Packaging water into plastic bottles has several benefits that have standardized how water is sold and distributed. Plastic bottles are convenient for large and small families and can be kept in storage long-term. They are routinely used during emergencies to get clean drinking water to victims, and can easily be transported in bulk. Bottled water can also come in different varieties, whether it be distilled, purified, or filtered. But can water packaged in bottles go bad?
Bottled water deteriorates over time because of its container more than the water itself. Bottled water has a shelf life of 2 years. In the refrigerator, opened bottled water may only last 4-6 days. Freezing bottled water is not recommended unless the water is transferred into a freezer-safe bottle. Freezing will keep bottled water potable for 7-11 years. Water will last longer in more durable containers, such as glass or stainless steel.
If you have bottled water in storage and are unsure if they’re still safe to drink, read on as we cover the shelf life of bottled water and how best to store it.
Does Bottled Water Go Bad? How Long Does Bottled Water Last?
It’s important to understand that while water does not necessarily spoil, the contents of plastic and other materials may break down into the water and be unhealthy over time.
How Long Does Bottled Water Last Outside?
Bottled water lasts 1-2 years when stored at room temperature. It is not required by the FDA to label water with an expiration date but generally, water will stay fresh within the year if kept out of sunlight.
Plastic bottles are made up of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a chemical that gives bottles their shape. When exposed to heat or light, PET deteriorates over time and leaks into the water.
How Long Does Bottled Water Last In The Fridge?
Bottled water lasts 3-5 days when kept in the fridge once opened. If bottles are sealed and unopened, their shelf life will extend to 6-12 months.
Air and heat will damage the container so if exposed, the water will go bad in 2 months or less.
Plastic bottles will maintain their composition in cool, dry environments so the fridge is an ideal place to keep bottled water.
How Long Does Bottled Water Last In The Freezer?
Freezing bottled later will extend its shelf life to 7-11 years. The water will be safe to drink indefinitely, but freezing may alter the bottle’s composition and alter the taste. Also, water expands in the freezer and may cause plastic bottles to explode.
Bottled water can be transferred into a glass or stainless steel container to maintain its freshness and quality over a long period.
To sum up, bottled water begins to break down due to its container and is best kept in a cool, dry place away from heat. Changing from plastic to glass or stainless steel is also another way to preserve bottled water’s shelf life.
How Do I Tell If Bottled Water Has Gone Bad?
Bottled water does not have any material that can spoil as food has, but there are a few signs that can help you figure out if it’s turned bad.
Taste: This is the most accurate way to check for freshness. Take a small sip of the water and check for a ‘plastic’ taste. Any hint of an artificial taste means the plastic has begun to deteriorate and has leaked into the bottle.
Smell: Old bottled water will give off a subtle but recognizable plastic smell when it’s been left out in the sun too long. Water does not have a strong smell unless it’s flavored or fragranced so if you smell anything when opening it, the bottle has started to break down into the water.
Mold: On rare occasions, opened bottles of water may develop mold. This could be due to food being lodged inside the crevices of the bottle’s mouth. If you detect mold, throw out the water.
How Do I Store Bottled Water?
Bottled water is best kept away from heat and light in the pantry or cabinet. Light and heat deteriorate the quality of plastic bottles over time and can dilute your bottled water with harmful chemicals that can affect your digestive system over time.
Ideally, transfer bottled water into either a stainless steel or glass container and place it in the fridge. Make sure these containers are airtight to maintain freshness. Another benefit to using glass or stainless steel is that they are less permeable than plastic. Plastic bottles are semi-permeable and might absorb some of the smells or tastes in the fridge.
Can You Freeze Bottled Water?
Yes, the freezer can also be a good place to store bottled water if transferred into a stronger container. Water will expand in the freezer and may burst plastic bottles kept too long. Stainless steel is the best option as glass bottles can break.
Another option is to purchase BPA-free or chemical-free bottles to store in the freezer so the bottle will not morph or risk bursting.
How Do You Thaw Bottled Water?
To thaw bottled water, bring the bottle down into the fridge and let it thaw. Depending on how insulated the container is, it could take between 6-8 hours to thaw completely.
Another way to thaw bottled water is to place the bottle in a bowl of lukewarm water. It should defrost in 20-30 minutes.
FAQs about Bottled Water Shelf Life
Does a bottled water’s shelf life change if the water is distilled/purified/filtered/tap? There are no major differences with shelf life if your water is distilled, filtered, or purified. All of these processes are enforced by EPA’s standards and thus are safe to drink and have similar shelf lives.
Why doesn’t bottled water have printed expiration dates? The Food and Drug Association considers that water has an indefinite shelf life and claims water is safe to consume so long as the bottle has not been tampered with or opened. Sometimes, manufacturers will place a “Best By” date to ensure freshness and it’s usually within 2 years of being bottled.
Always remember to store bottled water away from sunlight and heat to ensure plastic does not leach into the water. Knowing the best way to store bottled will not only ensure freshness, but it will also guarantee that water is safe to drink in case of emergencies.