How to Store Sugar for The Long Term

Last Updated: May 29, 2023

Sugar is one of those foods that will last forever, even without special packaging. However, it’s not recommended to keep sugar in its original packaging.

Here’s what you need to know about storing sugar long-term.

Does White Sugar Go Bad?

White sugar has a forever shelf life and will never go bad. However, if exposed to moisture, sugar can turn into a rock-hard clump. This does not mean the sugar has gone bad but does make it harder to use.

Likewise, if sugar is not stored correctly, insects and other pests can get into your sugar and contaminate it. Sugar can also absorb bad smells from whatever is stored nearby.

Best way to store white sugar:

White sugar needs to be kept in air-tight containers. This will protect it from pantry pests and help prevent it from turning into a rock-hard clump. 

You’ll also want to ensure the sugar is kept away from household chemicals or anything with bad smells. If sugar is kept in your basement, for example, it will start to get a musty smell.

Smaller quantities of sugar can be stored in mason jars or food-grade plastic containers with air-tight seals. Food-grade buckets with gasket lids are a good option to keep more significant amounts of sugar. The gasket lid (aka gamma lid) provides a tight seal.

As an extra precaution, some people put the sugar in sealed Mylar bags before putting it into the bucket. This helps keep the sugar from clumping. It also protects the sugar from damage from natural disasters, such as earthquakes and flooding, and makes it easier to use.

gamma lid

Gasket lids (above) are recommended when storing bulk sugar in buckets.

Does Brown Sugar Go Bad?

Like white sugar, brown sugar lasts forever. However, brown sugar contains a lot of moisture. As it dries out, the texture can change, it can clump, or it can turn into a rock-hard lump. Because of this, most sources will only put the shelf life of brown sugar at around 2 years. You can still use brown sugar, which is clumpy or rock-hard, though.

Best way to store brown sugar:

Brown sugar should be kept in an air-tight container. Put a clay disk in the container with the sugar. This will keep the brown sugar moist and prevent it from clumping. If stored long enough, the brown sugar will eventually clump.

For emergency preparedness, many people don’t bother storing brown sugar. Instead, they store white sugar and molasses. The two can be mixed to make brown sugar.

Does Powdered Sugar Go Bad?

Powdered sugar never goes bad. However, because it quickly starts clumping, most manufacturers usually put a “best by” date of 2 years on powdered sugar. However,  It is subject to the same issues as white granular sugar, so you’ll want to ensure it is stored in an air-tight container.

Best way to store powdered sugar:

Store powdered sugar in air-tight containers away from bad smells. If you want to store powdered sugar long-term, your best option is to put the bags of powdered sugar directly into a bucket with a gasket lid; it will be fine indefinitely. Alternatively, you can put the powdered sugar into sealed #10 cans or Mylar bags.

Can I Use Oxygen Absorbers with Sugar?

Do NOT use oxygen absorbers with sugar. Sugar doesn’t go bad, so there is no reason to use oxygen absorbers: it won’t help the sugar last any longer. Further, oxygen absorbers will turn the sugar into a rock-hard clump.

There is also some debate about whether oxygen absorbers could lead to botulism poisoning with brown sugar (botulism only grows in moist, oxygen-less environments). While it isn’t likely you’d get botulism from brown sugar, it’s still better not to use oxygen absorbers with it.

Read more about using oxygen absorbers for food storage.

Can I Vacuum Seal Sugar?

You can vacuum seal sugar, but there isn’t much of a point. Air doesn’t cause sugar to go bad, so vacuum sealing to remove the air won’t help the sugar last longer.

Further, vacuum sealer bags aren’t completely impervious: they will let some air and moisture through. In the short term, vacuum sealing will prevent brown and powdered sugar from clumping. But, if you store them long enough, they will still clump.

Can I Freeze Sugar?

You can freeze all types of sugar, but it isn’t recommended. Sugar has a high surface area, so it will quickly absorb bad smells from inside your freezer. Freezing won’t help prevent clumping, either. The only real reason to freeze sugar is if you have issues with pests getting into your sugar supply. If you want to freeze sugar, ensure it is in an air-tight container.

Can I Refrigerate Sugar?

You don’t want to refrigerate any type of sugar. The main reason is that refrigerators typically have lots of bad odors, which the sugar will quickly absorb. Refrigerators also have very high humidity, so the sugar will clump rapidly in the fridge.

If you have issues with pests getting into your sugar, investing in better-quality storage containers or freezing the sugar is better.

Also read: Does sugar go bad or expire?

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  1. Storing brown sugar does not have to be necessary as long as you have white sugar and molasses on hand. I make my brown sugar as I need it. Mix one tablespoon of molasses into one cup of white sugar. I’ve done this for years.

