How Long Do Household Cleaners and Solvents Last?

by Team eLocal
cleaning bathtub

Who doesn't love a clean, fresh-smelling house? Cleaning products keep the grime off your floors and counters and keep your family safe from germs.

Cleaning solutions and other household products make it easy to maintain your home, so it stands to reason that you have an arsenal of them in your closet or cupboard. But just how long do these solutions last?

Do Cleaning Products Expire?

Yes, some household cleaning products do have a shelf life. Expired products can become ineffective or even damage your property. Some products don't have expiration dates on their containers, so you may want to learn more about their shelf-life.

How Long Do Household Cleaners and Solvents Last?

Understanding how long various products last helps ensure that you're using safe, effective cleaners in your home.

All-Purpose Cleaner

Multi-surface cleaners like Formula 409 have a shelf-life of about two years. Products with antibacterial ingredients only last about one year before losing effectiveness.

Ammonia

Ammonia evaporates very quickly when exposed to air. However, it can last for years if stored in a tightly sealed container.

Antifreeze

Antifreeze is essential for vehicle owners, and it lasts indefinitely in an unopened container. It starts to go bad once opened, but it should still last for many years.

Bleach and Bleach-Based Cleaners

Bleach does expire. When exposed to air, it quickly loses effectiveness. It can last up to 12 months in a sealed container.

Dish Soap

Liquid dish soap for hand-washing dishes lasts up to 18 months. Dishwashing detergent loses potency after three months.

Disinfecting Spray or Wipes

Disinfectants last for about two years, with antibacterial ingredients losing effectiveness after one year. You may notice that disinfectants become less fragrant as they age.

Drain Cleaner

Drain cleaners last for around two years before starting to lose potency.

Fabric Softener

Liquid fabric softener and dryer sheets stay fresh for about a year.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide breaks down into water and oxygen gas and lasts about a year, even in a new, unopened container. If opened, it may go bad within one to three months.

Laundry Detergent

Laundry detergent won't be as effective after six months. However, some brands do last longer if stored properly.

Paint

Latex house paint can last anywhere between two to 10 years. Paint lasts longer when well sealed and stored in moderate temperatures.

Silver or Copper Polish

Metal polish lasts about two years. If it's clumpy or watery, it's no longer suitable to use.

Sink Cleaner

Sink cleaners like Comet often contain bleach, so they become less effective after six to 12 months. Exposure to moisture can make powdered products go bad more quickly. 

Vinegar

Vinegar is an effective natural cleaning product, and it can last indefinitely in a sealed bottle.

Window and Glass Cleaner

Glass cleaner like Windex has an expiration date about two years after it's manufactured.

Wood Stain

Wood stain lasts for a year after being opened, but unopened cans last longer.

What Can Happen When Cleaning Products Expire?

Most cleaning products simply lose effectiveness when they expire, but that can be a problem when you need to kill germs. For example, the CDC recommends using bleach solutions to disinfect areas contaminated with bacteria or viruses, but old bleach will not do this job effectively.

Some products, like silver polish or antifreeze, could actually cause damage if used past their shelf life. Occasionally, old containers can rust, burst or leak, causing damage and exposure to toxic chemicals.

How Do You Keep Track of Product Expiration Dates?

Cleaning products purchased from a store are likely to be reasonably new, and you can check the expiration date on containers. Some products don't have an expiration or manufacture date printed on the bottle. You can call the manufacturer and use the batch number on the container to find out when the product was made. For products without a printed expiration date, consider writing the date of purchase on the container with a permanent marker.

Even if a product has an expiration date,  you may want to write down the date the container is opened. Doing this can be especially helpful for products that may go bad before they're used up, such as peroxide or paint.

How Should You Store Cleaning Products for Maximum Effectiveness?

Most products need to be stored in a dry place at moderate temperatures. Some containers have information about ideal storage conditions.

Moisture can be particularly bad for powdered products like detergents. OxiClean never expires, as long as it’s stored in a dry, sealed container. Water causes powdered detergents to dissolve, clump and lose effectiveness.

Liquid cleaning products may be sensitive to extreme temperatures. Heat can cause products to break down or evaporate. In some cases, excessive heat can cause containers to expand and leak. Freezing can also lead to leaks, separation and clumping, making paint and other products unusable.

What Should You Do With Expired Cleaning Products?

Now that you know that cleaning products do, in fact, expire, you may be wondering what to do with all the old cleaners you have. Water-based products, or those made to be used with water, can usually be poured down the sink. Dispose of each cleaner separately to avoid mixtures that could release toxic gases.

Oil-based liquids shouldn't be poured into the sink. Some of these, like paint, can't even be thrown away in your regular trash. Cities and landfills often have special locations for disposing of paint and caustic materials.

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