Mylar Bags vs. Vacuum Sealing for Food Storage [Which is Best?]


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Last Updated: March 3, 2022

Putting food in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers (OAs) is considered the best long-term storage method for dry staples.

Once sealed, the Mylar bag won’t let any air in.  And the oxygen absorber removes oxygen from the packaging, protecting food from oxidation. Some foods, like white rice, can even last 25+ years when stored like this.

At first glance, vacuum sealing food might seem similar to the Mylar + OA method.

After all, vacuum sealing also removes air from the packaging.  But there are big differences between Mylar bags and vacuum sealing when it comes to food storage.

New to Long-Term Food Storage? Read: How to Store Food in Mylar and How to Use Oxygen Absorbers

The Quick Answer:

Use Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers when storing dry foods long-term (2+ years).  Use vacuum sealing for shorter-term storage of foods that you will rotate through.  Vacuum sealing is also the better choice when it comes to freezer storage or storing moist foods.

Why Mylar is Better than Vacuum Sealing for Food Storage

mylar bag food storage

All of the top emergency food brands package their foods in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers.  This includes brands like Wise, Mountain House, etc.  The fact that none of these brands use vacuum sealing should tell you something.

Ultimately, it comes down to these three properties, which make Mylar better for food storage than vacuum sealer bags.

1. Mylar Is a Better Oxygen Barrier

Mylar is a very durable polyester film.  It is metalized through a process called vapor deposition, where aluminum is sprayed to its surface.  The result is a  bag that is almost perfectly impervious to oxygen.  Once sealed, no air or moisture is going to get through the Mylar bag.

By contrast, vacuum sealer bags like Food Saver bags are made from a polymer.  The material does a good job of keeping air from passing through it, but it isn’t 100%.  Over time, the vacuum sealer bags will allow air to pass through.

There is a lot of research from the food industry on vacuum packaging, which proves this:

  • This study found that vacuum sealing preserved dry rice better over 18 months than methods like cold storage and polythene bags – but the quality of the vacuum-sealed rice still degraded each month in storage.
  • This study found that, after 12 months, the nutrients in vacuum-packaged dry black rice degraded.
The bottom line? Vacuum sealer bags WILL eventually leak oxygen into the food and cause it to spoil.

2. Blocks Light

Another benefit of Mylar over vacuum sealer bags is that it is opaque and won’t allow light through.  Since UV light destroys many nutrients, Mylar helps food last longer in this way. Read more about how to preserve food for years.

3. Harder for Insects to Chew Through

I’ve had Indianmeal moths infiltrate my pantry and can testify to how annoying they are.  The moth larvae easily chewed through my vacuum sealer bags.   A Mylar bag I had there remained untouched, despite containing whole grains (which moths love).

Of course, Mylar isn’t completely impervious to pests.  Rodents can definitely chew through it.  This is why you want to keep your Mylar bags of food in a bucket.  But Mylar is still definitely tougher than vacuum sealer bags! Read more about how to rodent-proof food storage.

Vacuum Sealing Does Not Remove Air from Inside Food

This is an important difference between Mylar and vacuum sealing that doesn’t get mentioned much.   When you put oxygen absorbers inside a Mylar bag and seal it, the OA removes air from INSIDE the food.  By contrast, vacuum sealing only removes air from AROUND the food.

Foods like beans and whole grains have a surprising amount of air inside of them.  Even if vacuum sealer bags didn’t have leak issues, you’d still have all that air inside the food, causing it to degrade and eventually spoil.

When Vacuum Sealing Makes Sense for Food Storage

Mylar bags + oxygen absorbers are usually the best methods for long-term food storage.  However, there are some times when vacuum sealing is the better choice.

Storing Moist Items

storing moist foods in vacuum sealer bags vs mylar

Foods that have moisture of 10% or more should never be stored in Mylar with oxygen absorbers.  This is because the botulism bacteria can grow in oxygen-less environments.  It then produces toxins that can kill you.

