Does Water Expire? Here’s Why You Should Care

It's a little more complicated to determine whether or not it's safe to drink

Even if you love your reusable water bottles, you probably always have some bottled water on hand—maybe even stocked up in case of emergency (as you should). But are you wondering, Does water expire? Unfortunately, though you might think of it as a nonperishable food, it turns out that bottled water actually won’t last forever.

So, when’s the last time you checked the expiration date or sell-by date on your bottled water? And can water really go bad? Read on before you accidentally drink stale water.

Does water expire?

Technically, bottled water does expire. While the reason dairy products or eggs have a sell-by date is pretty self-explanatory, you might be surprised that bottled water comes with a time stamp too.

Though the reasoning for the expiration date is outlined below, the FDA doesn’t actually mandate an expiration date on bottled water and says it’s fine to drink bottled water past its expiration date if it’s been stored properly—unlike these foods you shouldn’t eat past the expiration date.

For tap water, on the other hand, the FDA and EPA believe it lasts approximately six months if stored properly, as it doesn’t come from as highly regulated a place as bottled water.

Is it okay to drink expired water?

So, does bottled water actually go bad? As it turns out, it isn’t the water quality you should be worried about. It’s the plastic that the water comes packaged in: usually polyethylene terephthalate (PET) for retail bottles and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) for water cooler jugs. So, technically, it’s the bottle that goes bad, not the water.

These plastics can “leach into the liquid of the bottle once expired, or especially when exposed to heat, including sunlight and hot cars or storage trucks,” according to Amy Leigh Mercree, holistic health expert. “The toxicity contained in the plastic material enters the water.”

Not only can this affect the taste of the water, but it could create a serious health hazard. “It is disruptive to the endocrine system, causing reproductive symptoms, various cancers and neurological problems, and damaging the immune system.”

The porous plastic can also cause the water to accumulate odors and other nasty accompaniments from outside. In rare cases, when stored improperly, bottled water can also grow mold or algae.

Ultimately: If your bottled water has been stored in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight—no matter how long—it should be fine to drink.

How long does it take for water to expire?

Though it’s a bit arbitrary, Mercree notes that most bottled water companies print a standard two-year expiration date. There’s no precise way to predict exactly when the water in the bottle is no longer good to drink, but “it stands to reason that the longer the bottle has been in circulation, the more likely it was exposed to heat or has started to generally degrade,” Mercree says.

However, the FDA maintains that technically, even when companies print dates on water bottles, there’s no required expiration date or shelf life of bottled water—and you should be fine, just cautious.

Can you get sick from drinking old water?

While technically, yes, you can get sick from contaminated or exposed bottled water, it’s pretty rare. As a general rule, as long as you drink it reasonably soon after you buy it, don’t expose it long-term to intense heat or keep it too close to any household chemicals, and refrigerate it once it’s open, your bottled water should be perfectly safe.

You should also be keeping an eye out for these other non-food items you didn’t know had expiration dates. Read on for more food expiration facts, like do wine, butter and salt expire?

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Brooke Nelson
Brooke is a tech and consumer products writer covering the latest in digital trends, product reviews, security and privacy, and other news and features for RD.com.