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Do water bottles expire?

Woman with a water bottle
(Image credit: Getty)

It’s a question you’ve probably never thought about: do water bottles expire? While the best water bottles that are reusable certainly don’t, before you go stockpiling bottled water, the expiration date is something that you may just want to be aware of. 

Bottled water does indeed come with an expiration date – even though the water itself doesn’t go bad. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA (opens in new tab)), which regulates bottled drinking water, doesn’t legally require a shelf life on bottled water. But because plastic can begin leaching into bottled water over time, they generally have an expiration date of 2 years from the date of manufacture. 

Figuring out how to stay hydrated is vital to your health, with water doing everything from preventing dehydration to carrying nutrients and oxygen to your entire body. So, what should you be using to hydrate – bottled water or a reusable water bottle? Single-use water bottles are popular because they’re an easy and fast solution to drink water. Reusable water bottles are a safer option to drink from and will save you money in the long run. Let’s take a closer look.

Do water bottles have an expiration date?

Although the FDA has decided that there’s no limit to the shelf life of bottled water, you may often see an expiry date on the bottle. But, does that mean water can go bad and “expire”? Well, yes and no. The water itself doesn’t go bad, but after a while, chemicals from the plastic bottle may start to leak into the water and even affect its taste or smell. 

According to the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) (opens in new tab), some companies still place date-based lot codes on bottles of water to help with managing stock rotation at distribution and retail points. This date-based lot code is also useful in detecting contamination, product recalls and bottling errors. 

The IBWA says that this date-based lot code isn’t an expiration date, and can be helpful for consumers who can use these same date codes to ensure they consume the oldest product first.

Should you use disposable or reusable water bottles?

Thinking of swapping your disposable water bottle to a reusable bottle? As well as saving you money in the long run, using a reusable bottle is better for the environment. According to the Water Project (opens in new tab), US landfills are currently overflowing with 2 million tons of discarded water bottles alone, and currently only 1 in 5 bottles can be recycled.  

Another concern is that storing bottled water for an extended period could in some cases pose potential health risks. Many water bottles still contain the chemical BPA, which stands for bisphenol-A (BPA). Although the health effects of BPA are still debated, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (opens in new tab) BPA can interfere with the body’s hormones, known as endocrine disruptors. The FDA has said that BPA is safe at low levels, but it has banned the chemical in formula packaging, infant bottles and sippy cups. 

Side View Of Young Woman Drinking While Sitting In Gym - stock photo

(Image credit: Getty Images 1054379874)

Although plastic water bottles are described as single-use, many of us still refill them. These bottles may leak chemicals when used repeatedly or if they have been left in the sunshine. The heat helps break down chemical bonds in plastics, and those chemicals can transfer into the water. 

One new analysis, conducted by the State University New York in Fredonia (opens in new tab), found that more than 90% of the world’s most popular bottled water contains tiny pieces of plastic, known as ‘microplastics’. The scientists found that “almost all were contaminated to some degree” with microplastics including nylon, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polypropylene and polystyrene. 

The World Health Organization (opens in new tab) has published a report looking into the impact of microplastics on human health. They currently conclude that the effects of microplastics on human health are unknown.

To avoid these chemicals: 

  • Never reuse a disposable bottle – frequent usage will cause a breakdown of the plastic, especially if washed at a high temperature. 
  • Invest in BPA-free plastic or a stainless-steel bottle. 
  • The IBWA says that it’s important to store bottled water in a cool place out of direct sunlight and away from household chemicals and solvents to ensure quality. 

How to care for your reusable bottle

It’s still important to take care of your reusable water bottle - and maintenance is key. Here are some ways to look after your reusable bottle:

  1. Ideally, wash your reusable bottle every day with warm soapy water, then rinse with fresh water. 
  2. Use a long bottle brush to scrub the walls and bottom of the bottle. 
  3. Dry off your bottle well to avoid reintroducing any bacteria. 
  4. Check whether your bottle is dishwasher-safe. If it is, it may be an easier and more convenient way to clean. 
  5. Avoid using fizzy drinks in a stainless-steel water bottle because it can corrode them and damage the lid. 
  6. It’s not recommended to add hot liquids into a single wall reusable water bottle because it can damage the bottle and you may be at risk of scalding yourself. 
  7. Never put your reusable bottle in the freezer as it can affect the bottle’s durability over time. 

Karen Gordon is a freelance writer and web content editor with a special interest in health, and is based in the United Kingdom, As well as contributing to Live Science Karen has written for a variety of other publications, including NetDoctor, Patient.co.uk, Good Housekeeping, Prima, Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar and others.