No more bursting bottles!
October 22, 2012 12:28 PM   Subscribe

I like to keep a case of bottled water in my car, for emergencies and inconveniences. During the winter months, the bottles tend to freeze (and thaw). What is the most burst-proof brand of bottled water, or what sort of shape/style of bottle should I be looking for?

  • I know that a straight-sided jar is probably ideal, but I don’t really want to can my own water, even though it might be better from a leaching-plasticizers perspective.
  • I am not sure whether a lightweight bottle (more flexible?) or a heavier-weight bottle (stronger?) makes more sense.
  • I am happy to take recommendations based on careful, controlled experiments, random anecdotes, or arguments based on the physical properties of plastic and ice.
posted by mskyle to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe removing some water to leave more (compressible) air in the bottle would leave room for water-ice expansion?
posted by jjwiseman at 12:38 PM on October 22, 2012

Instead of buying a case of little water bottles consider buying a larger container, like the 2.5 gal size. It'll take longer to freeze over completely (if at all), and most of them come with a cool inch of room all along the top. Still not enough to prevent a burst if it should freeze over completely, then again it's less likely to do that.
posted by carsonb at 12:40 PM on October 22, 2012

Perhaps when you store that case of bottled water in the car, you keep it inside of a larger plastic storage tub --- that way, if any of the individual water bottles WERE to split, the plastic tub would contain any leakage.
posted by easily confused at 12:43 PM on October 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Sorry to threadsit: I should have said that I would strongly prefer to have smaller bottles, because 1) I use them mostly for inconveniences - i.e. I want a drink but there's no convenience store handy and 2) if/when they DO burst I would rather have 12-16 oz of water in my trunk than 2.5 gallons.

The tub is a good idea.
posted by mskyle at 12:45 PM on October 22, 2012

You may want to take into consideration what kind of plastic you are using. I know you are asking about colder weather but in hot weather supposedly bad stuff in the plastic leaches.

As far as freezing, my husband and I actually freeze bottled water on purpose, even reusing the bottles, and so far we haven't had any burst. We usually buy what's on sale.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:51 PM on October 22, 2012

For the same reason that an insulated cooler keeps your stuff cool in hot weather, couldn't you use a cooler to keep your stuff cool in cold weather?
posted by NoraCharles at 12:56 PM on October 22, 2012

I freeze leftover water bottles to use in my cooler for our weekly farmer's market trip. I have been freezing and thawing the same bottles for at least two and as much as four years and I've yet to have one burst. The cheaper bottles eventually get kinda saggy and collapse a bit when thawed. The square-ish ones from Fiji or some other glacier brand have shown absolutely no effects at all. I've never had one burst and to be honest, even though I have thrown away some of the cheap, thin sided bottles, none of them ever failed. I'd estimate that my oldest bottles have probably gone through many hundred freeze/thaw cycles at this point without a single split bottle.

All of these bottles were opened, consumed, refilled, capped and then frozen. I'm not sure if that made any difference.
posted by Lame_username at 12:58 PM on October 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

1) I use them mostly for inconveniences - i.e. I want a drink but there's no convenience store handy and 2) if/when they DO burst I would rather have 12-16 oz of water in my trunk than 2.5 gallons.

Not to harp on your threadsitting =) ...

But if you go the 2.5gal route they come with spigots. Get a reusable waterbottle to keep with you in the cab, and get a little bungee cord to keep the jug in place in the trunk. Fill up when you need to, and each time you fill your waterbottle it's less likely the freezing water will overflow.
posted by carsonb at 12:58 PM on October 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Have they ever actually burst before? I've frozen small bottles before and never had problems.
posted by 2N2222 at 1:00 PM on October 22, 2012

I have been freezing and thawing the same bottles for at least two and as much as four years and I've yet to have one burst.

This is the difference between OP and the experiences of others who are refilling and freezing bottles: You're re-filling the bottles and leaving enough room for the frozen water to expand. mskyle is buying a new case of sealed waterbottles, leaving them in the trunk, and then they're freezing and bursting because there's no room for the ice and the tops are sealed on. Thus: burst bottles.

So, mskyle, those who are suggesting it doesn't matter what kind of bottle you use or are reassuring you that they haven't had an issue before are correct, but they're inferring that you'll be reusing the bottles and leaving room for the expanding ice. This is a good solution but inconvenient. (It's an Inconvenient Truth, isn't it?)

