Does Bottled Water Expire?
As far as we know, everything has an expiration date but does bottled water expire? This article from Office Water Services has information on how to handle your bottled water.
You’re on your way out the door and throw a water bottle in your bag without looking at it. Later you get thirsty, but when you open your water bottle, you realize it’s passed its expiration date.
Is this water still safe to drink?
In order to get the answer, we have to ask a few more questions.
- Does water go bad?
- Is water always safe to drink?
- Does the way water gets stored make it more or less safe?
So let’s dig in a little deeper. Take a look at this bottled water guide to find out if your expired water is still safe or if you should just throw it out.
Determining the Safety of Water
An expiration date on your water bottle doesn’t mean the water is unsafe to drink. In fact, the water is probably completely fine.
You see, water doesn’t actually go bad.
It is physically unable to spoil.
So no matter how many years have passed since the expiration date, you can drink that bottle of water and not have a problem. This is especially true if the bottle hasn’t been opened yet.
What Does “Going Bad” Mean?
A lot of food goes bad because of its contact with the air.
Air is mostly made of oxygen (21%) and nitrogen (78%). These things can interact with food properties like vitamins, fats, food colors, flavors, etc. and make them deteriorate.
For example, when oxygen touches the food, it can create the growth microorganisms. This means things like mold and bacteria can form in or on the food.
This causes the food to spoil or “go bad.”
Why Doesn’t This Happen to Water?
Water isn’t like food.
It doesn’t have any proteins, fats, sugars, or other things food has. So when water is exposed to air, it can’t produce any microorganisms. This means mold and bacteria aren’t growing and making the water rot.
Water stays pretty much the same when it’s exposed to water as it was before. (We say “pretty much” because there are a few difference, but we’ll get into that later.)
So Is Expired Bottled Water Safe to Drink?
Yes. Water never goes bad.
Furthermore, the bottle actually protects the water inside. Because the water is sealed in a bottle, it hasn’t been exposed to any substances that might make it unsafe to drink.
Don’t worry about that expiration date. Any water in a bottle is a safe bet.
Then Why Are There Expiration Dates on Bottled Water?
Everything else in the grocery store has an expiration date, so bottled water got one too.
It actually started because, in 1987, an NJ state law mandated that all food products sold needed to have an expiration date. This date had to be two or fewer years from the manufacture date.
After that, bottled water just got slapped with a two-year expiration date.
That mandate doesn’t exist anymore, but most people still put an expiration date on their water bottles because it’s part of their production.
Storing Bottled Water
Water doesn’t go bad, but the plastic bottle it’s held in is another story.
Plastic water bottles are somewhat porous, meaning the water inside can start to taste like the place it’s being stored. If you store your bottled water in the garage, it might start to taste like petroleum, or if you store it in the refrigerator, it could take on the flavor of whatever else you have inside.
These aftertastes take a while to form, and though they may taste bad, they are harmless.
An old bottle stored in the basement is just as safe as a fresh bottle in your kitchen.
How Do I Store Water without Getting an Aftertaste?
If you want to store water for long periods of time and don’t want to end up with a disgusting flavor, keep it in glass bottles.
Outside odors and tastes can’t get inside a glass bottle, so you’re water will likely taste nice and fresh when you decide to drink it.
Is Water Always Safe to Drink?
Because water doesn’t go bad, it is usually safe to drink, but there are times when water will make you sick.
If you leave a cup of water uncovered on the counter for too long, dust and debris from inside your house can land in the water, making it unsanitary. But you would have to leave it on the counter for a long time. In most cases, bacteria needs other nutrients (like flowers) to grow in water.
But you probably shouldn’t drink a cup of water that’s been left outside for several hours, let along a few days. Bacteria are more likely to grow in this water because of what could fall inside.
Besides that, it could become a nesting ground for mosquito larva. Drinking that can make you sick… and no one wants to drink mosquito larva anyway.
What About That Weird Taste an Old Cup of Water Gets?
Again, that’s just a taste, nothing dangerous about it.
Cups left uncovered on the counter overnight may taste a little funny the next day because of their exposure to the air. The water absorbs some of the CO2 from the air, which lowers the Ph of water and makes it taste a little different.
But it’s still completely safe to drink.
Don’t Overly Worry about the Expiration Date
In short, the expiration date on your water doesn’t mean anything. It’s just left over from a regulation back in 1987 that required expiration dates on every product being sold.
Bottled water is almost always safe to drink. The air or bad smells might make it taste a little different, but it won’t hurt you or make you sick.
The only water you should be cautious of is water that’s been left outside, especially if it wasn’t covered. If any water is going to make you sick, it’s this type of water. Of course good advise is also ‘when it doubt, don’t drink the water’.
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