Two things I saw on the interwebz came to mind recently. The first was a video from a fella who was storing, among his long-term food, cardboard containers of salt. Over time the salt wound up causing damage to nearby cans of food, as the cans rusted from the salt’s corrosive effects.
Over at ,Rawles’ SurvivalBlog there was a link to a commercial package for sealing up your #10 cans of food to help preserve the can from enviromental damage.
Considering the amount of faith, food and expense that we sink into canned goods, it only makes sense to try and preserve the cans from damage. I had a can of food from the LDS cannery that someone gave me a few years back. The entire can was a rough brown color/texture as the material on the exterior of the can had started to oxidize. However, that can had previously been stored in a more humid environment than the arid mountain desert-like environ that is western MT. (I opened the can, because I was curious to see if there had been any damage to the contents….the interior of the can was perfect and shiny but that simply means the decay hadn’t yet advanced enough to eat all the way through the material. What it did mean, though, was that although the exterior of a can may be ugly and look compromised, the contents might be okay…..but why take chances?) I have #10 cans of food in storage that have been there since pre-Y2K and they’re fine. How do I know? Because I inspect stuff.
Every bucket of food, and every box with a six-pack of #10 cans, gets inspected several times a year. Usually twice, sometimes more if I’m bored. An inspection involves opening up the outer packaging, checking the interior contents for leakage, spillage, decay, or other damage. If things check out (and they have so far) things get sealed up again and the box, or the hang tag on the bucket, is stamped with an inspection date.
The very low humidity environment here means that, really, twice a year inspections are plenty for most gear.
How do you preserve a #10 can in an environment that isn’t as friendly as the one I’m in? Well, I have no experience doing it, but I’ve read of a couple options. One method involves melting parafin and either dunking the can in it, or ‘painting’ it onto the bare metal of the can. The waxy coating protects the metal surface from moisture. Obvious drawback is the mess and that you have to remove the labels from the cans.
Any other options? Well, this is speculation, but…… I suppose you could put each can into a vacuum-seal bag, drop in a package of dessicant, and seal it up. That would protect the can from the environment, take care of any moisture in the bag, and it’d be much easier to process than dunking cans in parafin. You’d have to make sure that your storage method for the cans doesn’t tear a hole in the plastic, but otherwise it seems like that would work.
Probably the easiest method is to simply store the cans in a protective enclosure of some kind. Some sort of large airtight, moisture-proof, container. Some surplus ammo cans are large enough to hold a few #10 cans but I haven’t seen very many that would hold a large amount of them. I suppose the creative among us might get a piece of pvc pipe of correct diameter, cut it to length, glue end caps on, stack a half dozen cans inside, add dessicant, seal it up, and stack ‘em somewhere…but that seems mighty bulky.
If rust is the concern, I can see someone thinking it would be a good idea to treat the cans with some sort of metal preserver…. that seems like a bad idea. Contamination to other foodstuffs would be a hazard, and if you used something like coating the metal with a vegetable oil you’d draw vermin/insects.
Fortunately, as I said, in my environ it appears that can degradation due to environmental concerns isn’t much of an issue. A fairly lax schedule of bi- or tri-annual inspections seems to keep me from having any surprises.
I just use a common office-style date-stamper like you’d find at Staples, and either stamp the boxes or, if using buckets, I stamp the hang tags with the inspection dates. I suppose I could just write it down with a marker or something, but when you’ve got a huge amount of boxes/tags to mark, it’s a lot faster to just rubber-stamp ‘em.
Obviously, the biggest issue affecting storage of these sorts of materials is the environment they’re stored in. If you live in humid environment, or corrosive environment, youre going to have your hands full finding a way to keep things from degrading. My environment is pretty dry, with very little humidity, so I’m not too concerned…but I do take steps to make sure cans aren’t touching each other, kept high enough off the floor to be safe if theres a pipe break or something, and are protected from being banged around. Between that and the occasional inspection I’ve had pretty good results and haven’t had anything exxhibit any obvious signs of oxidation or decay.
Yeah, it’s a pain in the tuchas to sit down and go through boxes and bins every six or nine months, but it’s a bigger pain to find expensive food ruined. I’d rather do the inspections and put up with a little inconvenience than discover during a Very Bad Time that our food that we were counting on has become inedible.