Consider altering your behavior of buying a case of small waterbottles. Whichever alternative behavior you choose, it's likely to have two good effects: fewer burst bottles in your trunk and lower environmental impact.
posted by carsonb at 1:03 PM on October 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Though it will, indeed, probably be less convenient than plopping a case of bottles in your trunk every so often.
posted by carsonb at 1:04 PM on October 22, 2012

BTW, the 2.5gal water bottles are designed to be held in place by a single cord. That's why they have the indentation around the middle and the handle right there.
posted by carsonb at 1:07 PM on October 22, 2012

FWIW, I froze new, unopened bottles, without bursting. They're fairly thin PET bottles, and seem designed to have a good ability to expand. For all I know, that may be intentional.

I also carry several small water bottles in my trunk for whatever use may be necessary. I prefer the smaller bottles as they're more convenient for my needs. However, the risk of freezing is extremely low here.
posted by 2N2222 at 1:15 PM on October 22, 2012

W/r/t the 2.5gal bottles with spigots, I have had several of those rupture and leak significanly in the heat and in the cold. This was in an enclosed an insulated space, with a 100W light bulb for a tiny bit of heat in the winter.
posted by MonsieurBon at 1:17 PM on October 22, 2012

the answer is always nalgene
posted by MangyCarface at 1:26 PM on October 22, 2012

I buy Zephyrhill's brand spring water, in 16.9 oz bottles, by the flat. I routinely throw a few bottles in the freezer to use as ice in a travel cooler and have never had one burst or leak. I have done this 2X a week or more for the last three years, so there's your anecdata for you.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 1:37 PM on October 22, 2012

Response by poster: I have many reusable water bottles (Nalgene and otherwise) and I mostly do use them. I even refill the disposable water bottles. (They're so lightweight! And when you're done with them you can squish them up and put them in your pocket!) But I like to have the sealed bottled water for times when I forget to pack water or do not bring enough water or spontaneously decide to go for a hike/snowshoe on my way home from work (yes I keep my snowshoes in the car).

I have considered the leaching issue and I've decided I'm OK with the risk. I figure this probably only accounts for 10-20 liters out of the hundreds of liters of water I drink in a year. And keeping the water in my car makes it easier for me to do other things that are healthy for me (going for hikes, not stopping at McDonalds).

I'm leaning towards just keeping them in a tub or cooler, which would also keep them neater (when I get to the end of the case, the bottles have a tendency to escape and wander around the car - I have a hatchback). I've only had one or two bottles burst out of two previous cases.
posted by mskyle at 1:52 PM on October 22, 2012

If it's just for emergencies, Capri Suns are freezable, durable and a carb source.
posted by zamboni at 2:45 PM on October 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have a few Platypus uh, bottles, and they are flexible and durable. They pack flat when they're empty and stand up when they're full.

They are also a very good way to smuggle booze onto cruise ships. Or so I'm told.
posted by workerant at 3:26 PM on October 22, 2012

I have many reusable water bottles (Nalgene and otherwise) and I mostly do use them.

If you've got a spare Nalgene, just put the sealed bottle inside of it.
It's convenient to carry, and if it does burst, you can still drink it.

Obviously, you wouldn't do this with an entire case, but a bigger size Nalgene could probably hold 2 or 3 small 4oz bottles.
posted by madajb at 3:30 PM on October 22, 2012

I keep spare bottles in my car and they've been fine getting totally frozen without bursting. I usually just dump them so they all lie sideways. Being on the side gives them more surface are to expand into and I've never had any trouble.
posted by DoubleLune at 3:32 PM on October 22, 2012

Yeah, any kind of disposable plastic bottle freezes just fine, I find. I often will freeze down some 2-liter soda bottles of water if I'm going on a camping trip, as they can double as cooler packs and, later, drinking water. I've frozen single-serving disposable water bottles as well, again with no ill effects. Environmental concerns aside I am not sure what the problem would be here. I also don't see why there would be more "plastic leaching" when bottles freeze and then thaw. If anything shouldn't any volatile compounds be more stable at lower temperatures?

I think that you can relax on this one and just keep doing what you've been doing.
posted by Scientist at 3:58 PM on October 22, 2012

I carry around regular 500ml returnable water bottles in my car all the time. Usually I just toss an entire 24/35 case in the trunk.

During the winter they get frozen solid and during the spring and fall they undergo several freeze thaw cycles. I've never had a bottle break and I've only had a single bottle bust it's cap (who knows, could have been weak or damaged prior to freezing). Keeping the bottle in a bucket or something would be prudent and would stop them rolling around and thumping together especially if you padded them with a towel or some paper towel.
posted by Mitheral at 4:58 PM on October 22, 2012

Put them in a small cooler or plastic container; if one breaks a seam, or pops a cap, the spill will be contained. Re-using water bottles is a good plan; bottled water uses lots of plastic, and costs for shipping water around the country/world.
posted by theora55 at 8:00 PM on October 23, 2012

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