How to Tell If Bug Spray Is Expired

By Elizabeth Tehrani

On hiking trips, at the beach, or at summer camp, bug spray can be a life-saver. It is especially important for babies and children, or others who are sensitive to irritating stings and bites. Depending on the brand, though, last season's bug spray may not work this season. As with many other products, the efficacy of bug spray can decrease over time and may not be safe to use after it has expired. Luckily, there are several easy ways to check bug spray for expiration.

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On hiking trips, at the beach, or at summer camp, bug spray can be a life-saver. It is especially important for babies and children, or others who are sensitive to irritating stings and bites. Depending on the brand, though, last season's bug spray may not work this season. As with many other products, the efficacy of bug spray can decrease over time and may not be safe to use after it has expired. Luckily, there are several easy ways to check bug spray for expiration.

Check the Container for an Expiration Date

Sometimes the original packaging has a printed expiration date.

Examine the bug spray container. Many companies print an expiration date on the bottom or back of the bottle or can. Outer packaging such as a cardboard box may also have a printed expiration date.

The company may be able to give an expiration date based on the product code.

If there is no expiration date, look on the container for a product code and the company phone number. The product code may be printed on the bottom of the bottle or can, but the company phone number is almost always on the back of the container under the instructions for use.

The product company may be able to give you an expiration date.

Call the company and ask them to date the bug spray using the product code.

Test the State of the Container and the Spray Odor

A malfunctioning nozzle may render good spray unusable.

Holding the can away from your face, pump the nozzle to check its action. Dirt or dust can block a nozzle. The spray should come out easily and evenly. If it does not, though the bug spray itself may still be good, the state of the container may make it unsafe or hard to use.

An old spray can may indicate a product past its prime.

Inspect the bug spray can or bottle for rust, dents, cracks or other signs of decay. Heat, light and water may damage the container. The state of the can often indicates the age of the product.

The smell of bug spray may also indicate its age.

Spritz a little of the spray onto a piece of paper. Bug spray usually has a recognizable strong smell; if the odor seems altered or diminished, the spray is probably past its expiration. It may not be possible to test unscented bug spray this way.

Tip

Deet, a common ingredient in bug spray, does not expire. If your bug spray contains deet, check the container now and then to make sure it is in good shape, but otherwise the spray should remain usable.

Warning

Regardless of the expiration date or age of the product, if your bug spray causes a rash or other irritation, discontinue use immediately.

If the container looks old or corroded but you believe that the spray is still good, be very careful while spritzing it. If the nozzle is blocked or damaged the spray may shoot out in unexpected direction. If you get bug spray in your eyes, rinse them thoroughly with plenty of water.

References

About the Author

This article was written by the Healthfully team, copy edited and fact checked through a multi-point auditing system, in efforts to ensure our readers only receive the best information. To submit your questions or ideas, or to simply learn more about Healthfully, contact us here.

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