How and Why to Store Salt

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how-and-why-to-store-salt

Salt (also known as sodium chloride or halite) is an important part of a healthy diet. Salt helps to balance electrolytes and is needed for proper cell function. Without salt, we will die.

Different Kinds of Salt and Their Uses

Table Salt: Table salt is the refined white crystal typically found in a salt shaker. It usually comes in a cardboard can and is the cheapest salt on the shelf at the grocery store. You can buy it with or without iodine added (more on that later). It generally contains an anti-clumping agent.

Sea Salt and/or Mineral Salt: (such as Himalayan Pink Crystal Salt or Celtic Sea Salt): All salt originally came from the sea so to call something sea salt is a bit misleading. Typically when something is labeled sea salt it is not refined and still has other minerals in it, whether it was mined or was processed out of seawater. The minerals salt contains vary according to where the salt was mined. Himalayan salt contains different minerals than Celtic sea salt. Sea salt that has been collected after water has evaporated or distilled also has other minerals from the ocean. There are a lot of “gourmet” salts on the market so it’s important to read the label.

Koshering and Pickling Salt: Koshering salt (commonly known as kosher salt) generally consists of salt without additives I say generally because there are some brands that do contain additives, so always read the label. Kosher salt has a large flat grain helpful for the koshering process, and if it does not have any additives it can be used for canning. Pickling salt is a refined salt with no anti-clumping agent and is used for canning – it has a very fine grain so it will dissolve quickly in liquids. Using table salt for canning discolors the food because of the additives.

Rock Salt and other salts: Rock salt (the kind found at the grocery store) is salt typically used in ice cream makers and is not approved for human consumption; again, it’s important to read the label. There are other types of salts available such as salt used in water softeners or salt used to help melt ice on roads. These are not meant for human consumption and should not be placed in food storage.

Which Type of Salt to Store

If you are eating from your food storage you may not be eating a lot of processed foods and the salt that you have stored could be your main salt intake. So it’s important to decide what kind of salt is best to store for your family. Iodine was added to salt to prevent Goitre. You can get iodine from other sources of food such as seafood, soil (if it is contained in the soil you grow your food in) or seaweed such as kelp or dulse. Also, most multi-vitamins contain iodine. The only down-side to storing salt with iodine is that it can turn yellow after time. If you want to store salt as a trading item (see below), yellow salt might not look so appetizing. However, it’s still safe to eat and will store indefinitely. If you store table salt without iodine it will usually just contain an anti-clumping agent and will store indefinitely. Sea salt and mineral salt will also store well but not indefinitely. They would deteriorate according to the other minerals they contain. So reading the labels and doing an internet search on the minerals contained in the salt would give you an idea of the shelf life.

Table salt is cheapest of all the varieties of salt, therefore, it is easy to obtain a year’s supply for your family, which should be between 3-5 pounds a person, in a relatively short time. If you’re on a budget, like me, table salt might be your best option. You may also want to stock-up on pickling salt if you plan to preserve things from your garden. You would have to calculate how much according to the estimated yield from your garden for a given year. Pickling salt and table salt will store indefinitely, even if moisture seeps into the container, it can be laid out and dried.

How I Store Salt

I bought two 25 pound bags of salt from a big box store. The bags do not contain iodine and this was my only choice from this store. I have a food saver but decided that I did not want to waste my storage bags because salt will not go rancid even if it’s exposed to air.

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I used heavy duty plastic bags, I thought Mylar would be overkill here.

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I scooped the salt into one-gallon bags. I did not fill the bags all the way because I did not want the plastic to break.  They will probably be retrieved by one of my children in our food rotation process so I wanted to make sure they were light enough to carry. I poured the salt into a pitcher because it’s very hard to pour a bag into a bag.

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Food grade 5-gallon bucket.

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Bags ready to go in.

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I put two to three bags in 5-gallon food grade containers.

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Then I labeled them and put them up.

Other Important Notes

  • Salt should not be confused with Epsom salt (also known as magnesium sulfate) – they are completely different compounds.
  • Never store salt in metal containers. Salt leaches metals and/or elements out of the metal. You could wind up with a poisonous substance in your salt.
  • Also, something to consider is using/storing salt to be used as a bartering item. A lot of preppers store canned goods and processed food, which already contain salt, so they don’t give much thought to plain salt. In our culture today salt has been associated with heart attacks and other health afflictions resulting from the over-consumption, therefore, many people might not store enough salt or store it at all. At some point, processed food might become scarce and salt would once again be a valuable item as it was in ancient times.
I discuss reasons to store salt for long term storage and provide step by step directions for storing it.
  • Beverly says:

    I was watching an episode of Alton Brown and he uses pickling salt on his popcorn because it’s so fine and gets into all of the little cracks and crevices in the popcorn. I keep forgetting to buy it when I go to the store though so Jake has to use table salt (which is OK) or kosher salt (which I use to cook with and isn’t OK – it doesn’t stick to the popcorn). Interesting blog! I always love reading your stuff

    • I love Alton Brown. I first started watching him not because of the cooking but because I couldn’t believe this person reminded me so much of my husband. After I got over that strangeness, I realized he does some pretty cool stuff……..:)

  • Anonymous says:

    Would rice mixed with the salt not absorb residual moisture?

