How long can you store shampoo bars?

Shampoo bars have become increasingly popular in recent years as more people look for sustainable and plastic-free alternatives to bottled shampoo. But how long will a shampoo bar actually last before it goes bad? Here’s what you need to know about the shelf life and storage of shampoo bars.

What are shampoo bars?

Shampoo bars are solid bars of concentrated shampoo that are created without plastic packaging. They are usually made from natural ingredients like oils, botanical extracts, and saponified oils. To use them, you simply wet your hair and rub the bar directly onto your scalp to create a lather, just like you would with a regular bottled shampoo.

The main appeal of shampoo bars is that they are plastic-free and travel friendly. One bar is equal to about three regular bottles of liquid shampoo. They also tend to contain less chemicals and harsh detergents compared to many bottled shampoos.

How long is the shelf life of shampoo bars?

The shelf life of a shampoo bar depends on the specific ingredients used to make it. However, most shampoo bars have an average shelf life of one to two years when stored properly.

Here are some general guidelines for shampoo bar shelf life:

  • Shampoo bars made with all natural ingredients: 1-2 years
  • Shampoo bars made with preservatives: Up to 2 years
  • Shampoo bars with essential oils: 1 year

The natural oils and butters in shampoo bars can go rancid over time, which shortens their shelf life. Bars made with preservatives tend to last longer. Essential oils also break down more quickly. However, a well-made shampoo bar stored properly should still last for at least one year.

How to tell if a shampoo bar has gone bad

Here are some signs that your shampoo bar has expired and should be discarded:

  • Change in color or texture: Fresh shampoo bars have a smooth, even texture and color. Discoloration, grittiness, or liquid oil droplets are signs it has spoiled.
  • Strong rancid odor: Rancidity happens when the oils oxidize. An overly strong, unpleasant scent means the bar has turned.
  • Less lather: As the ingredients degrade, the bar won’t create as much suds when used.
  • Irritation: Expired bars might cause irritation or dryness after use as the ingredients are no longer balanced.

If you notice any of these changes, it’s time to say goodbye to your shampoo bar and replace it with a fresh one.

How to store shampoo bars properly

To get the most life span out of your shampoo bars, be sure to store them properly between uses. Here are some tips:

  • Keep it dry: Moisture is the enemy of shampoo bars. Store them in a dry place out of the shower.
  • Air tight container: Keep the bar in an airtight tin or box. This prevents air exposure which can accelerate spoilage.
  • Constant temperature: Avoid storing bars where temperatures fluctuate a lot, like near a window or in the bathroom. Keep them in a cabinet instead.
  • Keep away from heat or sunlight: Heat and UV rays will speed up the breakdown of oils and butters.

With proper storage, most shampoo bars will last at least a year. Just keep an eye out for any signs of degradation and don’t use a bar that shows signs of expiration.

Can you extend the shelf life?

While proper storage is important, there are a few tricks that can potentially extend the shelf life of your shampoo bars:

  • Cut the bar in half. This exposes less surface area to air and moisture.
  • Wrap tightly in plastic wrap if bar will not be used for a while. This creates a barrier to oxygen.
  • Store in the refrigerator or freezer if you won’t use for several months. The cold prevents spoilage.
  • Buy bars with preservatives like vitamin E and rosemary extract which act as antioxidants.

Keep in mind that these tricks can maybe add a few extra months at most. But no matter what, an expired bar that smells rancid or doesn’t lather well should not be used.

Can you use shampoo bars after they expire?

It’s not recommended to use a shampoo bar after it has clearly expired. While it may still function somewhat as a cleanser, the ingredients will be degraded and could lead to some issues:

  • Skin irritation: Using old shampoo can disrupt your hair and scalp’s pH, leading to dryness or irritation.
  • Hair damage: The oils and botanical extracts may not nourish hair as well.
  • Buildup: Expired bars won’t rinse as cleanly, leading to product buildup in your hair.
  • Scalp acne: The increased risk of skin irritation could clog follicles and cause breakouts.

If a bar is past its prime, it’s better to play it safe and replace it with a fresh one.

Can expired shampoo bars be reused?

While it’s not a good idea to use spoiled shampoo bars on your hair, they don’t have to be completely wasted. Here are some ways to repurpose an expired bar:

  • Body soap: Use as a bar for hand or body washing. The formula is still effective as a cleanser.
  • Shaving soap: The lather works well for shaving legs, underarms or face.
  • Pet shampoo: It’s fine to use on your dog or other animals if sensitive to ingredients.
  • Laundry soap: Grate and use for homemade laundry detergent.
  • Floor cleaner: An expired bar can be a mild hard surface cleaner.

So don’t feel bad about tossing bars that are past their prime. With some creativity, they can still be useful even if they aren’t ideal for your hair anymore.


Do shampoo bars really expire?

Yes, shampoo bars can expire. The natural oils and butters will eventually go rancid. Preservatives help extend the shelf life, but bars usually only last about 1-2 years at maximum.

How can you make shampoo bars last longer?

Store them in a cool, dry place out of sunlight. Keep the bar in an airtight, sealed container. Letting it dry completely between uses and not getting it wet in the shower also helps extend the life span.

Can I refrigerate my shampoo bars?

Yes, storing them in the refrigerator or freezer can help prolong freshness. This works best for bars you won’t use for several months. Let the bar come to room temperature before use.

Do shampoo bars expire faster in the shower?

Yes, keeping them in the warm, humid shower speeds up expiration. The temperature fluctuations and moisture invite bacteria growth and oxidation. Store them in a bedroom or hallway cabinet instead.

How do I know if my shampoo bar went bad?

Signs a bar has expired include a rancid smell, color or texture changes, less lather, and skin irritation after use. If you notice any of these, toss the bar and replace it with a fresh one.

The Bottom Line

With proper storage conditions, most natural shampoo bars will last about 1-2 years before expiring. Keep them in a cool, dry place out of sunlight and moisture. Airtight containers help prevent air exposure which degrades the ingredients. While you can extend their life span a bit with tricks like refrigeration or wrapping in plastic, expired bars should be discarded and replaced for the best hair and scalp health.

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