When Does Soap Expire?

When most people think of expiration dates their mind typically jumps to the food in their refrigerator or pantry. However, all soaps, moisturizers, and cosmetic skin care products sold in the United States have an expiration date required by the FDA. Soap specifically has an expiration date because it contains oil, which can go rancid. Some soaps made with synthetic chemicals can last anywhere from 4-5 years, whereas natural soaps can expire after only a year. In this article, I am going to explain why soap expires, how to tell if your soap is expired, and the potential risks associated with using expired soap.

Additionally, detergents or other additives may also affect how long your soap lasts before it expires. Often, the expiration date is stamped on the bottom or back of the bar. 

Once a bar of soap has expired, it can be harmful to your skin. The ingredients in the soap may break down over time and create a reaction with your skin. This can cause irritation, dryness, and even rashes. Let’s take a look at how long some common soaps last.

What is Soap Made Of

Soap is most commonly made from animal fats (lard, tallow, and butter) or plant oils (coconut oil, palm kernel oil, soybean oil, olive oil, and sunflower seed oil) mixed with sodium hydroxide. Sodium hydroxide is a corrosive chemical that requires complete protection when handling to avoid serious injury or burns. A small amount of sodium hydroxide is commonly used in soaps in the form of lye. Lye is an alkali that helps keep fats and oils separated to extend the shelf life of the soap and many other cosmetic products.

Animal fats are typically used for white bar soap and are known for producing lots of lather. Soap made from plant oils produces a softer bar that is more translucent in appearance than those bars produced using animal products as the base ingredient for saponification (the process by which raw material reacts with an alkali). Additionally, plant oils are also frequently used to color soap.  

Why Does Soap Expire?

Soap technically “expires” once its expiration date has passed. However, that does not necessarily mean it is unsafe to use. You should only stop using soap when the ingredients begin to break down.

If you have fresh soap that has been stored properly, it is safe to assume that it has not expired as long as you are using it before the expiration date.

A big part of soap’s shelf life is determined by when you open the packaging and how you store it. Soap is made from fats, oils, lye (sodium hydroxide), water, and air bubbles to create something solid, yet malleable when dry. 

If your soap is exposed to extreme temperatures or moisture during storage, then chances are your soap will expire faster than what was expected by its manufacture date.   If you store soap in a cool dry place you can definitely extend its shelf life.

Unfortunately, there’s no hard evidence about how much time a particular type of soap takes to go bad after production, even though all soaps have an expiration date, which can be used as a reference point.

How to Tell if Your Soap has Expired

To tell if your soap has expired, you’ll need to look at the ingredients list on the back of each product. The FDA requires all cosmetics and beauty products manufacturers to print expiration dates on their labels. 

In addition, some companies stamp an expiration date directly onto a bar or bottle of soap, while others choose not to mark this information in any way. 

Unfortunately, this means that sometimes it’s hard for consumers to know when a product expires because some brands don’t include this specific detail about its shelf life. 

If no manufacturing date is stated online or on-packaged, use these general rules as reference: In general, most commercial soaps have a shelf life of around three years from the manufacturing date. These soaps are typically able to last longer than the expiration date due to adding preservatives like parabens or phenoxyethanol. 

These chemicals are known to counteract the growth of bacteria, mold, and yeast that can cause a bar to spoil faster than usual. Using products after their expiry date has passed may not pose any harm, but you should discard all cosmetics before this point for safety purposes. 

How to Store Your Soap, So it Doesn’t Expire

You can increase the shelf life of your soap by storing it in a cool, dry place with low humidity. You can also keep your bar soap out on their side to allow any moisture that may be present at the bottom of the product to evaporate and thus prevent mold growth. 

The best way to store your natural beauty products is right in front of you, so you’re more likely to use them before they expire! In addition, this will help minimize waste! 

The next time you buy some new body care items, take note when they are due to expire, then consider how often you’ll use them or if there’s something better suited for what your needs are instead. Plus, there’s nothing more satisfying than using up your products entirely and knowing you maximized your value!

The Best Soaps for Acne

Soaps made from natural ingredients without chemicals are a great way to get rid of acne. Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are two chemical compounds that can be found in these soaps, helping them fight off bacteria while exfoliating dead skin cells away at breakouts on your face or body!

