Is it OK to Use Expired Antibacterial Soap?

Ever checked the expiry date on an antibacterial soap? Just like me, you probably never did. In fact, many don’t. But what is the shelf-life of antibacterial soap, and is it OK to use it even after it’s expired? 

Is it OK to Use Expired Antibacterial Soap? It is generally not recommended to use expired antibacterial (or any kind) soap, as it may cause skin irritation. Some soap may still lather or look as good as new, but they will not be as effective or lose their anti-bacterial properties entirely.

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People don’t really check soap’s expiry date the way they would with food. We know that every country has certifications that display food items’ authenticity, but how about soaps? Have you ever checked if your soap complies with the approved standards?

Soap falls under the category of drugs and cosmetics. The U.S. Food and Drug Authorisation (FDA) is in charge of regulating and approving all types of soaps. Furthermore, the FDA allots the expiry date and lot number to every soap that is approved.

Like any item, the expiry date signifies that the soap is effective until a particular date. However, with some soaps even after the expiration date, they might still be effective. If not as good as new, a soap may prove to be useful to a great extent. 


Does Antibacterial Soap Expire?

Washing hands has always been considered essential for personal hygiene, but it is now more so with the current outbreak. So the expiration date of your antibacterial soap is even more critical today than it was before. 

Shelf Life refers to the period of a product being in a condition that is good enough to use. Not only medicines and food, but all cosmetic items also have a specified shelf life. Post that time, the efficiency and consistency of that item may decrease.

In general, most antibacterial soaps come with a shelf life of three years, and with this, we know that they do expire just like any other soap. Does that mean that you cannot use an antibacterial soap after three years of its manufacturing date? The short answer is, it depends. It varies depending on the specific raw materials within the antibacterial soaps.

For example, if you’re using organic soap, this may not be the case because the organic and natural ingredients used to make soaps go rancid much sooner. Therefore, if you have an organic homemade antibacterial soap, its shelf life will most likely be shorter. And if you are to remove it from its packaging, the shelf-life may decrease even further. 

Due to factors such as heat, humidity, air, etc., your soap may become ineffective if kept that way for a long time. So the main question will then be, would you (or should you) use it even if it’s expired?

What Happens If I Use Expired Antibacterial Soap?

Firstly, it is ok, to use expired soap, the same can be said for antibacterial soap. But before using one, you might need to know a few things. Even though you can use an expired product, the antibodies within the antibacterial soap have most likely become less effective over time.

So, the question you should ask yourself is, should you use it even if you know it may not be as effective? Since we are on the subject, do antibacterial soaps really have bacteria-killing ingredients?

Antibacterial soaps usually contain triclosan—an ingredient proven to lessen the effect of bacteria. However, it doesn’t kill all types of bacteria and viruses. So how does antibacterial soap really help?

Studies show that washing your hands with regular soap does not really kill bacteria but only removes it. So what does antibacterial soap do then? Well, it basically kills bacteria and germs and stops their growth altogether. So, once it has expired and lost its ability to kill bacteria, it turns into “regular” soap. 

What Happens if You Use Expired Soap?

Soaps are made of several oils and chemicals. When a soap expires, it usually doesn’t go bad, or at least not that fast. However, some oils may go rancid after a much shorter period.

Your soap may not smell as good, and it will most likely lose its effectiveness. In some cases, you may even see DOS (dreaded orange spots). You might think, not a big deal, right? But, what if your expired soap turns out to be bad for your skin?

In some cases, expired soaps may cause skin rashes or allergies due to its ingredients acting up. Moreover, the soap’s germ-killing potential decreases over time, due to which it may allow the bacteria to grow rapidly. Therefore, using an expired soap can be, in many cases, not recommended.

How do You Know if Your Antibacterial Soap has Expired?

A soap must meet the standards of the FDA to gain approval. The FDA further assigns an expiry date to every soap, according to the date of its manufacture. The date is usually mentioned on the soap’s pack. But, what if you do not find an expiry date on your antibacterial soaps?

Most of the soaps have an effective life span of 3 years irrespective of the expiry date. However, certain physical factors might help you to determine your soap’s effectiveness.

  • Cracks: Your antibacterial soap might display some cracks on its surface if kept for a period longer than usual. The soap may shrink due to the ingredients going bad, showing cracks.
  • DOS: As previously mentioned, dreaded orange spots are a clear indicator that your soap has gone rancid. 
  • Mold: Some oils spoil away to form molds instead of shrinking. If that is the case, it is strongly advised to throw it away.
  • Dryness: Another indication of your soap getting expired can be unusual dryness. In such cases, you will have to rub the soap more to get the desired lather.
  • Fragrance: When your soap is kept open for too long, its oils get oxidized. This may usually cause the fragrance to perish away. In some circumstances, the soap may have an unpleasant odor due to rancidity.
  • Unusual lather: Once the soap is past its shelf life; it loses its efficiency. The soap may feel greasy on your hand, forming an unusual lather or no lather at all in some cases.

How Long Can You Use Expired Antibacterial Soap?

What if you find out that the soap you have been using had expired several months ago? Well, since you did not have any problems up to now, you don’t need to worry. Although it has a specified expiry date, antibacterial soap can be used even after the given date. 

Any item’s expiry specifies that the product may not be in its best condition post specified date. So this means that the manufacturer guarantees the substantial use of the product only until the given date.

According to the factual terms, your antibacterial soap will have maximum potential only till it reaches the expiry date. However, generally speaking, your soap will be good enough to be used but not as potent as a new one.

You can use your antibacterial soap even after its expiry without getting worried. However, make sure that once you have unpacked the soap, you finish it quickly. Additionally, there are a few ways that you can follow to increase the shelf life of your antibacterial soap.

  • Store it in a cool temperature
  • Do not leave the soap open for too long after unpacking.
  • Do not keep the soap in humid conditions.
  • Natural soaps tend to spoil fast. Use a natural soap within its shelf life.

Is it OK to Use Antibacterial Soap?

Believe it or not, irrespective of their expiry dates, antibacterial soaps are not the best for your health. Although using it might reduce the bacteria on your hands, it can also be harmful. 

If used regularly, antibacterial soaps may reduce the good bacteria present on your skin. This bacteria helps to keep your body healthy.

Another downside of using antibacterial soap is that it reduces the natural oil-level of your body. Your skin has a certain amount of oil that prevents dryness. This oil is essential to maintain healthy skin.

You can consider replacing your antibacterial soap with a safer option. Opting for normal soap or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer may be a wise choice. Adamant on using antibacterial soap?

Hand sanitizer is known to be a better antibacterial alternative. This is because it has almost 60% of alcohol that helps kill multiple types of bacteria and viruses. Moreover, sanitizer doesn’t contain triclosan or any harsh chemical that might harm the body.


The expiry of your antibacterial soap most likely won’t make a lot of difference. Nevertheless, you should definitely avoid soaps that project the traits of getting spoilt. Especially if you have sensitive skin, you must only use certified products that are not expired.

Using normal soap to wash hands will almost be as effective as washing with antibacterial soap. In case your expired antibacterial soap seems to be in bad condition, you must certainly choose a normal soap if available. 

In the end, washing hands is what matters the most, be it with antibacterial soap or a regular one. It would help if you made sure that you correctly wash your hands, to minimize germs as much as possible.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has laid out an informative report on handwashing. The report includes the right way and conditions to wash hands properly, for you to take complete care of your hygiene.

Learn well about the products that you use for your personal hygiene. Knowledge never harms!

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