You may have noticed that many bottles of e-liquid and packets of cartomizers carry an expiry date, but with the “expiry” dates listed on food so often being inaccurate, it’s natural to wonder whether e-liquids actually expire.
If you have a vape on a juice that’s a couple of months past the use-by date, is anything bad going to happen?
The only problem is that there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding this point, so it’s better to learn about the factors at play and come to your own decision regarding a particular bottle of juice.
The expiry date for e-liquid isn’t officially established, but based on the life of PG, VG and nicotine it can be expected to be 1-2 years (when stored correctly).
Numerous different flavorings are used in e-liquid, and in some cases these may mean juice spoils sooner.
E-liquids often have sediment if left still for a while, but if this doesn’t mix when you shake it, your juice might be going bad.
Exercise the same caution you would with food products; if your juice smells or looks funny, it’s probably off, especially if it’s over a year old.
E-Liquid Expiry Dates
Speaking broadly, any expiry date you see on a bottle of e-liquid is ultimately an estimation. This is because in the absence of FDA regulation there is no established use-by date for a bottle of juice, but that doesn’t mean that the listed dates are inaccurate.
The use-by date of any bottle of e-juice is likely to be listed as anywhere between one and two years. This is based largely on the established shelf life of nicotine, PG and VG of around two years (as long as they’re stored below 104 °F / 40 °C and away from UV light; VG keeps best at around 77 °F / 25 °C), but they aren’t the only contents of e-liquid.
The flavors are the real uncertainties when it comes to shelf life, but they’re unlikely to have too much of an impact. To take a couple of examples – 2-actetylpyrazine (a nutty, chocolatey flavoring) has a shelf life of five years, and vanillin (vanilla flavor, as you may expect) lasts for about two years. Of course, there are many flavors used, so this can differ depending on the specific bottle of e-juice, but two years is generally accepted as the life-span.
Has My E-Liquid Gone Bad?
So you’re pretty much left to your own devices when it comes to determining if your e-liquid has past its prime. The first thing to do is think about the conditions it’s been stored in: if it’s been stored in an unsuitable location (exposed to heat and light), assume that it will expire sooner than the stated date.
If you’ve kept your juice in a suitable location, you should inspect it carefully before using it after the first year, just to be sure.
It’s normal for the denser elements of the juice to sink to the bottom after it’s been sitting for a while (which is why shaking your bottles is advised), but if the different components of the juice won’t mix when you agitate them, then it’s a sign something may have gone stale. Some e-liquids don’t mix as much even when they’re new, though, so this is only an issue if there has been a new separation that doesn’t rectify itself with a rough shake.
Nicotine darkens when it’s oxidized, but – as mentioned earlier in the series – this doesn’t have a notable impact on strength, and it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s expired.
In a test from MadVapes, under the worst case scenario (stored on a window sill with an open cap) there was only a reduction from 35 mg/ml to 31 mg/ml in a batch of juice after four months. However, chemical reactions involving the flavors may also be responsible, so color isn’t the best way to determine if your juice has expired or no.
If you’re approaching the time a juice should be expiring, the best advice is to inspect it, smell it and make a judgment call. If there is a sign that something isn’t quite right; you’re taking effectively the same risk you would be with food, but, chances are you’ll have a healthy supply of juice and won’t miss a bottle you’ve had for around two years. Unless you’re literally desperate for something to vape, throw it out and don’t take the chance.
Conclusion – Is Consuming Expired E-Liquid Dangerous?
It’s pretty unlikely that vaping expired e-liquid is going to do you any serious damage (especially compared to smoking), but it’s also an under-explored area. The best advice is to use the 1 to 2 year expiry date as a guide and not take chances with a juice that may have gone bad. If you do vape it – leaving aside the health and safety side of things – it’ll probably have lost flavor or taken on a foul taste. It’s better to just throw it away.