If you are a firm believer of shopping when products are on sale, by buying ahead you can save money. But even with careful planning, we sometimes end up with more detergent than you can possibly use in a reasonable amount of time. So is that bottle of detergent that you bought in 2015 still safe to use?
Does Laundry Detergent Expire?
Laundry detergents come in liquid, powder and individual pods or packet formulas.
While most detergents do not "go bad" or spoil, it is possible that they can loose some of their effectiveness in cleaning clothes.
Liquid Formula Laundry Detergents
Some liquid laundry detergents have a “best used by” date stamped on the bottle. After this date, the manufacturer can not insure that the formula won't begin to break down and the ingredients separate. The separation is often affected by drastic changes in temperature - excessive heat or if the laundry detergent is allowed to freeze. You can still use the product - it is not harmful - but you may find clumping. Give the bottle a good shake before using. "Lumpy" liquids should not be used in automatic dispensers because it may clog the dispenser. Pour the liquid directly into the washer drum before you load in dirty clothes.
If the product doesn't have a "best used by" date, use this rule of thumb:
- Unopened liquid laundry detergent: The product is at it's best for nine months to one year.
- Opened liquid laundry detergent: Use the product within six months for best results.
Homemade liquid laundry detergent can develop mold and mildew growth because it does not contain any bacteria inhibitors. Dispose of any mildew infested product and only make batches that are small enough that you can use them up within two months.
Powdered Formula Laundry Detergents
Powdered laundry detergents do not expire or lose effectiveness unless they have been exposed to moisture.
If powdered detergent becomes hard or cakey, it should be discarded. The powder probably will not dissolve correctly or completely in the wash leaving soap deposits on your clothing. This can easily happen with homemade powdered detergent because it does not contain anti-caking ingredients. Always make homemade products in small batches that can be used quickly.
Single Dose Laundry Detergents
If you have used single dose laundry detergent packs, you know that the polyvinyl film is manufactured to be quick-dissolving. Even wet hands can start the process before the pack is in the washer.
If the packs have been exposed to excessive moisture, they will clump together and must be discarded. Trying to separate the packs is nearly impossible.
Always store single dose laundry detergent in an air-tight container to keep moisture at bay.
Do Other Laundry Products Expire?
Chlorine bleach is one product that should be monitored closely for usage dates. Chlorine bleach is volatile and begins to loose effectiveness after the bottle is opened and exposed to light and air.
An opened bottle of chlorine bleach begins to revert to a ineffective cleaning solution and should be discarded after six months.
Oxygen based bleaches are most stable in powdered formulas. Liquid oxygen bleaches begin to lose effectiveness after opening and revert to plain water. Powdered oxygen-based bleaches are activated when you dissolve them in water. The solution looses its cleaning effectiveness after eight hours and should be discarded.
Fabric softener ingredients can become unstable and separate. Always give the bottle a good shake before using. Dispose of any excessively lumpy fabric softener that can clog dispensers and leave residue on clothes. Learn how to remove the "greasy stains" from fabric softener residue.
Dry dryer sheets do not ever expire or go bad. Premoistened dryer sheets can mildew or dry out.
If they are mildewed, dispose of them. Dried out sheets can be reactivated by adding a few tablespoons of water.