Some “dry” foods contain a lot of moisture.  For example, store-bought raisins sometimes have moisture levels of over 10% and should not be stored in Mylar with OAs.  Cornmeal can also be surprisingly moist.   Vacuum sealing is a much safer storage method for these foods.

Read:

Freezer Storage

Foods with lots of oil or fat will go rancid quickly even if stored in Mylar with OAs.  Roasted coffee is just one example.  For this reason, a lot of people prefer to store coffee in their freezer.

Vacuum sealing is better for freezer storage than Mylar.  The vacuum sealer bags will prevent freezer burn.  The bag’s transparency works in your favor because you can see the product to check quality.

You could theoretically put foods in Mylar and then in the freezer.

However, I don’t like this idea: when you take the foods out of the freezer (or your freezer dies during a power outage), you could end up with moisture pockets inside the Mylar bag.

These moisture pockets might be wet enough to allow botulism to grow.  (Yes.  I’m very paranoid about botulism!)  Better to just store the items in vacuum sealer bags.

Vacuum Sealing Canning Jars

Vacuum sealer bags will eventually allow oxygen to leak through.  By contrast, vacuum sealer jars won’t leak oxygen.  The lids are also usually very durable and create a strong seal.

I have yet to see research about whether oxygen will leak into vacuum sealed mason jars.  And I’m personally not a fan of glass for food storage because it breaks easily (earthquakes, hurricanes…). However, it may be a good option to store smaller amounts of food in jars.

Certain Foods

Some foods are fine to store in vacuum sealer bags, even long-term.  This includes foods that will last a long time on their own, even without special packaging.  Pasta is a good example.

Unless it is fortified, pasta has very few vitamins or other nutrients which will degrade from oxidation.  I’ve come across pasta in a friend’s pantry that was 3 years expired, and it still tasted perfectly fine (yes, I ate it).

Sugar and salt are other foods that are fine to package in vacuum sealer bags long-term.  In fact, you don’t want to put these foods in Mylar with oxygen absorbers because they will turn rock hard!

Can I Put Oxygen Absorbers in Vacuum Sealer Bags?

Yes, but using oxygen absorbers in vacuum sealer bags will not have much or any benefit long-term.  Oxygen absorbers only make sense in completely air-tight packaging like Mylar bags.  Vacuum sealer bags will eventually leak air through, thus removing any benefit from the OAs.

Can I Put a Vacuum Sealed Bag Inside a Mylar bag?

I have heard of preppers doing this:

  • Put an oxygen absorber inside a vacuum sealer bag with food
  • Vacuum sealing the bag
  • Putting the vacuum sealed bag in Mylar
  • Sealing the Mylar

However, this method is overkill and unnecessary.  The only benefit is that the extra layer of bags will protect against puncture.  But, for that, you could just keep your Mylar bags in a bucket.

Note that you should NOT put a vacuum sealed bag in a Mylar bag with an oxygen absorber (the OA between the vacuum sealer bag and Mylar).  While vacuum sealer bags do leak, they don’t leak much right away. So, the vacuum sealer bag could prevent the OA from doing its job.  Oxygen will remain in the vacuum sealer bag and cause the food to spoil.

Can You Use a Vacuum Sealer to Seal Mylar Bags?

Some vacuum sealers do get hot enough to seal Mylar bags.  However, vacuum sealers generally don’t do a good job of sealing thicker Mylar bags.   It is more reliable to use an iron or hair iron to seal the Mylar bags.

Can You Use Mylar Bags with a Vacuum Sealer?

No, you usually cannot use a vacuum sealer on Mylar.  The issue is that Mylar bags are smooth so the vacuum sealer can’t suck air from the bags.

There are some workarounds to this problem though.  For example, you can use an iron to seal almost all of the Mylar bag and then stick a vacuum hose attachment into the bag to suck the air out.  Once the air is sucked out, you quickly finish sealing the bag. This video shows you how to do it. 

