If your tub of Vaseline has passed the printed expiration date, can you keep using it? Does Vaseline expire, or is it still fine to continue using it if you have some left? What is the shelf life of Vaseline petroleum jelly?
Table of Contents
- Does Vaseline Expire? Yes, But
- How Do You Know if Vaseline Is Expired?
- How Long Can You Keep Vaseline?
- What to Do if You Can’t Find the Expiration Date on Your Vaseline Jar
- What Happens When You Use Expired Vaseline?
- Does Bacteria Grow in Vaseline?
- Does Vaseline Expire? Yes But You Might Still be Able to Use It
Does Vaseline Expire? Yes, But
The answer is yes, but it’s also not so simple.
Though you likely have many uses for your jar of Vaseline — everything from moisturizing your skin to removing your makeup — petroleum jelly is one of those products that sometimes seems to last forever.
While you may see a printed expiration date on your jar of Vaseline, the petroleum jelly may still be good far beyond that date.
Vaseline is made from hydrocarbons. The mix of different hydrocarbons that make up petroleum jelly will eventually degrade, but the length of time it will take them to do so is quite long. In fact, an open jar of Vaseline can often last for 5 or more years and still be completely fine, when properly stored.
In some cases, your petroleum jelly jar may not even have an expiration date printed on it. This is because petroleum jelly is technically a cosmetic product. The law does not require expiration dates to be printed on cosmetics.
Sometimes, though, there may be an expiration date on your petroleum jelly product. This is there as a safety measure by the manufacturer and is the date to which they will ‘guarantee’ that the Vaseline will still be good.
Due to the make up of Vaseline and the fact you don’t ingest it, it doesn’t go rancid or pose a health risk. It isn’t a pharmacological product, and there are no chemicals or drugs in it that could have a negative impact on your health if expired.
How Do You Know if Vaseline Is Expired?
For many products, you can simply check the expiration date to see if the item is expired. With Vaseline’s petroleum jelly, this is not the case.
Since Vaseline often doesn’t even have a printed expiration date or the date that is printed is just the guarantee from a manufacturer, it may seem a bit difficult to determine when Vaseline is expired and unsafe to use anymore. Unlike Vaseline’s lotion (seen below) that has an expiration date you can read:
If you’ve had the jar of Vaseline for 10 years or more, it is almost certainly best to spend a few dollars to invest in a new jar.
Perhaps you’ve had it for less than 10 years, then open the jar and inspect the Vaseline to determine whether it is still good. If it looks normal, still has the right consistency, and doesn’t smell strange, the Vaseline should still be fine to use.
However, if something doesn’t seem right with the smell, consistency, or appearance of the Vaseline petroleum jelly, err on the safe side and pick up a new jar.
How Long Can You Keep Vaseline?
Generally speaking, you can keep Vaseline around for a really long time. As mentioned, Vaseline is made by hydrocarbons that are very slow to break down. Petroleum jelly also isn’t made with any drugs or chemicals that cause harm to you when it degrades over time.
In many cases, a jar of Vaseline will last for up to 10 years when unopened and stored properly. So, even if the printed expiration date on your jar of Vaseline has come and gone, you may still be able to safely use the petroleum jelly.
That said, it’s important to note that as the hydrocarbons get older, the Vaseline will become less effective, despite its natural degradation taking longer than other cosmetic products.
How Long After Opening Should You Keep Vaseline?
Even opened Vaseline can be kept for a long time, potentially up to 10 years, but certainly for at least 5 years. However, if you want your Vaseline to last this long, you need to store it properly.
Vaseline should be stored in a cool and dark place. It should not be left in the sunlight or near any sources of heat.
If you have a jar of Vaseline in your home now, or the next time you pick one up, keep it stored under the sink, in the medicine cabinet, in the hallway closet, or in another dark area at room temperature.
Using a spoon, cotton swabs, or other tools to remove Vaseline from the jar is another way to help ensure the petroleum jelly stays good for an extended period of time. Using your fingers can add bacteria to the jar. Your jar of Vaseline can become contaminated. This, clearly, can make it less safe for you or others in the home to use.
How Long Without Opening Can You Keep Vaseline?
Unopened Vaseline may last for up to 10 years.
Remember, Vaseline should be kept in a cool, dark, and dry place. A medicine cabinet, hallway closet, or underneath a bathroom sink are all good places to keep it. Avoid leaving Vaseline out on the counter of the bathroom, especially if there is a window in the room that would expose it to sunlight. Heat can decrease the shelf life of your petroleum jelly, as with many cosmetics.
