Does Dish Soap Ever Go Bad?

Dish soap and other cleaning products can lose their effectiveness over time.
Dish soap and other cleaning products can lose their effectiveness over time. / RapidEye/iStock via Getty Images

When it comes to product expiration dates, consumers are usually worried about food and medication, the former for spoilage and the latter for dwindling effectiveness.

Since you’re (ideally) not consuming cleaning products, their decreased usefulness is a little more abstract. So when should you worry about things like dish soap or laundry detergent going bad?

According to Real Simple, dish soap and other cleaning products often have an expiration date. But if the date isn’t legible, is missing, or only the manufacturer’s date is present, it’s best to assume dish soap has a shelf life of 12 to 18 months, while automatic dishwasher detergent can last as little as three months. Laundry detergent can last six to 12 months. Cleaning sprays can be good for up to two years. A simple bleach product has the shortest shelf life of the batch, typically good for just six months.

It’s not that these products go “bad,” only that their active ingredients—much like a drug—can begin to wane. “Like many products purchased at the grocery store, cleaning products can degrade over time,” Brian Sansoni, senior vice president of communications, outreach, and membership at the American Cleaning Institute (ACI) told Real Simple. “Even if they contain preservatives, that doesn’t mean they last forever. As they begin to break down, it might affect how well the enzymes work or change the pH, resulting in a less effective product.”

For products intended to cut down on grease, like dish soap, you may not necessarily notice its reduced usefulness. But if a product actively kills bacteria, like Lysol, you’ll want to make sure it’s still effective.

One way to help keep products stable is to store them in a cool, dry place and away from direct sunlight. If no date is stamped on the package, you can write down your date of purchase to assess when it’s time to replace it.

[h/t Real Simple]