Safe Cleaning Products: Do Cleaning Products Expire?

Blog Written by Katchy.

If you look closely at the packages and labels on your cleaning products, you'll notice that most have an expiration date printed. The reason is that, just like most other household products, cleaning products have an expiry date. Some of them may cease being safe cleaning products after expiration.

Unfortunately, most people don't check the fine print as they purchase these products, either because they don't remember or expect them to have a long life.

The next time you reach out for that cleaning spray, a bottle of bleach, or dishwashing liquid that has been in the cabinet for months, check the manufacturer and expiry date. Keep reading to learn how to handle your cleaning products as far as expiry is concerned.

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What is the Typical Shelf Life of Cleaning Products?

The fastest and easiest way to tell when your cleaning products will expire is to check the date printed on the label, bottle, or package. If an expiry date is missing, there may be a manufacturing date. To determine if a product is expired, use the guidelines below:

  • Laundry Detergent: starts to break down approximately six months after opening. Most can last 9-12 months if left unopened.
  • Laundry Pods: While most manufacturers say that pods don't expire, they have a shelf life of 15 months. Ensure you store them in a dry, airtight container. It will prevent the polyvinyl from dissolving.
  • Fabric Softener: Most start breaking down, and the ingredients separate at around 6-12 months after opening. Unopened ones can last 2-3 years. A tip for using softeners is to shake the bottle before use and discard any lumps floating in the liquid.
  • Dryer Sheets: While they hardly expire, dryer sheets will lose their scent over time if you leave them open. Store them in a zip-top bag if you don't use them frequently to preserve their fragrance.
  • Washing Soda: It doesn't expire when stored in a dry environment.
  • Borax: It doesn't expire, but, consider keeping it in a dry environment.
  • Bleach: The shelf life is 12 months from the day of manufacturing. After six months, bleach also breaks down, becoming less effective, but won't become more toxic. You might have to use a little more than usual to achieve the effect you desire.
  • Vinegar: It doesn't expire, neither does it break down.
  • Baking Soda: It remains in good condition for 6-12 months after opening.
  • Castile Soap: It stays good and effective for up to 3 years
  • Hydrogen Peroxide: It has about 30-45 days of peak performance and a maximum of six months if you keep it in a cool and dark environment. It quickly loses its effectiveness, although it may still have a fizzle.

As soon as you break the seal, hydrogen peroxide tends to become weak, so buying in small amounts is best. An unopened bottle remains in good condition for as long as three years.

  • Dishwashing Soap: It stays in good condition for 12-18 months, and you may start noticing a breakdown when it hits the 12-month mark. It'll look watery and become less concentrated.
  • Dishwasher Detergent can last for 6-12 months, but it starts losing effectiveness at around six months.
  • Window Cleaner: It can last for about two years.
  • Metal Polish: Most brands can last up to 3 years. Discard it if you notice excess water or if the formula develops lumps.
  • Multi-Surface Cleaners: They last for about two years and only one year if they have antibacterial ingredients.
  • Lysol Disinfectant: It has a shelf life of about two years, after which the fragrance starts diminishing, and the product loses some of its effectiveness.

As a tip, the next time you open your new, safe cleaning products without an expiration date, use a marker to indicate the data. That way, you won't have to wonder how long it's been open.

Is It Safe to Use Expired Cleaning Products?

One thing about most expired cleaning products is that they're harmless and won't damage the surfaces you intend to use them on. However, they'll be less effective at cleaning. You may have to use a little more of the product or make an effort to achieve the same results.

The case is a little different when it comes to disinfectants and hand sanitizers. For them to produce the desired effect, they must be within their shelf life. It is especially crucial now that the world is still fighting coronavirus. Be sure to check the expiration date on sanitizers and disinfectants and replace them as needed.

How to Make Your Cleaning Products Last Longer

The expiration date gives you insights into the shelf life of a product under different conditions, like at room temperature or away from direct sunlight.

If you store your hand sanitizer in a hot car, there's a high possibility of losing its potency faster and may end up with less than 60% alcohol content. It'll lose its effectiveness in cleaning even before it reaches its expiration date. Most cleaning products require storage in a cool, dry spot to prolong their efficacy.

Household Cleaning Products Not to Use When Expired

While most people look at the expiration date as a suggestion, a few things will go wrong after the magic date has passed. In other cases, a sell-by-date lures you into thinking you can continue using a product way past the said date.

If you don't want to keep wondering whether a product is safe to use after expiration, here are things you should use with caution after its expiration date:

  • Bleach: It won't effectively kill germs in your home six months after opening when stored under 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Shampoo and Conditioner: Most of these will lose their consistency and acquire a foul smell. An excellent tip is to keep an already opened bottle no longer than 18 months and an unopened one for three years.
  • Laundry Detergent: Just like bleach, laundry detergent doesn't go bad to the extent of causing harm to your health or compromising your safety. However, it becomes less effective after a specific date, meaning it won't adequately eliminate germs and contaminants from your laundry.
  • Dish Detergent: Don't keep your dishwasher detergent longer than 12 months if you want it to be effective. The effectiveness of your dishwashing liquid is critical, given that you share utensils with family members and friends. The right detergent helps stop the spread of germs and bacteria.

How to Dispose of Expired Cleaning Products

You might discover or come across some decades-old bleach in your cleaning cabinet. It's important to know how to get rid of it in the right way. If it's a small amount, you can dilute it and pour it down the sink.

For a large bottle with a lot of content, check if the manufacturer has printed disposal instructions on the container. Alternatively, call the local hazardous waste disposal agency for advice.

Important: Remember that some cleaning products, even if expired, should never mix. For example, bleach and ammonia can have a hazardous effect when combined. It also applies when disposing of them. Don't pour them down the sink simultaneously to avoid creating toxic gases.


If you're looking to keep your house and other areas of your life clean, check out our blog to learn more about ways to prevent insects, keep clutter in your house at bay, and other cleaning topics.


Contributing Writer: Michael Brom Sr.