    • Thanks for commenting! Great question.

      Right, like when restaurants put uncooked rice in salt shakers to keep it from clumping. It seems there is a debate as to whether rice will actually work to absorb moisture. Some say it’s just that rice is a larger grain and knocks the salt around therefore, no lumps. Other’s say the dried rice has starch that absorbs atmospheric moisture. Maybe, both are correct. The problem with putting uncooked rice in something other than a salt shaker is that in order to use it you’ve got to take the rice back out. That could get tedious. If you really wanted to guard against moisture, you could vacuum pack and Mylar seal your salt but since it won’t go rancid even if a little moisture gets in it, I decided to just use a plastic bag with as much air drawn out as I could manage. If it clumps I’ll just break it apart.

      • MIKe says:

        Makes sense that it absorbs moisture. It is a pretty good fix for cell phones that have been dropped into water.

    • Anonymous says:

      Rice will asbord moisture. If your cell phone ever gets wet just drop it in a bag of rice for a few hours to overnight and it will come out dry. Chances are it may actually work again. then again it may not.
      Worth a try however.

  • We store “Real Salt” and sea salt as well as the cheaper table salt.

    When I was at Costco a few days ago, I could not find any of the large bulk bags of salt. It’s on my list to add to our salt stores this month. Where did you get yours? I am going to try WalMart later tonight.

  • db says:

    A great article that runs parallel to one I posted in August. You’ve covered the varieties much better though.

    Salt is also a great preservative, and, again with the Alton Brown reference, a mandatory item for the secret to keeping lean meats like turkey, chicken and rabbit moist when smoking them – brining. Smoked turkey is a Thanksgiving mainstay for us, and we brine a turkey for a day or so every year before we smoke it. Fantastic!

    Fifty pounds of salt makes me jealous…I need to step my storage up! We buy salt in the 4 pound boxes, and only when it goes on sale. We try to get a variety as well, like you said, each type of salt is better is used for its specific purpose (canning, pickling, direct consumption, etc).

    Thanks,
    db

  • gksinyon says:

    i ordered 25 pounds through the local transporting business. when i came to pick it up, the desk clerk and owner asked what do i do with all of it. i bake and store in tupperware i answered. its way more cheaper that way.

  • christine says:

    I’ve gotten 25 lbs of salt as Smart & Final.

  • Steve Bailey says:

    If I store salt that does not have iodine could I add iodine later in small quantities or would just having a supply of iodine supplements be better? I wonder what the shelf life of iodine supplements is. Also, I wonder if potassium iodine would work for supplements. Then you could have it for two uses. Small amounts for health and larger to combat radiation poisoning. Just a thought.

    • I’m not a big fan of mixing anything. I don’t even buy cold medicine with cough suppressant and Tylenol added. Call me a control freak…………:) It’s possible to stockpile potassium iodide, which is used for treating thyroid problems and used to treat radiation sickness. Iodine supplements are generally derived from kelp or other seaweeds (and may contain other ingredients) and have lower amounts of iodine. I’d be careful about adding the potassium iodide you’ve stockpiled for radiation sickness to salt as the tablets contain 300 to 700 times more iodine than the daily adult nutritional requirement. Iodine is sort of like salt. It’s needed by the human body for proper thyroid function but in high doses can cause a lot of damage (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potassium_iodide). What I plan to do is making sure my family is getting enough iodine now (starting off without a deficiency is key), also I plan to store some salt that does contain iodine along with a good muliti-vitamin (at least a year’s worth). Then if food distribution breaks down, I have enough to make it through a year, at that point I’ll need to find an alternative source.

      • Donna says:

        my Granny used to have Iodine in an eyedropper… she would put one drop a day into her morning tea. Cheap and easy to store..

        • Brenda says:

          I’d be careful with adding iodine in large amounts to your diet. Years ago, we used it on a trip to South America as a water treatment. I brought iodine crystals, added a little water and put a drop in any beverage. The problem is it kills your intestinal flora. Plus it tastes terrible. A drop of a very dilute solution when you have no other source of iodine is probably OK. Large amounts when other safer iodine is available is a problem.

    • Anonymous says:

      My grandmother would go to the Pharmacy and buy a bottle of Iodine. It came in a dark bottle with an eye dropper in it. Every day she put ONE drop of Iodine in her first cup of tea. Seemed to work for her.

  • Anonymous says:

    Without salt in the diet, you can get a medical condition known as hyponatremia, which is when there is not enough salt in the bloodstream. Babies are particularly prone to this condition which can cause seizures and death. I did a lot of research on this topic as I am working at writing a post-economic collapse novel where salt is a main plot devolper. Btw, this is one of the best articles I’ve found describing how to store this precious commodity.

