Whether you love to clean or view it as a chore, knowing if and when your cleaning products do expire can make your life easier and your home at its cleanest. It’s not always glamorous having to check the expiration date on a bottle of bleach, and it may feel silly to look for the “best by” date as if you would do a canned good. While cleaning products are not made for ingesting (and children should always be kept out of reach), they still have the potential to expire. If you didn’t already know this, no sweat. It’s not exactly common knowledge that we should be checking for expiration dates on cleaning chemicals that you would associate with fighting germs. If you’re not in-the-know already, you’re not alone, and we’re here to set the record straight on what, why, when, and how cleaning products expire.
Do cleaning products expire?
In short, yes cleaning products do expire and in varying degrees depending on the type of product you are storing and how you store it. Natural cleaning products, for example, will expire quicker than something like bleach that has chemical preservatives. However, don’t let this stop you from using natural alternatives! We’re here to help you become a cleaning pro, and that includes expanding your knowledge of all of your cleaning product options.
What does expired mean?
In the case of cleaning products, expiration means that the product may not be as effective as before. After a while, even the products with the most preservatives will begin to degrade due to the breakdown of their chemical composition. Luckily, this is not a fast process for most cleaning products. However, if you tend to forget about them under your cabinet, you may not even realize that the products you’re using have begun to degrade. If it’s been years and you still use the same giant bottle of dish soap (or are storing it for emergencies), it likely is not at its best anymore.
Are expired products safe to use?
In terms of safety, most cleaning products are perfectly safe to use after expiration. The one caveat to this is that the overall cleanliness might not be up to par with what your home requires. For example, if you’re using expired cleaning wipes, you may notice that the wipes are dried out. This might lead you to add a bit of water for moisture, which leads to using more and more wipes. Not only are you forced to dilute the germ-fighting power of your wipes, but you have to go through more of them to get to your desired level of cleanliness. For example, you may reach for a product that’s been sitting in your cupboard for quite some time to wipe down your kitchen counter after preparing raw chicken. Later, you may make a salad in that same space, and your lettuce touches something that the raw chicken did. Usually, this would not be a problem, but if the salmonella bacteria or parasites cross-contaminates any of your food, you could be dealing with a serious illness as a result of using expired cleaning products.
Top 6 Common Household Cleaning Products
To make your search for specific products easier, we’ll go into depth on the top six most common household cleaning products. Every cleaning product is different in terms of shelf life and disposal methods. If you’re the type of person to never throw away a product until the bottle is empty, but you find yourself in need of throwing away expired cleaning products, there is a safe way to do it that will limit its environmental impact. The reason why safe disposal is important is because certain chemicals cannot be filtered out of the water system easily. You also run the risk of damaging your pipes and plumbing depending on what chemicals you dump in your sink. While most household chemicals are pretty safe to dispose of without fear, it’s always good to exercise caution and look up the safest way to get rid of your excess and expired cleaning supplies. After all, cleaning products are chemicals and should be disposed of as such.
Laundry DetergentShelf Life
- The shelf life of your laundry detergent is dependent upon the type of detergent you use. If you use liquid detergent, then an unopened container is good for up to a year. If you have an opened container, then it is best to use it within six months. If you prefer to make your own liquid detergent, then it is best to use it within two months, because there are no preservatives to prohibit bacterial growth (such as mold and mildew). As for powder detergent, it may not have a set expiration date, but it’s important to keep your powder detergent in an airtight container so that it does not become exposed to moisture. You will know if moisture has built up because the powder will become cakey. It’s best to dispose of your powdered detergent if it obtains this texture because it will not dissolve in water correctly when you go to wash your clothes.
- Laundry detergent is safe to dispose of down the drain or into the trash. You can also check to see if the container it came in is recyclable.
Dish SoapShelf Life
- Dish soap has a slightly longer shelf life. If the packaging does not have an expiration date, you can safely assume your dish soap will be good to use for up to 18 months. However, if your dish soap is for the dishwasher only, it may not last half as long. As dish soap ages, it can become less effective in cutting down on grease and fighting bacteria.
- For liquid dish soap, it’s perfectly okay to dispose of it down the drain. Remember to wash out the container completely if you decide to recycle it. As for dishwasher pods or powder, it’s best to dispose of these in the trash. A cakey buildup of powder or dishwasher pods can mess with your sink’s plumbing.
- On average, bleach has a shelf life of 6 to 12 months. You should be able to see the manufacturing date on the bottle to determine for yourself. When you store bleach, keep it in a cool, dry place. With that being said, it’s perfectly safe to use bleach for longer than a year. Just keep in mind that it may have reduced effectiveness. Unfortunately, not enough studies have been done to determine the exact degradation of bleach over time. If you want to stay on the safe side, though, aim to use your bleach within the 6 to 12 month window. A tip to accomplish this is to buy your products one at a time rather than stockpiling, and go for smaller containers if you know you won’t be able to get through a large container.
- Bleach is safe to dispose of down the drain of your bathtub or sink, as long as you do it slowly and let the water dilute it. When bleach is diluted with water, it breaks down into less harsh components. And as always, check to make sure the container is recyclable.
Lysol and Lysol WipesShelf Life
- Compared to other products on our list, Lysol disinfectant spray and Lysol wipes both last for quite a while: up to two years. However, keep in mind that an open container of wipes will probably dry out before then. You can revive a wipe by adding a bit of water, but the effectiveness will diminish. If all you need is a glorified paper towel, then it will do the job. Just keep in mind that you won’t be killing bacteria as effectively.
- Because Lysol spray lasts for so long, you should try to use all of the product up before throwing away the can. As for the wipes, it’s best to just throw them away if you don’t feel comfortable re-hydrating dry wipes.
Hand SoapShelf Life
- When it comes to hand soap, there are two main types: bar and liquid. Because there are so many different types of hand soap, there’s no set shelf life. There are a lot of variables that go into each hand soap formula, such as oils and fragrances. For hand soap, you should be good to go as long as you can get a good lather on your hands. If the soap doesn’t lather, that’s how you know it’s no good. As for bar soap, the lather rule still applies. But you can also extend the life of your bar of soap by keeping it in a dry place. Ever noticed how a bar of soap tends to dry out if you leave it out of the box? It may look weird but it is perfectly usable.
- If you want to cut down on waste and have old bits of bar soap hanging about, you can give new life to your soap by melting them together into a new bar. Just be mindful of the different scents that are melded together– a chocolate-scented bar may not mix well with something like lavender, for instance. If you’re not up for a rehash, though, you can simply dispose of an old bar in the trash. As for liquid soap, it is safe to pour down the drain. However, you should try to use it up if you can! Remember that you’re keeping an eye out for the lather.
Baking SodaShelf Life
- Last but not least, baking soda is a staple cleaning ingredient and can last up to 3 years before degrading. Even past that, though, you may still be able to use it if it is stored properly. To keep baking soda in tip-top shape, store in an airtight container in a room-temperature environment. Keeping baking soda away from moisture is key, so that clumps do not form.
- When it comes to baking soda, it is really a miracle product. Even after expiration, you can still use it for a ton of things. For instance, it’s still great for deodorizing carpets, clothing, or your fridge. You can also use it in a solution with vinegar and hot water for a simple way to clean your bathroom drains. Basically, there is no reason why you can’t use baking soda for long after the suggested expiration date.
Conclusion About If Cleaning Products Expire
Now that you have a few tricks up your sleeve for determining if your stash of cleaning products is ready to kick the mop bucket, you’re ready to tackle your next chore. Keep in mind that there is a plethora of knowledge compiled by clean freaks of the internet. Happy cleaning!