Hard Plastic Canisters?

By Carolyn Shearlock © 2012 • all rights reserved

They crack and the lids pop off

Every so often, someone asks my opinion of canisters similar to these.  It’s easy to see what’s in them, they stack nicely and they’re generally about half the price of Lock & Lock or Sterilites.

So what’s not to like?  Two things:

  • With most of these, the lids are just a “tight fit.”  They can jostle off just from the movement of the boat, if they’re not on perfectly bugs will get in and if you ever drop one — even if it was closed when it left your hand — it will open when it hits the counter or floor.
  • The even bigger problem is shown in the photo at right.  Yep, the plastic will crack.  You don’t even need to drop the canister for it to crack — just the motion of the boat will do it.

The previous owners of Que Tal left several similar canisters aboard, perfectly sized for a few “odd” spaces.  Our first rolly anchorage — we’d only been cruising for a few days — showed me just how inappropriate they were, as they developed cracks and I ended up taping the tops down.

My suggestion:  don’t waste your money on them.  Although they seem less expensive than the “good” ones, they’ll cost you more in the long run as you both replace them and lose food that was in them.

Just a note — I got the idea for this article as I was looking for a Lock & Lock container right next to these, and noticed that many were cracked, apparently just in getting them to the store.  And that reminded me of the problems I’d had years ago.

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  1. David Holbourn on Facebook says:

    i agree I had something similar in UK, with just push on lid and of a brittle plastic……. I went back to the clip and lock soft plastic containers….

  2. When cruising the North Channel this summer I had a problem with the Lock and Lock type plastic containers. I tested them this summer with a cruise we are planning to go south in mind. I had purchased the ones recommended by America’s Test Kitchen. They were all square or rectangular. They were in a locker where I had to pull them out from the top. I found when I pulled one out, the lid on container stored next to it would often be popped open when the countainer pulled out would slide against it. I was constantly checking to make sure the lids were still latched. I ended up buying, from U.S. Plastic Corporation 3 sizes of food grade clear plastic square jars with screw on lids, the kind that nuts, rice or pretzels come in. They are very inexpensive. I am hoping that they solve my problem.

    • Interesting . . . I never had a problem but I just pull mine straight out. I had some of the screw-top type as being the only ones that would fit in an area. They worked but weren’t as airtight as the Lock & Locks.

  3. In all fairness the ones I have by Rubbermaid work fine, and I’m not sure of the brand that doesn’t work, I got them when I was on a trip to Canada.

  4. Laurie Ehlke says:

    I have never used the Lock & Lock brand, but have been using Oxo ones for a year now & never had a problem with them. We went around Hatteras last year, in October, in some really nasty weather (8-12 foot seas) and never had one crack or open. No bugs, either 🙂 Maybe just that particular brand is poorly made….

    • Yes, the Oxo brand are also good — they’re a softer plastic than the ones this article refers to. It’s the really hard plastic that cracks.

    • Charlotte says:

      We love the OXO brand too, although one fell from a great height once and cracked. But otherwise we have had no problems, going on 2 years and several thousand nautical miles later!

    • I have both the lock & lock and the oxo ones and I hate the OXO ones. They are not air tight and you can easily just pull the lid off them! I also had them crack just by tapping the edge of the fridge (back in my landlubbing days). I would never spend the money on those OXO containers again. You can get great deals on the lock & lock ones at places like TJ Maxx and Ross.

  5. “Brittle” plastic — great description. That’s what I should have called it instead of just “hard” plastic. Thanks, David!

  6. what do you recommend in lieu of….

  7. I like the Lock & Lock or Sterilite best. https://theboatgalley.com/food-storage-containers/

  8. Donna Cantwell says:

    Just a note to those that use Tupperware:

    The new Tupperware product is BPA FREE.
    A round Tupperware product is air-tight / liquid tight.

    I use some Tupperware, some OXO, some Lock n Lock, and some from IKEA onboard.

  9. What do you suggest instead? We love ours so far (OXXO brand). And they were the only thing the rat we had awhile back couldn’t chew through.

  10. I like the locking plastic containers and still use an old set that I bought at Costco years ago (the brand is Biokips, which I’ve never seen available since, but they are far superior to the cheap and fast-breaking Snapware pieces I’ve tried). I tend to repurpose durable plastic containers with screw-tops (I think most started out as nut containers from Costco, but other examples are the large round Adams peanut butter container and a large mayo jar, all plastic with screw-top lids). I use these for active provisions and then vacuum-pack replacement provisions in like-quantity bags that I use to refill the active container.

    But we’ve strictly sailed in high latitudes with no bug issues. Any experience out there to show us whether or not we could keep using such containers in buggy areas? The main difference is of course the absence of a locking-gasket lid. Are we, er, screwed with the screw top once we head to warmer latitudes? Would love to hear your thoughts.

  11. Agreed! We had some in our RV and had identical problems with them!

  12. We have some Better Homes ones with the sealing latch on top that creates the pressure fit… we don’t have any problem with them at all? They actually work great for us… no cracks and plenty tight enough to keep stuff out. We will keep using them until they give us a reason not to 🙂

  13. We have some Better Homes ones with the sealing latch on top that creates the pressure fit… we don’t have any problem with them at all? They actually work great for us… no cracks and plenty tight enough to keep stuff out. We will keep using them until they give us a reason not to 🙂

  14. I agree. I only use the sterlite ones now. I use them for everything. They are airtight and watertight.

  15. My favorite are the lock & lock, but I really do love to re-use the containers peanut butter filled pretzels come in for the boats… Square shaped, wide opening with screw lid. Clear too. We use them for small parts as well as food. We reuse the canisters our Florida crystal sugar comes in too… Perfect for dry laundry detergent! Just keep then both out of dish washer –they will melt in the dry cycle

  16. I bought a set of the Oxo brand containers a few years back, and was greatly disappointed! They were actually more expensive than others I bought before, and when those failed I thought I would treat myself to some fancier containers. They had an “air-lock” button, that was supposed to suction close, and it ALWAYS came loose after a while. On first locking, the lid could hold the weight of whatever was in the container, and still keep a lock, then a few days later, they would slip off, or slowly pop off themselves. We are permanently moored while we fix up our boat, so it wasn’t as if we had an excess amount of rocking from the weather, or rough seas!

    Now I use a collection of mason jars, orange gasketed glass canisters, and thrift store finds.

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