Expired soap may still protect you against harmful germs — here's how to tell if your expired soap is effective
Soapdoes expire, but if it still lathers when you wash your hands, it should be effective.
- Most commercial store-bought
soapsexpire after two to three years.
- Natural or handmade soaps may expire sooner, within one year, as the essential oils and fragrances can get rancid or moldy.
Soap does expire, but it's likely still effectiveSoaps are surfactants, which reduce the surface tension of water and make the molecules slippery, causing soapy water to bond, trap, and loosen oil and grease — and the germs they contain. That's why bacteria and viruses will physically slip off your hands when you wash with soap and water for 20 seconds, says Kevin Minbiole, PhD, an organic chemist at Villanova University.
Most manufactured soaps have an expiration date of two to three years. However, if soap still lathers up when you wash your hands, says Minbiole, it can still be used effectively — even after the expiration date. It shouldn't matter if the soap is liquid or bar, he says."If this expired soap… still lathers up and you know, gets all frothy and gets your hands kind of squeaky and cleaner at the end, you might be perfectly fine," says Minbiole.
How to know when soap is expiredA soap may be expired if it's cracked, dry, and doesn't lather up, or if it doesn't have the fragrant smell it did when you first bought it.
When compared to manufactured products, soaps scented with essential oils and colored with natural botanicals may have a shorter shelf-life as a result of the natural ingredients. These handmade, organic, or natural soaps should still function as well as store-bought ones, but they may expire earlier.
Essential oils are "volatile," meaning they tend to evaporate when exposed to air. Soaps can lose their scent when the essential oils providing those fresh smells evaporate, and some natural scented soaps even recommend use within three months after opening the box.Another sign that soap is too old is orange spots. The orange color is due to the oil in the soap going rancid. Though still technically safe to use, the soap won't smell very nice.
Overall, as long as a soap hasn't gone rancid, grown mold, or no longer lathers properly, you should still be able to use it effectively after its expiration date.
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