Does Lube Expire Or Go Bad – How Can You Tell?
Most people know that condoms expire, but does lube?
The answer is yes! Just like condoms, lube also degrades in quality over time and should not be used past a certain point.
Even though most lubes do not come with a sell-by or expiration date, they do go bad after one to three years. Using an expired lube may result in burning, itching, a yeast infection, or worse — not to mention an overall lack of effectiveness.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- Does Lube Expire?
- How Can You Tell?
- What If You Use It Anyway?
- Is Expired Lube Safe?
- What To Use Instead
Editor’s Note: This article is part of our Everything Lube hub, an in-depth and evolving resource that comprehensively explores all aspects of personal lubricants from the different types and how to use them, to ingredients and safety — created to help you achieve the sexual pleasure you deserve.
Does Lube Expire And What Are The Warning Signs?
As mentioned earlier, lube does expire, and it is not safe to use expired personal lubricant.
According to FDA data, lube expires within one to three years, depending on its ingredients.
To be safe, especially if your lube doesn’t have a marked expiration date, it’s a good idea to use your lube within one year of opening the bottle.
It’s also a good idea to make sure that (after use) your lube’s cap is tightly screwed on or sealed, and that it is stored in a cool and dry place.
Proper storage of your lube will ensure that moisture and other atmospheric elements stay out of your lubricant.
Although the WHO advises that personal lubricants should have a minimum shelf-life of three years from the date of manufacture, that timer doesn’t begin the moment you purchase a product — it started the day the product was bottled.
Similar to expired condoms, expired personal lubricant may not be safe to use because the product degradation could cause irritation to your genitals.
How Can You Tell If Lube Is Expired?
Your lube is likely expired if its texture, color, or smell has noticeably changed from the original formulation.
Particularly with oil-based lubricants and silicone-based lubricants, exposure to air causes thermal breakdown and oxidation to occur which degrades the integrity of your lube over time.
Water-based lubricants can degrade over time, as well. Even if they use natural ingredients, there is a shelf-life — nothing remains the same forever.
Using an opened bottle of lube from a few years ago might not sound like a big deal, but since the risks of contamination are higher, it’s best to steer clear from using old or expired lubricant.
If you notice that your lube smells “off” or rancid, the texture has changed, or the color has turned from clear to opaque, chances are that your lube is expired.
What do you look for in expired lube?
- Changes in smell
- Changes in texture
- Changes in color
- Off taste, in the case of flavored or edible lubes
If you notice that your lube has a different smell or color, it might be a sign that it is expired and you should not use it.
When it comes to personal lubricant, it’s always better to be safe than sorry, so if you’re on the fence about using that old lube that’s been sitting in your bathroom cabinet for years, it’s probably better to not use it.
What Can Happen If You Use Expired Lube?
Using expired lube heightens your risk of genital infection and irritation since time can alter the chemicals used to formulate lube.
Personal lubricants contain ingredients that degrade over time (especially after exposure to atmospheric elements) and using expired lubes can result in genital irritation or infections.
Not only that, but they may have an unpleasant smell, texture, or taste that is anything but sexy.
Can you use expired lube anyway?
While you might think using expired lube is no big deal, it can actually cause some major irritation or even lead to infections such as bacterial vaginosis or a yeast infection. It’s not worth the risk.
Can expired lube cause infection or other issues?
Yes, using expired lube can cause infection or irritation, which is why you never want to use a lube past its expiration date. If you use expired lube you’re at a greater risk of experiencing uncomfortable itching or burning sensations associated with vaginitis.
What To Use Instead Of Expired Lube
There are a few safe lube alternatives and safe anal lube alternatives that you can use if your lube is expired and you’ve got nothing else on hand.
When using lube alternatives, make sure that they are absolutely safe for your intended purpose since they’re going to be used on or inside delicate genital and anal tissues.
Instead of expired lube, you can use coconut oil or canola oil, though you should not use oil-based lubricants with condoms since they can wear down the material, resulting in the condom not being viable.
The best thing to use instead of expired lube is a fresh bottle of store-bought personal lubricant.
If you’re confused about which lube may be right for you, you can take our lube quiz, or review our lube comparison table below.
|Lube Type:|| |
|Oral Sex||Yes||Yes||Not usually|
|Vaginal Sex||ONLY if pH/Osmolality suitable||Yes||Yes|
|Anal Sex||ONLY if pH/Osmolality suitable||Yes||Yes|
|Condom Types||All||All||Polyurethane, nitrile and lambskin only|
|Sex Toy Types||All||All but silicone||All but latex|
|Does It Stain?||No||Yes||Yes|
|Sex Toy Types|
|Does It Stain?|
While it might be tempting in the moment, you should not use expired lube because it can cause irritation or allergic reactions to your genitals and not be effective at its intended purpose.
In addition, never use a lube that smells, looks, feels, or tastes off because that will often indicate that it has gone rancid or is no longer viable.
Finally, it’s best to replace lubricant one year after opening the bottle, and always store it in a cool dry place, with its cap securely fastened.