Surprising Expiration Dates

A handy, who-knew guide to 77 foods, beauty products, and household goods KeateKeate

Certain items in your house practically scream "toss me" when their prime has passed. That mysterious extra white layer on the Cheddar? A sure sign it needs to be put out of its misery. Chunky milk? Down the drain it goes.

But what about that jar of olives or Maraschino cherries that has resided in your refrigerator since before the birth of your kindergartner? Or the innumerable nonedibles lurking deep within your cabinets and closets: stockpiled shampoo and toothpaste, seldom-used silver polish? How do you know when their primes have passed?

With help from experts and product manufacturers, Real Simple has compiled a guide to expiration dates. These dates are offered as a rough guideline. The shelf lives of most products depend upon how you treat them. Edibles, unless otherwise indicated, should be stored in a cool, dry place. (With any food, of course, use common sense.) Household cleaners also do best in a dry place with a stable temperature. After the dates shown, beauty and cleaning products are probably still safe but may be less effective.

Food

Beer
Unopened: 4 months.

Brown sugar
Indefinite shelf life, stored in a moistureproof container in a cool, dry place.

Chocolate (Hershey bar)
1 year from production date

Coffee, canned ground
Unopened: 2 years
Opened: 1 month refrigerated

Coffee, gourmet
Beans: 3 weeks in paper bag, longer in vacuum-seal bag (After this time, color or flavor may be affected, but product is still generally safe to consume.)
Ground: 1 week in sealed container

Coffee, instant
Unopened: Up to 2 years
Opened: Up to 1 month

Diet soda (and soft drinks in plastic bottles)
Unopened: 3 months from "best by" date.
Opened: Doesn't spoil, but taste is affected.

Dried pasta
12 months

Frozen dinners
Unopened: 12 to 18 months

Frozen vegetables
Unopened: 18 to 24 months
Opened: 1 month

Honey
Indefinite shelf life

Juice, bottled (apple or cranberry)
Unopened: 8 months from production date
Opened: 7 to 10 days

Ketchup
Unopened: 1 year (After this time, color or flavor may be affected, but product is still generally safe to consume.)
Opened or used: 4 to 6 months (After this time, color or flavor may be affected, but product is still generally safe to consume.)

Maple syrup, real or imitation
1 year

Maraschino cherries
Unopened: 3 to 4 years
Opened: 2 weeks at room temperature; 6 months refrigerated

Marshmallows
Unopened: 40 weeks
Opened: 3 months

Mayonnaise
Unopened: Indefinitely
Opened: 2 to 3 months from "purchase by" date (After this time, color or flavor may be affected, but product is still generally safe to consume.)

Mustard
2 years (After this time, color or flavor may be affected, but product is still generally safe to consume.)

Olives, jarred (green with pimento)
Unopened: 3 years
Opened: 3 months

Olive oil
2 years from manufacture date (After this time, color or flavor may be affected, but product is still generally safe to consume.)

Peanuts
Unopened: 1 to 2 years unless frozen or refrigerated
Opened: 1 to 2 weeks in airtight container

Peanut butter, natural
9 months

Peanut butter, processed (Jif)
Unopened: 2 years
Opened: 6 months; refrigerate after 3 months

Pickles
Unopened: 18 months
Opened: No conclusive data. Discard if slippery or excessively soft.
Protein bars (PowerBars)
Unopened: 10 to 12 months. Check "best by" date on the package.

Rice, white
2 years from date on box or date of purchase

Salad dressing, bottled
Unopened: 12 months after "best by" date
Opened: 9 months refrigerated

Soda, regular
Unopened: In cans or glass bottles, 9 months from "best by" date
Opened: Doesn't spoil, but taste is affected

Steak sauce
33 months (After this time, color or flavor may be affected, but product is still generally safe to consume.)

Tabasco
5 years, stored in a cool, dry place

Tea bags (Lipton)
Use within 2 years of opening the package

Tuna, canned
Unopened: 1 year from purchase date
Opened: 3 to 4 days, not stored in can

Soy sauce, bottled
Unopened: 2 years
Opened: 3 months (After this time, color or flavor may be affected, but product is still generally safe to consume.)

Vinegar
42 months

Wine (red, white)
Unopened: 3 years from vintage date; 20 to 100 years for fine wines
Opened: 1 week refrigerated and corked

Worcestershire sauce
Unopened: 5 to 10 years (After this time, color or flavor may be affected, but product is still generally safe to consume.)
Opened: 2 years

For more information, see:
How to Protect Your Produce
How to Save an Open Bottle of Wine

Household Products

Air freshener, aerosol
2 years

Antifreeze, premixed
1 to 5 years

Antifreeze, concentrate
Indefinite

Batteries, alkaline
7 years

Batteries, lithium
10 years

Bleach
3 to 6 months

Dish detergent, liquid or powdered
1 year

Fire extinguisher, rechargeable
Service or replace every 6 years

Fire extinguisher, nonrechargeable
12 years

Laundry detergent, liquid or powdered
Unopened: 9 months to 1 year
Opened: 6 months

Metal polish (silver, copper, brass)
At least 3 years

Miracle Gro, liquid
Opened: 3 to 8 years

Miracle Gro, liquid, water-soluble
Indefinite

Motor oil
Unopened: 2 to 5 years
Opened: 3 months

Mr. Clean
2 years

Paint
Unopened: Up to 10 years
Opened: 2 to 5 years

Spray paint
2 to 3 years

Windex
2 years

Wood polish (Pledge)
2 years

For more information, see:
The Right Way to Throw Out Medicine, Paint, Batteries
Earth-Friendly Cleaning Products

Beauty Products
All dates are from the manufacture date, which is either displayed on the packaging or can be obtained by calling the manufacturer's customer-service number.

Bar soap
18 months to 3 years

Bath gel, body wash
3 years

Bath oil
1 year

Body bleaches and depilatories
Unopened: 2 years
Used: 6 months

Body lotion
3 years

Conditioner
2 to 3 years

Deodorant
Unopened: 2 years
Used: 1 to 2 years
For antiperspirants, see expiration date

Eye cream
Unopened: 3 years
Used: 1 year

Face lotion
With SPF, see expiration date. All others, at least 3 years

Foundation, oil-based
2 years

Foundation, water-based
3 years

Hair gel
2 to 3 years

Hair spray
2 to 3 years

Lip balm
Unopened: 5 years
Used: 1 to 5 years

Lipstick
2 years

Mascara
Unopened: 2 years
Used: 3 to 4 months

Mouthwash
Three years from manufacture date

Nail polish
1 year

Nail-polish remover
Lasts indefinitely

Perfume
1 to 2 years

Rubbing alcohol
At least 3 years

Shampoo
2 to 3 years

Shaving cream
2 years or more

Tooth-whitening strips
13 months

Wash'n Dri moist wipes
Unopened: 2 years
Opened: Good until dried out

For additional information, see:
Long-Lasting Beauty Solutions
Best Nail-Polish Removers

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