Another hack is to cut strips from vacuum seal bags and putting those strips between the layers of Mylar.  After you are doing vacuum sealing, you must reinforce the seal with an iron.  

But vacuum sealing Mylar is not recommended! 

Vacuum sealers do not remove all oxygen from packaging. So, even though Mylar bags are better than vacuum sealer bags, the food inside the vacuumed bags will still slowly start to go bad.   It is easier and more reliable to use oxygen absorbers in your Mylar bags instead of vacuum sealing.  For short-term food storage, stick to vacuum sealer bags.

Oxygen Absorber + Vacuuming Mylar Bags?

Some preppers like to put an oxygen absorber in the Mylar bag and vacuum it.  While this does theoretically reduce the amount of OAs you would need to use, it is overkill.  Just push out as much air as you can from the bags before sealing them and you will be fine.

The only benefit to vacuuming Mylar bags that already have OAs is this: because vacuuming makes the Mylar bag looked “sucked down,” you will be able to tell if the seal has broken.  I still don’t recommend it though because it’s an extra step, overkill, and the wrinkles caused from vacuum sealing can make it hard to get a good seal on the Mylar.

Note: Mylar Also Comes in Small Sizes!

One of the main reasons that people want to use vacuum sealing instead of Mylar is size.  Mylar bags are often very large, whereas you can find tiny vacuum sealer bags.  The small size is much more convenient for storing foods that you don’t use much of, such as spices.

But Mylar bags also come in small sizes and are easy to find.  You can even cut Mylar bags to size. Just make sure to seal the sides and bottom, and you’ve got whatever size you want.

What foods do you store in vacuum sealer bags and which in Mylar? Let us know in the comments section below!

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    • That’s awesome – I will need to look into that. Yes, you should probably put OAs into the bags before sealing.

      Reply
    • I used the textured Mylar rolls in my food saver and put oa’s in, vacuumed and sealed. I know several disapprove and claim the oa’s won’t work without some space in the bag…….guess I’ll find out if I ever need the food.

      Reply
      • The o2 absorber would still be doing it’s job by absorbing any moisture that still remains in the food itself. You are just giving the absorber a head start.

        Reply
    • Nitrogen flushing is a great way to remove oxygen from Mylar bags before sealing. But I never recommend it because the machines are so expensive. IMO, it only makes sense if you are big food manufacturing company. For most people, it’s simpler and cheaper to just use OAs.

      Reply
  1. Thanks for all the information, it helped a lot!

    But I’m not sure I understand this, hahahhaaa (I’m very new to this):

    “Note that you should NOT put a vacuum sealed bag in a Mylar bag with an oxygen absorber (the OA between the vacuum sealer bag and Mylar). While vacuum sealer bags do leak, they don’t leak much right away. So, the vacuum sealer bag could prevent the OA from doing its job. Oxygen will remain in the vacuum sealer bag and cause the food to spoil.”

    If I put oxygen absorbers in the vacuum seal bag and then put several vacuum seal bags in a mylar bag with extra oxygen absorbers, how would it ruin the food?

    The Mylar bag is an extra protection against light and ensures that no oxygen enters the vacuum bags.

    Please tell me so that I do not create a lot of food that can not be eaten 🙁

    Reply
    • @Mattias, I pondered the same and reread. I was thinking of lining buckets with mylar, putting some vac sealed bags of spices or perhaps other ingredients needed for a recipe in the bucket, pouring the beans over the plastic vac bags, adding O2 absorbers, and then sealing the mylar around them.

      I think they are saying my vac sealed plastic does not perform perfectly at removing oxygen. Even though we have put an oxygen absorber in with the beans before sealing the mylar, there will still be some (2%) oxygen in the vac sealed bags of spices and other ingredients. That oxygen will either ruin the inner ingredients; or it occurs to me, that oxygen will seep out of the plastic bags — even if they’ve been vac sealed — and also ruin the beans in the outer section. All inside the mylar. Over time.

      You, however, are talking of putting O2 absorbers inside the inner vac sealed bag, as well as outside it.

