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Does Laundry Detergent Expire? (Can You Still Use It?)

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The number of people who prefer buying necessities online, such as laundry detergents, is steadily increasing. To avoid multiple delivery charges or avail themselves of free service, many consumers purchase products in bulk. But don’t these products expire from long-term storage?

Laundry detergent doesn’t expire whether it’s in powder form, liquid, or pods. Luckily, you can still use it even past its ‘best-before’ date. However, it’ll have less active ingredients and may not remove stains or germs as effectively past this date. 

Since numerous brands and varieties are available in the market, I’ll look into the expiration or best-before dates of various detergent types. Make sure to stick to the end to learn the viability of another laundry essential: fabric conditioners.

Laundry Detergent Won’t Get Expired

The laundry detergent business is an ever-evolving industry where manufacturers constantly search for innovations to put their products above their competitors. As a result, you may find several products available in the market, but only a few are popular. 

Many companies have also reduced their packaging sizes to lessen plastic use or address the growing demand for delivery services since larger and heavier packs warrant higher delivery costs. Nonetheless, smaller packaging still guarantees the same number of washes by offering a more concentrated formulation. 

This packaging style helps consumers cut back on laundry detergent costs, but it may pose some problems for smaller households. 

For example, people who live alone generally have less to wash and may not use up their laundry detergents before the expiration or best-before date. 

It’ll then defeat the purpose of cutting costs because unused and expired laundry detergent may equate to wasted money—or not. The good news is many products are still okay to use even past the expiration date.

The following explores the shelf life of various types of laundry detergents:

Liquid Detergents Can Last for More Than a Year

Many liquid detergent brands indicate a best-before or expiration date on the neck of the bottle, usually 12 to 18 months from the manufacturing date. This information refers to the shelf-life of unopened detergent.

Once opened, the viability of liquid detergents falls to six months to one year from the date of opening. It can become relatively shorter if the environment is constantly over the average room temperature of roughly 25°C (77°F).

Active chemical components or enzymes present in the liquid detergents may react to heat and change form, reducing its effectiveness. In addition, its aqueous form also makes it more likely to undergo chemical reactions when constantly exposed to high temperatures.

Temperatures below 10°C (50°F) may freeze the liquid detergent and cause changes in the product’s chemical composition, resulting in uneven or ineffective cleaning ability.

More on using liquid detergent here.

Powder Detergents Will Still Be Good Within a Year

You may refer to the packaging of powder detergents for any information on manufacturing and best before dates. Opened or unopened powder detergents have the same shelf life as long as you keep them in a cool and dry place.

Powder and liquid detergents usually contain similar active ingredients. As a result, they’ll react the same way at various water temperatures. 

Since powder detergents are in solid form, one advantage is that they’re not as badly affected by environmental temperature changes as liquid detergents. Due to this, they generally have a longer shelf life than their liquid counterparts.

Meanwhile, humidity may affect their shelf life since most powder detergents are stored in cardboard boxes. High humidity may moisten the containers and cause the powder inside to clump together. Luckily, these clumps can easily break down when you pour them into your laundry water.

However, excessive moisture and high temperature working together may cause chemical reactions in the powder detergent that would significantly reduce its cleaning abilities and shorten its viability.

I wrote an article on whether you should use powder detergent or not that may interest you.

Laundry Detergent Pods Will Still Be Viable Within 15 Months

Detergent pods are usually similar to their liquid counterparts in concentration and composition. They’re basically liquid detergents stored in individual packets for recommended load volumes. As a result, they’d most likely react similarly to the high environmental temperature as liquid detergents. That’s why it’s best to store them in a room with temperatures between 10°C and 25°C (50–77°F).

Most detergent pods are sold in packages with child-safe zip locks. As long as you keep it securely locked between uses, opened and unopened pods essentially have the same shelf life. The individual packaging also prevents chemical reactions from spreading to the other packs.

You may refer to the product label or stamps for the best-before or expiration date. If there isn’t any, you can treat your product as safe to use whenever. Just be sure to keep it in a cool, dry room. If you store the pods properly, they should be okay within 15 months.

Does Fabric Softener Go Bad?

Like detergents, fabric softeners are also constantly evolving, with some products promising to provide longer-lasting fresh scents and softness. However, you may have noticed that the scent changes over time when you use the product from the same bottle on later batches of clothing. Could your fabric softener have gone bad?

Fabric softener goes bad when exposed to temperatures over 25°C (77°F) due to the changes in its chemical composition or faster evaporation of substances that give it distinct scents. In contrast, temperatures below 10°C (50°F) can freeze or thicken the liquid.

Downy indicates that their products are usually best within 12 months. The liquid then thickens beyond that time and may stain some clothes. Exposure to low temperatures may also cause it to thicken more quickly.

Even when stored at ideal temperature conditions, fabric conditioners will still lose their distinctive smell over time because some ingredients that provide the scent are volatile and may escape from the solution naturally through evaporation.

Going bad doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t use the fabric conditioner anymore. It only means that there’s a significant decrease in the effectiveness in softening your clothes and the quality of scent it can infuse into them.

Conclusion

All products have an ideal shelf life during which they can perform their best. It’s natural for products to go bad at some point and become less effective. However, you can maximize the viability of your laundry detergent by storing it at optimum environmental conditions and securely closing the container.

It also helps to keep them in their original containers so you can regularly check the best before or expiration date and ensure that you can use the product within such a period for the best results.

Next, you can check out my list of the top 13 laundry detergent alternatives available to you.

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