. After all, how do you know which pail to use for what applications? With this guide, we hope to able to ease your mind and give you a stress-free experience with buying steel pails.

UN Rated Open Head Steel PailsTypical steel pail styles are open head and tight head.

Open head steel pails have a full, top opening. For sealing we offer lug covers and dish covers. A lug cover closure will require a lug closing tool, while the dish cover requires a lever lock ring for a proper seal.

Tight head steel pails have a closed top and instead feature an opening to accommodate a spout or fitting through which the pail can be filled or dispensed from. With tight head pails, optional spouts can be purchased in order to customize the pail to your needs.

Tight Head Steel Pails

Steel pails may or may not come with a UN rating.

What exactly is a UN rating? A UN rating indicates that a product has been tested and rated for the ability to ship hazardous materials. Not every container has the same UN rating; the rating serves as a guide as to the properties of the container as well as any limitations it has when it comes to packaging and shipping. Some containers may be rated for solids only, or liquids--the UN rating would indicate which product is safe to ship in a specific container.

Another important aspect of the UN rating system is that if a product was tested with specific parts (such as a certain open head pail and lid combination), you must use the same combination of parts as the testers did in order to retain the UN rating. Substituting other parts that were not tested together would nullify the rating.

For more information on UN ratings, check out our faq.


Linings are perhaps one of the trickiest aspects of purchasing a steel pail. Depending on what you’re using the pail for, you would want to be sure that the lining of the pail will accommodate the application, in order to prevent any potential malfunctions or hazardous leaks and spills.

We typically offer steel pails with the following linings:

Rust Inhibitor linerThe rust inhibitor enamel is a lightweight, clear coat that protects the drum from rusting too early. It can be used with applications that do not normally require a lining, such as solvents.

Gold Phenolic LinerGold phenolic lining is non-pigmented and may be used with edible products. It has a high acid and solvent resistance but should not be used with alkaline applications.

Pigmented Phenolic LinerPigmented phenolic lining is an orange-reddish color that can be reminiscent of the color of rust. Pails lined with pigmented phenolic lining can be used with strong acids and strong solvents, agricultural chemicals, adhesives, and more.

Epoxy Phenolic LinerEpoxy phenolic lining is the most flexible lining. It is tan in color and can be used with water-based products as well as strong alkaline applications.

If you have any further questions about lining compatibility, a product’s UN rating, or any specifications about our steel pails, you can contact us here or call us at (630) 629-6600 to speak with a solutions provider.