Vape juice, also known as e-liquid, is the mixture atomized by a vape. This juice is usually made up of different bases, nicotine, and flavoring, and different solutions will last longer than others.
Because there is no regulation on expiration dates or shelf life for e-liquid, the industry has instead adopted a general “1 to 2 year” timeline for product stability. Responsible manufacturers ensure that their products achieve this timeline.
While these aren’t legally binding, they set the standard for quality vape juices and ensure consumers know what to expect and how long they can safely store these juices.
Does Vape Juice Expire?
Signs of Expired Vape Juice
Vape juice doesn’t expire like food or other perishable items. Instead of rotting away, the juice will separate and have different characteristics.
Apart from age, signs of expired vape juice include:
- Changes in color (especially darkening of the juice)
- Oversteeping (changes in color and smell)
- Splitting and separation
While you can minimize some of these changes, they will inevitably occur over the lifetime of your e-juice.
Changes in Color (Darkening)
Nicotine is photosensitive and will darken over time. This is usually one of the most obvious signs of vape juice expiration, but that’s not always the case.
Vape juices with a sweet taste are more likely to darken than those that start with a clear base. For example, vape liquid that uses liquorice extract will darken much faster than menthol flavors that start off clear and have very little change.
If you consume vape juice daily, it probably won’t have the chance to darken to orange, brown, or even black. Avoid juices that are these colors and accompanied by other signs of expiration.
Vape juice that has been in storage for a long period of time is prone to the same issue. Details like heat, agitation, and light exposure exasperate the problem, ripening the juice until it starts to resemble fruit past its prime.
While steeping is a normal part of making vape juice, it must occur on a certain timeline. Flavors are given time to mature and develop, but if they’re put under too much pressure they will ruin the integrity of the mixture.
In reality, these juices never stop steeping. The process may slow once they hit the shelves, but you can quickly accelerate degradation with improper storage or setting the bottle aside for too long.
Splitting and Separation
Some separation is normal in vape juices. The bottles often instruct you to shake before refilling your vape, but the issue will worsen as the juice ages. Even homogenized mixtures will eventually split.
Over time, heavier components like vegetable glycerin (VG) sink to the bottom of the mixture, while lighter ingredients like nicotine float to the top. You will eventually reach a point where shaking won’t be enough to mix them up anymore.
The separation of nicotine in these juices is an issue. Most e-liquids use a freebase that suspends nicotine freely in propylene glycol (PG). Over time, the nicotine separates from the solution and won’t mix again.
This leads to uneven doses of nicotine that disrupt your vaping experience. Some tanks will be especially weak, while others will hit harsh and strong. Once you notice separation, you need to dispose of the expired e-liquid.
What Affects Vape Juice Shelf Life
Vapers may notice that different brands and flavors last longer than others, and there are a few reasons for this.
Influences on vape juice shelf life include:
- Juice flavor
- The quality of base materials
- Nicotine content
- How the juice is stored
You should still assume a one to two-year expiry date, but understanding these details can help you be mindful of which juices will last longer.
Some juices lose potency before they expire. This is especially true for fruity or floral flavors.
More complex flavors, like pastries, are more likely to maintain their flavor.
While the changes in flavor are not necessarily dangerous or even unpleasant, they’re not what you expect from vape juice.
Quality of Base Materials
Vape juices must use certain base materials to suspend other ingredients. The most popular ones are propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerin (VG).
PG liquid resists deterioration over time, and a juice that uses more PG may last longer and hold up better against rough handling and improper storage.
VG doesn’t hold up as well, but many prefer it for a smoother flavor and cloud-chasing. It should last long enough for normal consumption, but understanding how this base behaves helps you set your expectations appropriately.
Unless you’re using a nicotine-free liquid, you should consider how fast nicotine will degrade in your e-liquid.
Nicotine salts last longer and remain potent longer than freebase nicotine ever will. These are more expensive and you may have a harder time finding nic salts, but they’re often worth the investment.
The amount of nicotine in your vape liquid decreases over time. Even juices that taste fine may not satisfy your cravings like fresh tobacco would.
Improper storage is one of the leading causes of premature expiration, and it’s what you have the most control over. To keep your juice shelf stable, make sure you:
- Store the liquid in the original e-liquid bottle
- Keep it in a cool, dry place (some keep their juice in the fridge for optimal freshness, but a cupboard works fine)
- Use the bottle as soon as you open it (pro tip: date your bottles if you like to switch between a few different flavors so you can keep an eye on them)
Make sure you consider proper storage when traveling as well. Leaving your box mod in your car, even in the glove compartment, isn’t the best idea when temperatures are particularly high.
Proper Disposal of Vape Juice
If you decide you don’t like the vape juice or determine that it’s expired, throw it away to prevent further deterioration and accidental consumption.
This doesn’t mean you can toss the bottle in the trash or dump the juice down the drain (we don’t want nicotine in our sewage and waste systems).
Instead, soak up as much of the juice as possible with coffee grinds, cat litter, or another absorbent material. Rinse and recycle the bottle, then throw the juice-soaked material in the trash.
So does vape juice expire? Technically, yes. It will reach a point where it no longer meets industry standards and expectations, and it can be harmful to ingest vapor past this point.
While there are no regulations that put an expiration date on e-liquid labels, they may list a manufactured date to help you determine how fresh the juice is. Prioritize using juice you’ve already opened, and avoid juices with weird colors, smells, or tastes.
If you’re unsure whether your juice is safe to consume, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Feel free to comment with any concerns you may have, and we can help you continue to vape safely.