      I am thinking of making sure the inner bags holding other ingredients have holes so the absorbers put in at the end can do their job on both inner ingredients and beans inside the mylar. Or maybe paper bags would provide the separation I want for ingredients.

      Reply
    • Yes, I know this is confusing. I need to draw a picture or something 😀

      OKAY: OA in vacuum sealed bag. Then vacuum-sealed bag in Mylar.

      NOT OKAY: Vacuum seal bag. Then put vacuum-sealed bag in Mylar with OAs.
      It won’t ruin the food. It will just stop the OA from doing its job because the OA might not be able to get to the oxygen inside the vacuum-sealed bag.

      Reply
  2. I am also new to this and think I have watched to many videos. I want to vacuum seal dry pasta, some beans, sugar and flour. I just ordered my sealer along with bags online..but not Mylar bags. I’m really only interested is saving for a couple of years, not longer. I thought I could put a Desiccant Silica packet in each small bag, but I’m getting confused about the Oxygen packets. Can I just use the DS packets. Thanks!

    Reply
  3. Like many of us, I am new to this. I have a vacuum bagger made by Food Saver. Two years after vacuum sealing brown rice, that rice is rancid. So after reading this post, I’m ready to switch to Mylar.

    However, I don’t own an iron like the one described in this post. All I have is the old vacuum bagger. It will create a heat seal, even with the vacuum function turned off. So why not use it on Mylar bags, with OA inside?

    Please, someone, tell me if I am being stupid. Thanks in advance.

    Reply
    • The problem with most vacuum sealers is that they don’t get hot enough to create a good seal on Mylar bags. You could try it, but I doubt it would work. A regular iron at the hottest setting should work better. You can probably borrow one if you don’t have one.

      Reply
  4. Hi Diane,
    I vacuum sealed small packs of dried fruit about 3 months ago, and today I noticed some of the packs are no longer vacuum tight. I did use oxygen absorbers – I was not aware of the risk of botulism you mention! I’m wondering about the time frame in this environment necessary to create a problem like botulism.. Do I need to waste $100 worth of organic dried fruit because of the mistake using the oxygen absorbers 3 months ago?
    Thanks,
    Angie

    Reply
    • Yes, that’s an example of vacuum bags failing. It’s quite common. As for botulism, you don’t have to throw away the food. But I would play it safe and treat the food to kill any potential botulism spores.

      The botulism SPORES are really hard to kill because theyt survive even at high temperatures. But the TOXIN (produced by the bacteria) which makes you sick is actually pretty easy to destroy. You’ve got to get the food to an internal temperature of at least 85°C for at least 5 minutes.

      See this page for info on destroying botulism: https://ucanr.edu/sites/MFPOC/Emergency/Botulism/

      Reply
  5. I’ve ordered a 25kg sack of wheat berries, is it ok to store this loose in an airtight food grade bucket, do I need to put any OA sachets in or must they be stored in Mylar or vacuum bags in the airtight bucket ?
    I’m a little confused and don’t want to starve.

    Reply
  6. This was asked earlier but I believe it was only a partial response. Can you reply: I have OAs inside my vacuum packed Food saver bags. I also put OAs In the Mylar bag and sealed. So, OAs in both places. If and when the food saver bag eventually leaks, will the oxygen absorber in the Mylar bag offset the leak and food is still safe?

    Reply
    • I’m confused: You put the vacuum sealer bag INSIDE a Mylar bag? There is no reason to do that. It won’t improve shelf life . It’s enough to just put food in the Mylar bag, put OAs inside and seal it up. Put it in a bucket to keep the bags safe from puncture. Save the food saver bags for shorter-term storage or freezer storage.

      Reply
  7. I’d like to know whether it is fine to vacuum seal foods that are already in their packaging – ie supermarket dried apricots and fruits, pasta, flour etc, dried milk – can I keep them all in their store bought package and will this keep their shelf life longer that vacuum sealed alone?

    Reply

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