If you are worried about using salicylic acid due to sensitive skin try using a facial cleanser from Cetaphil. Cetaphil is specially formulated for people with sensitive skin and is my number one recommendation for people trying to balance sensitive skin and acne breakouts.

Some other vital components include glycolic acid, which helps remove blackheads by unclogging pores after cleansing; it also softens hard textures such as dry elbows, for example, with its ability to loosen up those stubborn knots, most people have trouble getting out by themselves because they’re deep inside their tissue. 

Make sure to be cautious with which soaps you get, however. For example, glycolic acid is great for removing blackheads and softening elbows, but it’s also a harsh chemical that can irritate your skin if not used correctly!

Why Homemade Soap is Better for Skin

Homemade soaps often contain no dangerous chemicals that some users consider harsh on your skin. For example, glycerin is widely found in cosmetic lotions with hydrating and moisturizing properties. It is believed to increase pain and speed up healing, but the results have not been scientifically proven. 

Handmade soaps are likely to be the best for the skin, compared to commercially produced options. However, handmade soaps may have a few drawbacks according to the composition. Nevertheless, homemade soap is a wonderful thing if you have sensitive skin. 

Bar Soap vs. Liquid Soap

Both liquid and bar soap are good options for face and body wash. Bar soap is generally a better product financially, chemically, and environmentally. Liquid soap will work well for disinfecting and will be antibacterial in the traditional sense. 

Many liquid soaps foam up more, so that’s what you enjoy. And there’s storage. Since bar soap deteriorates quickly in damp rooms, if your soap is used in a consistently damp spot, it may be a better option than liquid soap unless you have a washing machine in place. In addition, bar soap should be easier to transport with cardboard or paper.

How Long Does Homemade Soap Last

Natural soaps have fewer chemical hazards than commercials because they are much better-made and safer than synthetics. However, rancid oils often have a strong smell, so your soaps get rancid too. Citrus scents particularly tend to dissipate quickly. 

The reason to avoid using rancid soap is its smell, not its oil. But the smells of soap are the way to avoid going rancid and dying quickly. Homemade soap runs about an average of a year before the bar’s expiring and lasts longer than commercial bars.


Soap can last for a long time, but some factors will determine how quickly it starts to deteriorate. For example, if you store your soap in the refrigerator or freezer and take care of the exterior packaging well, it could last even longer than usual. 

If you’re unsure whether your soap is still good, look at its color and consistency: Is it darker than before? Does it have any weird smells? Or does it just not lather up as much anymore? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s probably time for new soap! 

Soap can last for a long time if stored correctly. However, the exterior packaging and color/consistency are good indicators of whether or not it’s still usable. If you believe your soap may be rotting or expired the safest option is to just buy new soap!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it Okay to use Expired Soap?

Expired soap allows bacteria to grow quickly and dangerously when the oil in soap begins to rot. As a result, for this reason alone, it’s generally not a good idea.

What Soaps Expire the Fastest?

Soap-containing water will expire faster than bar soaps, which don’t contain extra moisture as liquid soap does. Additionally, natural soaps free of preservatives typically expire faster than commercial grade soaps with preservatives.

What Happens if You Use Expired Body Wash?

There are relatively low risks associated with using expired body wash. Typically, expired soap will not lather as well and could potentially cause skin irritations is the soap has bacteria growing in it.

Originally Published: December 08, 2021

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sam wood is GoodGlow's Chief Editor
Analyzed by Sam Wood

Hi, I’m Sam Wood, the chief editor, lead acne expert, and health coach at GoodGlow, as well as a best-selling author for one of the top acne books on Amazon. I struggled with acne for over 10 years, and began studying the effects of diet on skin quality while pursuing a degree in Nutrition Sciences at the University of Missouri. After shifting from mainstream skincare trends to in-depth research in medical journals, I experienced significant personal success in managing my acne. This inspired me to start GoodGlow, where I simplify complex scientific findings into easy-to-understand advice. With over 10 years in the field, I’ve helped more than 2,500 people achieve clearer skin through natural, holistic methods, and I’m dedicated to personally assisting those seeking guidance on their acne journey.

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