In the vape community, e-liquid falls into a very strange category of household item. Is it a hobby item that goes in a kit, a non-perishable pantry item, a commodity that should be refrigerated? Is it long-lasting like industrial supplies or is it short-lived like groceries? If you vape fast enough, you might not even be aware that vape has an expiration date. But for slow vapers and lost bottles, it's important to understand that e-liquid can go off and you should be careful about the age of your e-liquid before taking a puff.
Of course, finding lost e-liquid happens all the time. A full tank that rolled under your desk. A favorite flavor from last year found under the seat of your car. A leftover flavor rediscovered in a kitchen drawer. And you can't help but wonder 'Can I vape this? Is this vape juice still good to use?'
So today, that's the question we're here to answer. This article is intended to include everything you need to know when determining if you want to vape that e-liquid that was just pulled out from between the couch cushions, the trunk of your car, or last year's travel kit.
How Long Does E-Liquid Last?
Expired versus Stale E-Liquid
The first important thing to know is that there's a difference between stale e-liquid and expired e-liquid. Both VG and PG have a shelf life that --at maximum-- lasts about two years at room temperature. This means that vape is reasonably durable, but it's no can of peaches. It will eventually go off, opened or unopened.
But long before vape officially expires, the flavor can become stale. This is a simple factor of lesser decay, where the quality of the base VG and suspended flavors has degraded slightly or come un-mixed. You can safely vape stale liquid, but it may be harsher and less rewarding than fresh juice. Then there's the matter of flavors. The flavors used to create the rich and varied palette of vape options are made of all different substances, from fruit concentrates to classic spices.
So it should be no surprise that flavors age in different ways and at different rates. So you'll want to judge each flavor individually.
3-6 Months or 1-2 Years
When you buy a new bottle of e-liquid, you can be sure it will last for at least 3 months in a reasonable indoor environment, and most will last as much as a year or more indoors. Of course, every brand and flavor is different based on both the mix of the e-liquid vape and the unique mix of flavors inside. Some e-liquid bottles will last unchanged and in good quality for as much as five years, while others experience a change of flavor in only a few months.
Vapers generally get to know the time-to-stale and expiration length for their favorite brands and flavors.
Is This Vape Still Good?
Check For an Expiration Date
So you've found an old bottle of vape. Or a friend says you can try a flavor rattling around in their house. How do you know if it's safe to fill a tank and puff? The first way to tell is to check the expiration date on the bottle itself. Every commercially sold bottle of e-liquid has an expiration date that notes approximately when the ingredients have degraded beyond advised consumption quality.
In most cases, it's actually safe to vape 'expired' e-liquid, but you won't get as enjoyable an experience as the flavor and quality will have deteriorated.
Time in the Tank
Then there's e-liquid you find in an old lost tank. For all the leaking we face as vapers, it's sometimes miraculous how one well-screwed tank can hold liquid for days, weeks, even months without losing a single drop. If you have found a tank you lost ages ago that is still full of e-liquid and are wondering if it can be vaped ... don't.
Seriously. Tanks, wicks, and coils work best if you empty them regularly and don't leave vape inside. Vape inside a tank is more likely to decay and, worse, decay inside the wicks than liquid in a sealed bottle. Any e-liquid that's been in a tank for more than a couple of days should be dumped and your coils replaced.
Nicotine and Air Exposure
If you vape nicotine e-liquid, there's an additional concern of liquid quality. Nicotine concentrate responds to exposure to air, reducing the potency and the quality of flavor. Nicotine isn't the only vape additive that responds poorly to air, which is why it's important to keep vape bottles sealed for the longest possible quality and shelf life. If you are going to store nicotine vape for a long time, try to do so with completely sealed bottles.
Original Color vs Current Color
Original Thickness vs Current Thickness
Vape liquid can also increase in thickness as it gets old. VG is thicker than PG, but no vape professionally mixed is actually syrupy. Even the thickest e-liquid sloshes around like a viscous oil. If your e-liquid is super thick or significantly thicker than it was when you bought it, then it's probably aging in a way that won't vape the same way anymore. After all, liquid thickness is a huge part of vape quality and the temperatures you need to set your batteries to.
Warm or Cool Storage
Then there's the condition an old bottle of vape has been stored in. If it's been in a dark cool drawer in your desk, it's more likely to have resisted the ravages of time. Vape lasts the longest and at the best quality when kept in sealed bottles in cool temperatures and out of the light. So, on the flip-side, vape that has been in a really warm place or indirect light, then it's a lot more likely to have 'steeped' to the point of decay.
Vape in your desk or pantry, more likely to be safe than vape lost in your car.
Does it Smell Right?
Finally, take a sniff. You can't always tell but vape is made of natural ingredients like vegetable oil and plant extracts. E-liquid should smell light and sweet and delicious. And like the flavor, you bought when you bought it. If your nose gives you danger signals when you take a whiff of the lost-and-found bottle, trust your instincts. Our noses know the smell of spoiled oil or rotten fruit material. So if you vape has been sitting in the sun or in the hot trunk of your car for too long, your nose will let you know.
So is that vape juice safe? Use these methods to find out before you take your first curious puff.