  2. If I don’t learn it from the site I learn it from readers’ posts. Thanks for posting that recipe! One last thing to worry about.

    • Good question — I’ll update the post to address that. No, you don’t need a desiccant when packing sugar or salt. It won’t do any harm but it could cause them to clump (which also isn’t harmful but it’s a pain when you’ve got to use a chisel to hack up your sugar or salt!). Instead, I’d just recommend making sure it is a dry day when you pack your food. That advice applies to ALL foods though. If you live somewhere humid, then get your AC going for a while to dry the air out.

      • So I totally screwed up, I was drying canning powdered sugar and cornbread mix. I can see moisture inside the jar after. I don’t understand how moisture got in both with I had the jars inside the oven getting hot prior to me putting the sugar and mix into the jar putting a dry lid on it and put it back in the oven. What that the Part I messed up? Putting a lid on it before putting it back in?

        • Hi! I believe cornbread mix may have an oil to it and that causes moisture to build up. I think I read that somewhere. Do a quick google search on if cornmeal/bread mix has oils.

        • I am not really familiar with dry canning. It isn’t exactly recommended by various health agencies. IMO, oxygen absorbers in Mylar are the easier and safer way to package food.

  3. Am confused. You say sugar should be repackaged. At the end you wrote one can just toss the sugar bags into the bucket. Can I use zip lock bags instead of Mylar bags?

    • Sorry about the confusion. I rewrote that part to make it more clear. Sugar can go straight into a bucket. However, to make it easier to use and provide an extra layer of protection (if the bucket cracks or breaks during an earthquake, for example), it’s smart to put the sugar in bags and then put it into the buckets.

  4. you can put a marsh mellow to keep it soft I have done this and put in a tight rubber maid container and its fresh for years . I do not use much brown sugar and read it and it really works the amount for two cups is 1 large marsh mellow

    • I’ve got 12 2liter drink bottles of sugar. I put tiny marshmallows in the bottom and middle and top. I’ve had them for almost a year. I check them every now and then and so far they are still soft not hard at all.

    • No — you don’t need oxygen absorbers for any sugar. You especially don’t want it with brown sugar because brown sugar is so moist and could create a botulism issue.

      • Keep brown sugar in airtight containers but not vacuum sealed? Is that correct? If I have vacuum sealed brown sugar should it be thrown away?

        • It is safe to vacuum seal brown sugar. You don’t need to throw it away. However, to be clear: Vacuum sealing isn’t the same as Mylar bags + Oxygen Absorber. Just don’t use oxygen absorbers with brown sugar!

      • Wouldn’t oxygen absorbers and vacuum sealing be the same thing? I just watched a video where a lady vacuum sealed her brown sugar.

    • Oddly, I find that pantry pests don’t go for the sugar. They prefer my whole grains and dry beans. And they love my curry spice mix. Ants can sometimes get into sugar, but that’s solvable with airtight lids. So, in answer to your question, I would just put the sugar in air-tight containers (truly airtight!) and the sugar will be fine. No need to freeze it.

      Now, keeping it safe from rats….that’s another issue. You’d want to keep large amounts of sugar in buckets to keep them out.

  5. You can turn sugar soft .. Brown or white, even hard baked cookies… by placing a piece of soft bread in the package and closing for a few hours or overnight.. the sugar will absorb the moisture

  6. I put up brown sugar in number 10 cans about 20 years ago. Just opened some. How can I tell if it’s good? Not a solid clump. Can scoop it out with a serving spoon. What would I consider a warning sign to not eat? Just don’t know what I should look for.

    • Wow! You’ve been prepping for longer than a lot of us 🙂 The only real thing you need to worry about with brown sugar stored that way is botulism. While it’s highly unlikely that botulism was in the sugar and the moisture levels were high enough for it to survive, it is still a concern. WHO says, “Though spores of C. botulinum are heat-resistant, the toxin produced by bacteria growing out of the spores under anaerobic conditions is destroyed by boiling (for example, at internal temperature greater than 85 °C for 5 minutes or longer).” So, if you really want to use the brown sugar and be extra precautious about it, maybe bake with it instead of eating it uncooked?

  7. So all I need to do is open package of white sugar and dump in bucket? Can I put Individual amounts in zip lock bags instead of mauler first? Is there a difference between lid with a rubber ring and gasket lids And if so are the lids with. Rubber rings just as Effective

    • Yes, basically you can just dump the sugar into a bucket. 🙂 Putting it in zip bags first is fine.
      As for lids with a rubber ring: that could be the exact same thing as a gasket lid. But it could also mean a one-peice lid which has a rubber ring around the edges (like an o-ring). If that’s the case, it will also provide a good seal but be a pain to open. That’s why I like the two-piece gasket lids better.