  • BudnJa says:

    Aaah! Having a bit of a freak-out session here. All the salt I have stored is in #10/gallon sized cans. I SELL canned salt. Please point me to where you learned it should not be stored in metal.
    ***My heads spinning*** I know a TON of people counting on the salt they have stored in cans…

    • I’m not a chemist, so it goes without saying that I’m not an expert… 🙂 Many chefs and companies that sell cookware advise against even cooking with salt in their metal pots and pans. Salt, especially salt water, will corrode metal(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corrosion and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rust). It’s the same science that makes you look for salt damage/rust when buying a used car. If you store salt in a metal container and have zero humidity you might not have a problem. However, since there are few places that have zero humidity you’re always going to have a little moisture in your salt. Also, unless you are planning to use a whole can of salt at once you’re going to have to change the container once you’ve opened it, since once it’s opened more moisture (from the air) will be in the container. #10 cans can be mad of aluminum which is one of the least corrosive metals and therefore popular for food storage. Some are made of steel. However, large amounts of salt can still corrode aluminum and steel. (http://www.ehow.com/list_6544507_foods-react-aluminum-pans.html). I prefer not to take the chance when salt can be stored in plastic bags, glass, or plastic. I would save those #10 cans for something else.

      • Boot says:

        #10 cans are made of aluminum? I’m a food pro since 1988 and I have never seen an aluminum #10 can. And steel cans are lined.

        • Jennifer Osuch says:

          Hi Boot,

          Thank you for bringing that to my attention. I’ve corrected the above statement to include steel cans. The fact remains through, coated or uncoated, it is a very bad idea to store salt in any kind of metal. There are chemicals in the coating and/or coating can deteriorate over time.

    • Anonymous says:

      Don’t most #10 cans have liner preventing the content from touching the metal? I might be over thinking this since I seldom use them though.

  • I love those big bags of salt I’ve never seen them before! DH and I were thinking that we should have large stores of salt for curing and using if we needed to take care of animal skins old school ya know. Thanks for the awesome article.

  • 25lbs at costco is $3.99 (reg table salt)

  • I have stored some Mineral Salt bought at the local Feed & Seed store for use in tanning animal hides or salting meat to store. Can be washed off before cooking/eating. If it is safe for animals to eat and we eat the animals…is it safe for human consumption??

    • I’m not sure. I would probably trust it if says that it can be feed to animals you are raising to eat. However, there are a few things to think about/question here. Even though it says safe for animals doesn’t automatically make it safe for humans as their bodies deal with nutrition and/or toxins differently than ours. Also, animals don’t live as long as we do so certain conditions (like cancer) might not ever show up in an animal but show up in humans at a later time (I’m not suggesting the salt will give you cancer. I’m just using that as an example). I think the key for you would be to find out what is meant by “mineral salt.” Perhaps the feed store might be able to tell you what minerals are present and if not you might try contacting the manufacturer/distributor. Since it says “mineral salt” that would make me think it’s not refined so the key is to find out what other minerals are present and then make a discussion as to whether to consume it.

    • Anonymous says:

      If it can be feed to dairy cattle it can be used by humans.

  • Mary Preston says:

    Thanks for the article. I have been using glass jars. Fill them an inch and half from the top. Put them in the oven at %200 for 1 hour, take them out one at a time, wipe the top and seal. Pickle jars are good for this as they reseal. I dry can flour also and meal. Again Thanks for the info.

  • Dave says:

    Why not buy the 40lb bags of the large salt pellets used for water softeners. Then you could crush it as you need it.

  • Mariah says:

    How long will salt keep its flavor if stored properly like you suggest (plastic bags in an airtight bucket)?

  • Becky says:

    I am also considering purchasing those tiny .5g packets for trading. Sam’s Club carries them, and its $1.98 for 1200.

  • Sandra says:

    What you want for LONG term storage is an inert material that is water proof, not water resistant, but water proof. If you do store in cans, I would use something as a container to hold the salt and keep it from ever touching the sides or lids/bottoms of the can.

    I am not 100% sure about the long term stability of plastic bags… I have used them and over the years, they will break down.

    • Jennifer Osuch says:

      Hi Sandra,
      Agreed! Actually, I wrote this post back in 2012 before I delved into healthy options for storing food. Now, I would recommend glass for storing salt not plastic bags. However, if plastic bags are all you have certainly use those until you can make the switch. Also, I do recommend food rotation, even with salt. When you rotate your food you are able to use up the oldest food first and then store the newer food. And while it might not be absolutely necessary with salt, the practice will allow you to keep an eye on how things are aging in your food stores.

  • Dian says:

    i store large amounts of salt as it will be on thing I cannot grow. I save liter Pop bottles and store rice, salt, dried beans etc in them. Be sure the bottles are the safe plastic ones.

  • Dorianrm says:

    Today’s table salt no longer contains iodine. It contains iodide, which is synthetic iodine not recognized by the body. The stuff is pure poison. Stick to real, unprocessed salt. Your body will thank you.

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