What to Do if You Can’t Find the Expiration Date on Your Vaseline Jar
If you can’t locate an expiry date on the packaging, and you can’t remember how old the Vaseline is, open up the jar and look at the petroleum jelly inside.
Things to look out for:
- off color
- watery/too oily texture
- bad smell
If everything looks, smells, and feels normal, you should be able to use the Vaseline without any issues.
What Happens When You Use Expired Vaseline?
If you use expired petroleum jelly that looks and smells all right, there probably won’t be any bad effects on your skin.
However, if the Vaseline or petroleum jelly product shows signs of going bad, you can potentially have the following reactions typically associated with using expired skincare products:
- irritation or redness
- worsened skin conditions (ex. eczema, diaper rash)
Consider some alternative uses for Vaseline past its shelf life that don’t involve your skin. Some possible ways to use expired Vaseline include:
- Adding Vaseline and salt to the cracks around your house to keep slugs away
- Removing stains from clothing and other items
- Using Vaseline for shining shoes, leather, or wood surfaces
- Unsticking drawers that are stuck
- Fixing squeaky hinges
- Removing scratches from a CD
- Fixing a stuck zipper
- Distressing the look of furniture
- Removing stuck-on glue under a table
Why Is Vaseline Dangerous After It Expires?
Vaseline really isn’t dangerous after it expires, as long as it still looks, smells, and feels normal.
Vaseline isn’t medicine and it isn’t ingested. In most cases, using it after the printed expiration date is fine.
However, if your tub of petroleum jelly is over 10 years old, using it probably isn’t a good idea. If the petroleum jelly has become contaminated with bacteria, it would also not be a good idea to use it.
Though its effects aren’t life-threatening, using 10-year old or contaminated petroleum jelly can cause skin problems that are going to cost you more than a new tub of Vaseline.
Does Bacteria Grow in Vaseline?
Vaseline petroleum jelly doesn’t have enough nutrients to allow for bacteria to grow on their own. However, you can introduce bacteria into a jar of Vaseline and contaminate it. When you use your fingers, rather than a clean tool, to take some Vaseline out of the jar, you transfer bacteria to the jar. The moisture and nutrients from your skin cells can allow bacteria to survive and grow in a jar of Vaseline.
To prevent this from happening, never use your fingers to get Vaseline out of the jar; always use a spoon or another clean tool.
Does Vaseline Expire? Yes But You Might Still be Able to Use It
Many see Vaseline as a wonder product! Petroleum jelly offers so many uses from skincare to stain removal to relieving diaper rash in babies and makeup from your sensitive eyes. And, now we’ve learned that on top of all of these benefits, Vaseline can last for a long time and with a shelf life still good past its expiry date!
What is your favorite way to use Vaseline petroleum jelly?
Learn more about petroleum jelly by reading these related posts on our blog:
Does Vaseline expire?
Vaseline is made from hydrocarbons. The mix of different hydrocarbons that make up Vaseline petroleum jelly will eventually degrade, but the length of time it will take them to do so is quite long. In fact, Vaseline can often last for five or more years and still be completely fine, when properly stored.
How long can you keep Vaseline?
In many cases, a tub of Vaseline will last for up to 10 years when stored properly.
How long after opening should you keep Vaseline?
Even opened Vaseline can be kept for a long time, potentially up to 10 years, but certainly for at least 5 years.
How long without opening can you keep Vaseline?
An unopened jar of Vaseline may last even longer than an open one, provided it’s stored properly. The general suggestion is 10 years, maximum.
How do you know if Vaseline is expired?
Perhaps you’ve had it for less than 10 years, then open the jar and inspect the Vaseline to determine whether it is still good. If it looks normal, still has the right consistency, and doesn’t smell strange, the Vaseline should still be fine to use. However, if something doesn’t seem right with the smell, consistency, or appearance of the Vaseline, err on the safe side and pick up a new jar.
Why is Vaseline dangerous after it expires?
Vaseline really isn’t dangerous after it expires, as long as it still looks, smells, and feels normal. However, it is highly discouraged to use petroleum jelly if it shows signs of going bad due to skin problems it can cause you.
Does bacteria grow in Vaseline?
Vaseline doesn’t have enough nutrients to allow for bacteria to grow on their own. However, you can introduce bacteria into a petroleum jelly jar and contaminate it. Exposing it to air can also get bacteria into the product.