Top 3 Ways to Make Money Using IBC Totes

This guide will provide you with some handy tips on saving money when using IBC totes (intermediate bulk containers) for storing raw materials and products.

We'll outline:

  • What IBCs are
  • How to make money when using IBC Totes

What is an IBC Tote?

Commonly called IBC totes, these vessels are widely used in the hygienic processing industries to move and store bulk liquid and dry ingredients. They provide a more efficient solution than the ubiquitous 55-gallon steel drums commonly used for storing and moving ingredients.

IBCs are stackable, reusable containers with an integrated base providing forklift and/or pallet jack maneuverability.

IBC Tote

They are manufactured from a variety of materials, including:

  • High-density plastic (e.g., polyethylene)
  • Compound materials (e.g., a galvanized steel frame surrounding a plastic container)
  • Carbon steel
  • Stainless steel (both 304 and 316L grades)
In addition, IBCs come with either rigid sides or flexible sides that may be folded inward when the unit is empty, allowing the IBC to collapse into a much smaller package for either shipping or storage.

IBC totes come in various sizes, but the most common ones used in commercial applications are the 275-gallon and the 330-gallon totes. The height of the IBC varies with the storage capacity, but for ease of storage and transportation, base dimensions are standardized at 45” x 45.”

IBC Totes in Facility
Compared with using 55-gallon drums for storage, IBC totes offer several significant advantages:
  • The standard IBC cube shape makes these vessels ideal for packing, stacking, storing, and shipping efficiency. In addition, the pallet base allows for easy maneuverability, and the ability to stack IBCs vertically saves storage footprint.
  • Unlike drums, most IBCs feature a built-in tap (typically a valve, spigot, or faucet) at the bottom of the container for easy removal of the contents. Operators may also use a larger opening at the top for filling or emptying the container.
  • Most importantly, compared to 55-gallon drums, IBCs can carry equivalent volumes of product in less shipping space and with fewer logistical steps involved in the shipping process.
For example, four 330-gallon IBC pallets contain the volumetric equivalency of twenty-four 55-gallon drums occupying six pallets, effectively saving two pallet spaces.

And unlike the case with the standard drums, IBCs may be manufactured in various heights to yield different container volumes (although as previously noted, base dimensions are fixed for standardized moving and storage purposes).

How to make money when using IBC totes

In addition to the previously described space savings advantages, there are several tricks you can use to make money with these versatile storage containers. In the following paragraphs, we'll share three tips that the pros use to get the most out of their IBCs and make money in the process.

Tip #1: Remove all product from the tote when emptying

Whether you’re moving an ingredient to a batching tank — or transferring a paint or coating to a sprayer or applicator — you're likely to leave some product behind in the bottom of the tote.

If it is a water-like product, maybe it's just a gallon of material that's left behind, but with viscous liquids, it could be 5 gallons.

Either way, the reality is that anything you leave behind in the tote when it's emptied is money, so it is essential to get all the product out of the vessel.

Emptying totes of residual products invite all sorts of creative solutions, many of which can create safety hazards. Sometimes, operators will use wood blocks to wedge under the sides of the tote as it drains, keeping the container at an angle.

TrueClean® ToteTilter™
TrueClean ToteTilter

Or the tote may be lifted on the blades of a forklift at an angle to accomplish the same purpose. Unfortunately, either approach may result in an industrial accident such as a strained back caused by lifting the tote or crushed fingers from a falling IBC.

To salvage that residual product, experienced tote owners use a lift that allows the operator to load the IBC onto a frame and gradually tilt the tote as the product pours out.

ToteTilter Tilting
ToteTilter Tilting Action
CSI offers the TrueClean® ToteTilter™ for just this application.

The ToteTilter works with various intermediate bulk containers and provides tilt options at 5° and 10°, using a compressed air source to lift the side of the ToteTilter platform for easy product unloading.

A foot pedal or a hand valve provides operator safety while in use, and optional holes for a secure floor mounting are available.

Tip #2: eliminate tote cleaning fees

Many users of IBC totes employ a cleaning service to clean their totes in-between uses, or if they lease the tote, pay a cleaning fee to the distributor when it's picked up.

An alternative solution is to clean the tote yourself and eliminate these fees.

