How long do e-liquids last?
This is something that every beginning vaper should be concerned with. E-liquids, as much as they are not edible, are consumable, and we do consume them through vaping. Understandably, nobody wants to consume anything that may be after its best before date. So, do e-liquids go bad? And if they do, what is their shelf life?
All consumable products have expiration dates. These are the essential markers that tell us how long a product can be used for. Even products that are non consumable, have a designated amount of time they perform their best, including things such as makeup or cosmetics. As much as these products don’t necessarily “go bad” on the specified date, they often see a decrease in quality shortly after, until they get to a point they may not be safe to use.
Can e-liquids expire?
The short answer to that question is yes - e-liquids can expire. This may not necessarily be noticeable at first, as they don’t necessarily grow mold or go through significant changes that may be noticed without closer examination, certain alterations in consistency, smell or colour may occur.
This is because they contain food safe ingredients - usually propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin and flavourants.
Vegetable Glycerin is derived from vegetable fats — such as palm, soy and coconut oils — which are extracted through applying pressure or by being mixed together with a strong alkali, such as lye. This causes the glycerin to split away from the fatty acids and mix together with water, forming an odorless, sweet-tasting, syrup-like liquid.
Propylene glycol on the other hand, is a colorless and odorless liquid which is most commonly derived from vegetable sources. It is most often used as a synthetic food additive and belongs to the same chemical group as alcohol.
The average shelf life for the majority of e-liquids out there is usually between one and two years, and can vary depending on the ratio of vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol and nicotine used. Considering the VG:PG base for e-liquids contains food-derived compounds, the average shelf life is still somewhat impressive. It is also an indicator that they are safe for consumption - if they lasted forever you would most likely not want to put them into your body.
The biggest question regarding expiration dates on products that don’t visually deteriorate as they approach their expiration date, is whether they are safe to use right before or slightly after that date. This is usually highly individual, we all know people who throw out foods or products that may still be a week shy of their best before, and those who will still use them a week after. The most important thing to take into account is, that once your e-liquid is past its expiration date, it will simply be lower in quality. The flavour profile can somewhat plummet with time and appear to taste more bland, meaning you are not truly getting the experience you paid for.
There are, many things which can further play part in decreasing the quality of your e-liquid. Excessive exposure to air, light or heat can make your vape juice deteriorate quicker. All of these would have to be applied excessively of course, as it is perfectly safe to store your e-liquid outside the corners of a dark cupboard - they are meant to be carried, and many of us would bring them around with us during the day to top up our tanks.
To make sure your e-liquid is kept at its best, just try not to leave it in direct light for long periods of time, such as storing it on a shelf opposite the window or your car dashboard, or leave it with the cap off or store it beyond it’s original bottle. These conditions can cause the ingredients to break down faster, and take away from the flavour profile of you e-liquid.
If you have previously purchased an e-liquid that tumbled down the side of a cabinet, got a lost in a bag or in between sofa cushions, and are wondering whether it is still safe to use, the main giveaway will be the best before date which should be clearly printed on the label. If for some reason it’s not present, such as due to being rubbed off, read the checklist below to figure out whether it is still safe to use.
How to Tell If your E-liquid has Expired
Usually, there are tell-tale signs that you can check for to determine if your e-liquid is good or not.
Smell – One quick whiff of your e-liquid can tell you if it is good or bad. Not all juices will change their smell significantly. However, just like the gallon of milk in your fridge, if it has a funky smell or looks odd, chances are it is past its prime.
Separation – Naturally, the heavier, denser elements of vape juice tend to gravitate towards the bottom of the bottle when it is left idle for some time, and shaking the bottle mixes everything up again. By contrast, the components of the juice do not mix even after a couple of shakes.
Poor storage – Poor storage could also cause the juice to spoil before its sell-by date. Usually, it will exhibit signs like discoloration, a loss in flavour, lack of vapour, and loss in nicotine.
How to look after your e-liquids, and make them last longer
Like many products, every e-liquid will still decrease in quality from the moment it’s open. This process may not be as fast as other products which may only be good for a couple of days or a week once the seal has been broken. You can safely open your e-liquid and carry it around with you for weeks and still expect it to taste the same. A bottle of e-liquid that is intermittently used over the course of a year or more though, might not taste the same as it did on the day it was purchased, due to being carried around and stored in alternating temperatures and light conditions.
On average, prolonged storage does not cause e-liquid expiration. So if you decide to purchase multiple e-liquids, and store the unopened ones in a cool, dark place such as a drawer or cabinet - you can expect them to last many many months and still hold the same flavour and essence as they did on the day they were purchased.