Does soap expire?


Soap may be one of the most used household products, but did you know that it can go bad? It can become dry and brittle after too much time in storage or on shelves. This makes it more difficult to produce lather and can be less effective at cleaning.

Soap expires, be it commercial or natural. The difference is that commercial soap will start losing its scent and may gain a yellowish coloration a few months after the expiration date. Natural soap straight-up starts smelling bad and may produce orange spots or similar reactions throughout its surface, making it impossible to use. 

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Everyone has their own opinion on whether soap has an expiration date or not. Some people say it does, and some say that it doesn’t. There are many types of soap out there, so this can also determine how quickly the bar is going to expire in regard to others. This post will help you figure out whether your favorite soap is “going bad” or not!

Does soap expire?

While soap does expire, it won’t necessarily cause any harmful effects if you continue to use it. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates soap, which means that all manufacturers are required to put an expiration date on each type of soap, be it liquid or bar presentation.

With that being said, it’s essential to know that all soaps are known to last about two years or longer. On the other hand, handmade soap is known to hold out for a year or less, based on the type of soap because many of its ingredients can go bad within the stipulated period.

The funny thing is, expired soap is, after a while, still useful. Let’s not forget that soaps are surfactants and have two ends, one that attracts water (polar) and the other attracts grease and oil (non-polar). The non-polar end still works even after some time has passed, making the soap bar equally effective even after a long time has passed.

Soap and other similar products, like detergent or shampoo, don’t really “expire.” However, they do start losing effectiveness over time. The more time passes, the less likely it will be that your soap generates lather or has a cleansing effect. Unless it has some natural ingredient that can deteriorate over time, it’s unlikely to have an adverse impact on your skin. 

Why does soap expire?

The expiration date you can find in most commercial soapboxes or packaging is an indicator of when the product will start to lose its effectiveness. Moreover, remember that the FDA considers soap as a “drug,” which means it must have an expiration date.

If we’re talking about artisanal soap, it’s a different conversation. Most soap makers like to include natural ingredients, like oils, herbs, milk, fruits, etc. Like everything else in nature, these ingredients are expected to expire after a while. You’re lucky if you find handcrafted soap that lasts for a year or more. This also means that when these ingredients expire, so will your soap. But the difference is that, with a commercial soap, you’ll still be able to use the soap because it would hold its cleansing ability, but with a natural soap that has expired and basically gone rancid, it will be totally unusable. 

Commercial soap doesn’t contain these ingredients. It is nothing more than a variety of chemicals mixed together. While it isn’t the best for your skin as it may make it dry, this is good cleaning soap and will continue to do its job for a long time. Now, I do not recommend using a bar of soap if a few years have passed after it was purchased.

But even though soap has an expiration date, you’re likely to be able to use it for some time.

How do you know your soap has expired?

You can take a look at the expiration date on your soap to know when it started to go bad. However, if the expiration date is illegible or you can’t find it anywhere, there are a few indicators you can consider while trying to figure out if your soap has expired.

Loss of scent or lack of it

If your soap has expired, it will start losing effectiveness. Unless it contains a natural ingredient, your soap is still somewhat effective even if the scent isn’t as strong as it used to be. If you have handmade soap at home and it starts giving off a bad odor, that means that one of its many ingredients has expired or gone rancid. If this is the case, you should get rid of it.

Likewise, even if your soap creates lather, its cleaning effect won’t be as powerful as it used to be. It won’t be able to clean up dirt, germs, and grease as it is supposed to.

Texture and color changes

After a while, expired soap will begin to change its normal state. It will lose its color scent and will have a different texture. 

If you notice something different in how it feels or looks before or during the use of your soap, the best thing to do is not to use it. While it’s not dangerous, it will not be as effective as it is supposed to be.

Lack of lather

As time passes, your soap will start to lose its ability to produce lather. Some soaps don’t create that much lather naturally, but if it doesn’t produce any lather at all, then it has probably expired. While lather isn’t directly related to the effectiveness of soap, the lack of this element means that some of the soap’s components have already lost their effect.

Rot signs

This is not the case for commercial soap, but most handcrafted soaps (if not all) contain natural oils, plant parts, fresh herbs, among many natural ingredients. That means that these soaps will expire before commercial soaps.

You can see some clear signs by taking a look at the surface. Sometimes, it’ll have a sticky or greenish look, which means that your soap has rotten. In other instances, you may find dreaded orange spots spread throughout the whole product, indicating that the soap’s oils have gone rancid. These orange spots will also give off a powerful and unpleasant smell.

What will happen if you use expired soap?

Depending on the type of soap you have, whether it’s a commercial or natural soap, you’ll likely notice different reactions. It also depends on how much time has passed since its expiration date.

For instance, if you use soap a few months after it has expired, it’s unlikely that you’ll experience any bad reactions. However, it probably won’t clean your skin properly. You can also easily notice that your bar of soap is not as powerful as it used to be if it doesn’t have a smell.

Now, it’s another story when you use soap a few years after its expiration date. The chances are that you may experience a bad reaction, like rashes or irritation. Nothing is assured, but it is the most likely scenario.

We’ve previously mentioned that some handmade soaps have natural ingredients that will likely go bad after a few months. If you decide to take the chances and use a soap that has a bad smell and basically has gone rancid, you’ll most likely end up with a pretty bad reaction.

Does soft soap expire?

Similar to regular soap, soft soap also expires. It usually will take between 2-3 years to expire, based on the manufacturer and the ingredients it contains. This is soap’s typical shelf life, and soft soap is not different in this regard.

Does hard soap expire?

Hard soap is also bound to expire at some point. It will usually be indicated in the packaging, and the typical time is between 2-3 years. It may still be useful after a few more months, but you shouldn’t expect it to have the same effect as time moves past its expiration date. 

How long does soap last? 

As we’ve described throughout the article, commercial soap lasts between two of three years. While you should be safe with a commercial soap, no real studies give any certainty that old commercial soap would not cause any long-term damage even though it doesn’t have any natural ingredients. How long does natural soap last?

When it comes to handmade soap, it may expire in less time due to the natural ingredients it contains, but if you store it properly, it may hold out for a little longer. Yet, this soap is meant to expire after a while due to the presence of natural ingredients. 

This type of soap is more vulnerable to harsher conditions and can get spoiled pretty quickly if you don’t store it under the right conditions. For instance, keeping it at high temperatures can make the oils go bad in little time.

Thus, stacking up on natural soap is probably not the best choice. You should only buy the amount of natural soap you think you’ll use within a determined period of time, normally no longer than one year.

Conclusion

When it comes to commercial soap, it’s safer to use it a few months after it has expired. Nevertheless, it will not be as powerful as it was when you first purchased it because some of its chemical components start losing effectiveness as time goes by.

If you’ve used expired soap and noticed a bad reaction, stop using it immediately and seek medical advice. Clear signs of a bad reaction include rashes, irritation, and allergies. 

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