Savvy tote users taking this do-it-yourself approach can see a return on their investment in tote cleaning equipment in as little as four weeks.

Let’s look at how one tote cleaning product works, the TrueClean ToteCleaner™ available from CSI.

The ToteCleaner uses a cart-mounted pump to deliver a high-pressure washing solution to the inside of the tote via a custom lid and dip tube assembly.

The fluid is dispersed via a rotary spray device or jet head that sprays the container's interior walls.

The ToteCleaner works in much the same way as your household dishwasher.
TrueClean® ToteCleaner™
TrueClean ToteCleaner
Alfa Laval Sani Miget

1. The inside of the tote is sprayed with fresh water in a preliminary rinse step to remove loose particles; this wastewater is then sent to drain.

2. The drain valve on the ToteCleaner is closed, and a caustic cleaning agent is added to the inside of the tote.

3. The ToteCleaner's pump and spray mechanisms then automatically spray this cleaning agent across all interior surfaces of the tote, recirculating the fluid and removing all product residues and particles until the surfaces are clean.

The length of time this takes will vary depending on how dirty the tote is and the nature of the soil being removed.

4. The drain is opened again, emptying the caustic cleaning agent from the tote.

5. A final freshwater rinse is performed to remove all remaining particles and cleaning fluids from the tote.

While the caustic cleaning fluid is typically sent to drain after the wash cycle is complete, some IBC tote operators will save even more money by reusing the cleaning solution for multiple cleaning cycles until it loses its efficiency. The ability to do this will vary, depending on the nature of the soil being removed in the tote.

Tip #3: Use tote stands for product, time, and labor savings

Using a tote stand can make significant improvements to your process for sending ingredients, colorings, or flavorings to a batching tank or other destination. They're a cost-effective alternative to processes that use forklifts to raise totes for gravity feeds, for example. Tote stands elevate and tilt the tote, so there's no need for a forklift or forklift operator to raise it up—and tilting ensures full product recovery.

Automation makes all the difference

Automating a tote stand with a pump, flow meter, and other options transfers the labor and time management from an operator to an automated machine.

For example, a programmable logic controller (PLC) can automate pumping, and control valves can open and close according to flow rate and mix tank capacity. Once the tote is empty, an inline-level switch on the ToteStand signals the PLC or local indicator to let the operator know it’s time to replace the empty tote.

Automation can range from activating pumps with a tank level switch to adding sensors for fill levels, flow meters, alarms, and ingredient measuring during batching.

A tote stand uses low deck height, a stable base, and automatic level monitoring for ease of use, operator safety, and batching efficiency. A tote stand also improves worker safety while reducing product loss.

Typical tote stand options

Tote stands work with a variety of bulk containers and drums. Various pump configurations are available to meet specific needs. Additional options include—

  • Manual, semi-, or fully automatic product delivery, in either batch or continuous modes
  • Automatic tilting
  • Level indication, metering, or weighing
  • Various controls integration options
  • Drum unloading option
  • Mobility and CIP configurations
  • Multiple pump options
  • Various product-contact surface materials and finishes are available

Complete Guide to IBC Tote Solutions

This guide is intended for processing plant operations personnel who are responsible for the safe and efficient movement and storage of bulk materials and ingredients used in production.

Complete Guide to IBC Tote Solutions

Read Guide

Next Steps

This article has demonstrated the efficiency of using IBC totes as materials storage vessels in hygienic processing applications, as well as providing a few tips on how to get the most out of your IBC investment.

In addition to the ToteTilter and ToteCleaner described above, CSI offers several spray devices that may be useful in tote and tank cleaning applications, as well as the TrueClean ToteStand® tote delivery system.

To learn more about all of the tote products offered by CSI, please contact us below or call (417) 831-1411.

Contact Us


Central States Industrial Equipment (CSI) is a leader in distribution of hygienic pipe, valves, fittings, pumps, heat exchangers, and MRO supplies for hygienic industrial processors, with four distribution facilities across the U.S. CSI also provides detail design and execution for hygienic process systems in the food, dairy, beverage, pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and personal care industries. Specializing in process piping, system start-ups, and cleaning systems, CSI leverages technology, intellectual property, and industry expertise to deliver solutions to processing problems. More information can be found at