    • Those should be fine semi-long term. However, any airtight container which uses silicone as a seal will eventually lose its seal and start to leak. It has to do with how silicone becomes brittle as it ages. I have no idea how long it would take for the seal to fail. Mylar is more reliable.

  8. How about storing sugar in a used 32 Oz. aseptic carton that has been rinsed and thoroughly dried. It has a plastic screw top. (Originally contained vegetable broth. Or almond milk).

    • That sounds like a great idea. I love those cartons but didn’t think of storing food in them. Though you would need to be very careful with the milk ones as it is almsot impossible to get all of the milk residue out of the cartons (at least it is hard to get the residue off the top of milk jugs, so I’m assuming it’s harder to remove from the inside of one of those cartons). Maybe stick to broth cartons instead of milk ones 🙂

      • Hum interesting idea to repurpose these but I’m wondering (kind of along the lines of hard to truly clean ..) would broth (even the tiniest amount) raise the risk level of botulism?

        It’s a great idea but the big “B” terrifies me.. your thoughts?

        • You only have to worry about botulism when the food is moist and stored in an oxygen-free environment (such as if oxygen absorbers are used). So, storing sugar or salt in a carton — even if dirty — would be fine. Since sugar and salt don’t grow bacteria, they’d still be fine even if the carton was a bit dirty. However, theoretically, the tiny bit of broth residue could cause some mold or bacteria growth. This might make the sugar/salt smell or taste bad.

  9. When storing powdered sugar in Mylar bags, is it OK to leave the powdered sugar in its original plastic bag (unopened) and then seal the Mylar bags? Thanks!

    • It’s always best to take foods out of the original packaging (uncoated paper bags is an exception). That way you can be sure that the OAs are gettiing the air out from INSIDE the food and not just around the packaging.

      • Is it ok to store say beans for example in their bag but cut a hole in it so it sucks all the air out? I ask because I’ve typically done these especially when vacuum sealing just to strengthen the package.

        I’ve also packaged flour, rice and pasta first in small paper brown lunch bag then sealed them in vacuum sealed bag (thinking it would help protect from light and punctures from rice & pastas) you have me wondering now if I need to redo them? How do I know if bags are coated? So much to learn!!!

  10. Can you store sugar in the raw, raw sugar in mylar bags and of course seal the bag for longer term storage? As it will have oxygen in the bag of course, and raw sugar has higher moisture. Of course do not use with oxygen absorbers, but would moisture absorber be ok or no? Or should i just do it as is with no absorbers of any kind?

    • Never use oxygen absorbers with sugar. It will make them turn into rock-hard bricks. Just put the sugar in Mylar bags and seal them. That’s it! For raw sugar, you would probably want to throw a dessicant in there too to help prevent clumping.

  11. Although not entirely space saving, it would be possible to seal sugar in glass bottles using crown caps. Many people might already have bottling closers used for brewing! Glass bottles could be used for sugar, salt, rice, etc. as well as shampoos, conditioners, liquid soaps. Yes the bottles could be viewed as being fragile but the bottles could be packaged in sacrificial materials. Using glass bottles and a crown capper could mean any bottle could be opened, partially used, then resealed for the cost of a cap without using electric

    • I break mine out into smaller 2-4 cups to a bag in my buckets.. (vacuum sealed without OA), it adds a layer of protection from bugs & moisture (I live in Florida, lots of bugs & humidity!) but I can’t see why the Costco packaging wouldn’t work too? But I’m no expert and may end up with a bunch of rock hard blocks doing it my way… ‍♀️

    • No need to repackage. Just put the bags of sugar into the bucket and close the lid. Depending on the type of lid you use for the bucket, some moisture might seep through. But you can always break up sugar clumps with a hammer 🙂

  12. I live in Florida and i DO NOT have a controlled environment, i.e. central heat and air throughout my house. So storage for me is going to be high humidity and warm temps. Unfortunately, sugar may last forever, but where i live, i need the answer to sugar being stored in vacuum sealed packaging. I don’t use a lot of sugar so controlled amounts like 1/2 a 5 # bag of sugar would be great. So! I guess I’ll experiment… and get back with you! But it may be 5 yrs or so!

  13. I’m building my long term storage and want to store brown sugar. I’ve been using the mylar bags and place them into the 5 gallon buckets for other sugars. I’m reading other comments here and see you should use clay disc for brown sugar. Would one clay disc be good for 5 gallons of brown sugar?

    • You’d probably need several discs. But, honestly, I wouldn’t stress too much about it. If the sugar turns hard, you can always just break it up with a (clean) hammer.


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