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Friday, August 16, 2013

Shelf Life of Household Chemicals

Ever wonder why your favorite cleaning or household product just didn't seem to do the trick any more? Have you added bleach to your laundry whites only for them to come out as grungy as they were when they went in?  Get a great deal on dish soap, stock up, and then discover that your dishes aren't getting clean?  Your household cleaners might be past their shelf life.

Some items will store indefinitely, but other items lose their effectiveness after a period of time.  Some of those times are surprisingly short. I began looking into shelf life/storage possibilities when I started avidly couponing and stockpiling.  There are some things that I discovered might expire before it could be used, so I keep this information in mind when making my purchases. 

Household bleach is an excellent example of this.  It has a relatively short shelf life of around 3-6 months.  That may seem like a long time, but that is from date of manufacture.  Bleach also looses its umph when exposed to heat.  So if the bleach was bottled, put onto a semi truck, trucked across the country, then stored in a stockroom of a retail store, it will probably need to be used fairly quickly.  The bleach will not look or smell any different; however, if you have used bleach and it just doesn't seem to be doing its job any more, it may very well be outdated.  

Keep in mind that it's not as if a bomb goes off inside a bottle or package of an item that it automatically becomes ineffective on a certain date; however, it is a guideline of which to be aware so that you will know whether a product is going to be effective or if it might need to be tossed and purchase something new. 

Here is a list of other household items and their shelf lives: 

Acetone (in nail polish remover):  Unopened 1 year; opened 6 months. 

Ammonia, household:   Indefinite.  Will evaporate if left uncapped. 

Baking Powder :  Indefinitely unopened; 9-12 months opened (Check by adding 1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 cup very hot water.  If it does not begin fizzing, it's out of date and will no longer work.) 

Baking Soda:  Indefinitely unopened; 3-4 years opened however slowly loses its umph the longer it is exposed to air.  (Check by adding 1/4 teaspoon plus 1/4 teaspoon vinegar to 1/2 cup very hot water.  If it does not begin fizzing, it's out of date and will no longer work.) 

Bath Soap, bar:  18 months to 3 years. 

Bath Soap, liquid:  1 year; antibacterial soap loses its effectiveness in about 9 months.

Borax (laundry):  Indefinitely, according to the 20 Muleteam Borax website; however, it will clump/lump if opened and exposed to damp or humid conditions.  

Bleach, chlorine:  3-6 months if unopened; shorter if opened and/or exposed to heat. 

Castile soap, liquid or bar:  Approximately 3 years.  (Per Dr. Bronner's website.)

Citric Acid, powdered (active ingredient in Lemishine):  3 years from date of manufacture.  Will degrade faster with exposure to heat and moisture/humidity.  

Coconut Oil:  1-1/2 to 2 years before becoming rancid.  

Conditioner, hair:  3 years unopened; 12-18 months if opened.  May become rancid if conditioner contains oils and is exposed to heat. 

Dish Detergent, Liquid or Powder:  1 year unopened; 9-12 months opened.  

Fabric Softener, liquid:  2-3 years unopened; 1 year opened.

Fabric Softener sheets:  Indefinite though may gradually lose their scent. 

Hydrogen Peroxide 3% (as sold in drug/retail stores):   Good for 1 year unopened but only 30-45 days once opened.  (?!  Yes, it's true!)  It may still fizz but loses its strength over a period of time.  The older it is, the weaker it becomes.  It also loses its potency with exposure to light, which is why it comes in dark brown bottles.  It can last longer if stored in a cool, dark place, but once it begins to lose its fizz, toss it or use it up. 

Isopropyl (Rubbing) Alcohol:   Approximately 1-2 years.  There is a belief that this stays good forever; however, that is untrue.  It eventually oxidizes via air exposure and turns into acetone.  Refer to expiration date on bottle.  

Laundry Detergent, Liquid or Powder:  Unopened up to 1 year; opened 6 months.   

Lemon Juice, fresh:  2-4 days; 3-5 months if frozen. 

Lemon Juice Concentrate: Up to 6 months in the fridge; 1 year if frozen.

Nail Polish remover, acetone based:  1 year unopened; 6 months, opened. 

Nonchlorine Bleach (i.e., Clorox2):  Up to 1 year unopened, 6 months when opened (contains hydrogen peroxide as the active ingredient).  

Olive Oil:  2 years unopened, 1 year after opening.  Will become rancid.  Olive oil becomes cloudy when refrigerated. 

Oxygen Bleach (OxiClean):  Indefinite if kept in sealed container. 

Shampoo:  Unopened 3 years.  Opened 12-18 months.  May possibly become rancid if it contains certain oils. 

White Vinegar/Cider Vinegar:   Indefinite.  This is why vinegar is used as a preservative for canning. 

Washing Soda (soda ash):  Indefinite.  However, again, if exposed to damp or humid conditions can clump and degrade.  *Note, this is different from baking soda and is used specifically for laundry.  *

For a list of 77 items and their expiration dates, check this link: