How long can I keep bottled water?

Quick Answer

Bottled water can be safely stored for extended periods of time, generally up to the expiration date printed on the bottle. Unopened commercially bottled water will typically last 2 years or more from the manufacturing date. After opening, bottled water should be used within 6 months. Bottled water stored properly can last even longer – up to 5 years or more past the printed expiration date when kept in a cool, dark place. However, over time opened bottled water may start to develop a stale taste.

How Does Bottled Water Expire?

Bottled water itself does not really “expire” or go bad in the same way milk or food does. The expiration dates printed on water bottles refer more to the expected shelf life of the plastic bottle itself rather than the water contained inside.

Over time, plastic water bottles may start to break down and leach chemicals into the water, causing strange odors or tastes. The plastic may also become brittle and crack. However, this process can take well over a year, even up to 5 years when unopened and stored in optimal conditions.

The main things that can impact bottled water’s shelf life are:

  • Exposure to heat and sunlight – causes plastic to degrade faster
  • Opening/re-closing bottle – allows oxygen to interact with water, can cause taste/odor issues over time
  • Contamination – improper storage could allow bacteria or mold to grow in opened bottles

As long as the bottle remains sealed and is stored in a cool, dark place, bottled water can remain fresh and safe to drink for the shelf life printed on the label. However, some people report bottled water staying drinkable for up to 5 years or longer past its expiration date when stored optimally.

How to Tell if Bottled Water Has Gone Bad

The main signs that bottled water may have gone bad are:

  • Cloudy appearance – may indicate microbial growth
  • Off odors – smell the water for any musty, moldy, or other unpleasant odors
  • Off flavors – taste the water to check for any chemical or rotten flavors
  • Leaking bottle – inspect bottle for any cracks or leaks
  • Damaged bottle – check for dents, rust, brittleness or cracking in the plastic

If the water shows any cloudiness, smells or tastes unpleasant, or the bottle is damaged, it is best to discard it.

However, do not rely on appearance or odor alone. Sometimes bottled water can grow bacteria like pseudomonas without any obvious signs of contamination. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and avoid drinking any water that is past its expiration date or has been stored for over 6 months after opening.

How to Store Bottled Water Properly

To maximize how long bottled water will stay fresh and safe to drink:

  • Store in a cool, dark place – avoid storing in hot places like the garage or near a window with sunlight exposure. Ideal storage temperature is room temperature or lower.
  • Avoid extreme temperature fluctuations – don’t store where temps will cycle between hot and freezing, which can compromise bottle integrity.
  • Store upright – don’t stack or turn bottles on their side, as this can weaken seals and cause leaking.
  • Check seals before use – inspect bottle caps/lids to ensure they are intact before opening.
  • Refrigerate after opening – keep opened water refrigerated and use within 6 months for best quality.
  • Avoid reusable bottles – reuseable plastic water bottles are more prone to bacterial growth and should not be used long-term.

Proper storage helps bottled water retain freshness and avoid any issues with the plastic leaching chemicals into the water over time.

How Long Does Bottled Water Last Unopened?

Unopened, commercially bottled water will generally stay safe and retain quality for:

  • 2+ years from manufacturing date – this is typical for non-carbonated bottled water
  • 1+ years from manufacturing date – for carbonated sparkling water

The expiration date printed on the bottle is the manufacturer’s recommendation for when the water will optimally retain taste, carbonation, and nutritional value.

However, many people report bottled water staying fresh up to:

  • 3-5 years past expiration date – when stored properly in a climate-controlled environment
  • 1-2 years past expiration – when stored at room temperature

So feel free to drink bottled waters that are past date if the bottle remains sealed and intact. Just be sure to check carefully for any signs of cloudiness, odor, or plastic degradation before consuming.

How Long Does Bottled Water Last After Opening?

Once opened, bottled water should be consumed within:

  • 6-9 months – this is the standard recommendation for using opened bottled water
  • 24 hours – recommended limit for drinking from reusable bottles

The more times a bottle is opened and closed, the shorter the shelf life. Each time new oxygen and microbes are introduced into the bottle when cracked open.

Keep opened bottled waters refrigerated and consume soon for best taste and safety. Do not store at room temperature after opening.

Does Bottled Water Go Bad Once Opened?

Bottled water itself does not spoil or go “bad” once opened, as the water molecules themselves do not break down or grow bacteria, even after long periods of time.

However, opened bottled water can start to taste stale or develop odors over time. This is due to the plastic degrading and compounds leaching into the water, not the water itself expiring.

The plastic of disposable water bottles is only meant for short term use, not for long term storage once opened.

Can You Drink Bottled Water After It Expires?

Yes, bottled water is still generally safe to consume after its printed expiration date, as long as the bottle remains properly sealed.

The expiration dates on water bottles mostly apply to quality rather than actual safety. So while water far past its date may taste stale, it is unlikely to make you sick if the seal was not broken.

Safety does become more of a concern once water bottles are opened. It is not recommended to drink from opened bottles that are over 6-9 months old.

Does Bottled Water Go Bad If Left in a Hot Car?

Excessive heat can shorten the shelf life of bottled water. The hot temperatures cause the plastic to start leaching its chemicals into the water at faster rates.

However, if the seals remain intact, the risk is mostly to quality rather than safety. The water may start to take on plasticky odors and tastes but is unlikely to become toxic or make you ill, even when left in a hot car for months.

The exception is if the water shows signs of cloudiness or microbial growth. In rare cases, bacteria like pseudomonas can grow even in sealed bottled water when stored at temperatures of 90°F and above for many months.

Should You Drink Bottled Water Left in a Hot Car?

It’s generally not recommended. The heat can cause the water to take on unpleasant plastic-like odors and flavors. In rare cases, it could potentially harbor bacteria if left for many hot months.

If you’ve left a case of bottled waters in a hot car for an extended time, it’s smart to:

  • Inspect each bottle carefully before drinking
  • Check for any signs of cloudiness or contamination
  • Give bottles a “sniff test” before consuming to check for off odors

Better to be safe than sorry. When in doubt, it’s advised to discard any bottled waters exposed to excessive heat over long periods.

Extending the Shelf Life of Bottled Water

If properly stored, bottled water can retain quality and safety for years past any expiration dates, especially when unopened. Here are some extra tips for extending bottled water’s shelf life:

  • Store unopened bottles in the refrigerator – cooler temperatures slow plastic degradation
  • Freeze water if not using soon – freezing stops any chemical leaching
  • Keep opened bottles refrigerated and use within 3-6 months
  • Store water in a root cellar or basement if available – cool and stable temps prolong shelf life
  • Wrap in opaque bags/ containers – blocks light exposure to prevent photodegredation of plastic
  • Use unflavored and non-carbonated water – avoid added ingredients that can degrade faster

Proper rotation of stock by using oldest waters first will also help ensure none expire before getting used.

Followingexpiration dates, inspecting bottles carefully, and using proper storage will allow keeping bottled water drinkable and fresh for years to come.


Can you drink expired bottled water if left sealed?

Most likely yes, as long as the seals remain completely intact. While the water may start to taste stale, sealed water does not go “bad” or become unsafe to drink for a long time after expiration when stored properly. Always inspect closely and check for odors or off-tastes before drinking very expired water.

Does freezing bottled water extend shelf life?

Yes, freezing is an excellent way to extend the shelf life of bottled water for both unopened and opened bottles. The cold temperatures prevent any plastic degradation or leaching of compounds into the water. Frozen water can keep safe and palatable for many years when kept frozen consistently.

Can you get sick from drinking old bottled water?

Generally, no. Bottled water itself does not harbor harmful bacteria or “go bad” because it lacks nutrients needed for microbial growth. However, over time opened bottles can become contaminated if improperly stored. It’s mainly the plastic bottle integrity that degrades over time, not the water.

Do 5 gallon jugs of water expire?

Yes, the plastic jugs used for 5 gallon bottled water dispensers have a shelf life of typically 2-3 years. After this time, the plastic may start leaching chemicals into the water, causing odd tastes and odors. 5 gallon jugs should be replaced at least every 2-3 years.

Can you drink water after its use by date?

Yes, bottled water is still safe to drink after its use by/expiration date, as long as the bottle has remained sealed. The use by date is simply the manufacturer’s estimate for when optimal water quality may start declining. But expired bottled water does not necessarily pose any health risks if consumed.

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