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Does Vaseline Expire? 

Survival skills include knowledge of the basic tools and solutions that can be of great assistance in a survival situation. Known from the early 1870s, Vaseline is one of the most popular household items around the world. Being a trading name for petroleum jelly, Vaseline has met multiple uses over the last fifteen hundred years. But here’s the question: will your Vaseline stash ever expire? Read our article to find it out and learn more about the world’s most famous lubricant’s survival features and working hacks to use it.

The Brief History of Vaseline

Before we jump into the issue of using petroleum jelly past its expiration date, let’s take a brief look at what Vaseline is and how it came to existence.

Vaseline is a copyrighted name used for petroleum jelly. The product was made and is distributed by the Unilever company. And although there are tons of other petroleum jelly types out there, Vaseline still remains the biggest brand name among other lesser-known (and cheaper) lubricants.

Petroleum jelly gets its jelly-like semi-dense texture thanks to its content that includes a number of hydrocarbons, mineral oils, and waxes.

The discovery of the vaseline petroleum jelly mixture will take us back to the 1850s. That’s when the US’s oil refinery workers accidentally found that the substance is very useful in treating cuts and burns. Petroleum jelly made oil rig workers’ wounds heal up faster.

Sometime later, Robert Chesebrough, a young chemist from Spring Lake, New Jersey, improved the formula that workers used to create a more sophisticated light-colored gel. The aim was to make a brand new ointment for medical use. And this is how vaseline, one of the most famous pharmaceutical products, was created. Want to learn if bleach can expire as well?

What People Use Vaseline Petroleum Jelly For

Vaseline Pure Petroleum Jelly

For the last fifteen hundred years, vaseline petroleum jelly has met extensive use throughout the world. Today, you may witness tons of various purposes people use petroleum jelly for. Small surprise it can be found in nearly all medical kits together with Neosporin, activated charcoal, survival antibiotics, and other essentials.

  • One of the most popular of those purposes is a medical one which is the main use for the lotion. People use petroleum jelly for minor cuts, dry skin, and diaper rash treatment, treating chapped lips.
  • Another thing petroleum jelly is great for is lubricating mechanical elements in bikes, cars (and other vehicles and tools for vehicles), as well as for lubricating machinery to protect mechanisms from wear out, and even clothing elements like zippers.
  • Petroleum jelly is also useful for make-up removal.
  • Finally, pet owners often use this lotion for hairball treatments.
  • With all of the aforementioned purposes (and many of others that we left unmentioned), one can wonder if there is some kind of powerful ingredient that makes petroleum jelly such a multi-task household, industrial and cosmetic product.
  • After all, if one single gel can have so many benefits and be used as a lube for mechanisms, skin moisturizer, chapped fingers ointment, and more, there must be some kind of secret about it. But in reality, there is no secret about petroleum jelly, nor is there any sort of an active ingredient that would give petroleum jelly its household and pharmacologic effectiveness.

The most impressive thing about petroleum jelly is that it does not have an active ingredient like you would expect from most cosmetic products. The basic ingredient is petroleum. That’s what actually makes this gel such an effective lubricant and moisturizer. Among other ingredients that make the petroleum jelly mixture are mineral oils and waxes. And that’s it. For all these years, ever since petroleum jelly was branded as Vaseline, its form has mainly remained the same without significantly changing. And it has been among the contents of survival backpacks, too.

Does Vaseline Have an Expiration Date?

Let us consider vaseline in terms of its survival storage features. From lubricating mechanisms to treating skin dryness and more, Vaseline is a must-have for every household. You can store it in your medicine cabinet or on a shelf with tools in your garage. One thing you know for sure – there will come the time when you need some vaseline. But for how long can you store it? Does the lotion have a long shelf-life, or will it eventually pass its expiration date and no longer be fit for safe use? Can you use old petroleum jelly, whether for household, medical or cosmetic purposes?

The good thing is that since there is no active ingredient in petroleum jelly, it does not expire. At least, the way we usually understand this term. However, this does not mean that there are no rules in storing vaseline. As with most pharmaceutical products, vaseline must be stored properly. For instance, your best choice is to store a tub of petroleum jelly somewhere away from direct sunlight. The temperature level must be below room temperature. With these conditions, feel free to store a tub of petroleum jelly for up to 5 or even 10 years – the gel will not lose its pharmacologic properties and will still be fit for use.

As for the manufacturer’s recommendations, the Unilever company (the company that produces Vaseline) advises keeping a jar of vaseline for three years considering the prescribed storing requirements.

What About Shelf-Life?

But the question still remains. If petroleum jelly has such a long shelf life and does not really expire beyond safe use, why do some manufacturers place an expiration date on their petroleum jelly packages?

Due to the FDA regulations, a vast majority of so-called personal care products which are deemed cosmetics don’t have to have expiration dates printed on their packaging. Still, some manufacturers choose to include expiration date information for their products, just in case. Besides, there is a number of Vaseline products that are deemed both cosmetics and drugs since they have healing characteristics. This makes such products to be necessarily marked with the “best before” date.

So if you have an old jar of petroleum jelly that has a best before date on it, this means that either the product inside is certified as a drug or the manufacturing company chose to include the expiration date for buyer’s information and to legally protect themselves. If your tub of petroleum jelly — unline a tube of superglue — does not have the best before date, this means that it’s certified as a plain cosmetic product and you can put it safely into your medical kit.

Takeaway

Let’s do a quick recap:

  • A jar of vaseline can be stored for up to ten years (until one of its components – hydrocarbons fully degrade). The latter will lead to the loss of petroleum jelly’s moisture barrier characteristics which means that the gel will no longer hold moisture and will be of no use.
  • There are two kinds of vaseline products according to the FDA regulations – pure cosmetics and drugs. These two kinds of products are regulated in different ways. Cosmetic products are not required to have the best before date on the packaging. Whereas vaseline products are FDA-certified as drugs must have expiration dates on them.
  • Despite having no actual best before period, vaseline products must be stored properly to ensure longer shelflife.

Can You Use Old Petroleum Jelly?

So with all the information above, you may still be wondering can you use old vaseline. Like really old – the one that you have been keeping for the last few years and you can’t even remember when you bought it. Is it still safe to use?

Well, if the vaseline is not decades old, it is less likely to be dangerous. As we said earlier, petroleum jelly does not have any active components that may become hazardous as they degrade. So old vaseline is pretty much safe to use for successful prepping and surviving emergencies.

However, that fact does not mean that you use a thirty-year-old vaseline that you accidentally found in your medicine cabinet to treat chapped fingers and hoping it will do just fine. This is especially a bad idea if the jar has not been kept tightly shut. And here’s why.

Beware of Bacteria

An opened jar of vaseline can become a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi. While pure petroleum jelly by itself is not considered to be the best place where bacteria grow – since there are not enough nutrients for microorganisms in pure vaseline -you can still become the source of that problem. You see, each time you’re using vaseline, you put your fingers into the jelly. This way, you may introduce bacteria into the gel. If that happens, vaseline gets contaminated. From then on, bacteria and fungi may start to grow. So when you come to use vaseline next time for smearing it into your cuts and chapped skin, the contaminated jelly may cause infection in your organism.

However, you can still safely use overdue petroleum jelly for household purposes. And though it may get less effective over the years, it’s still fine for lubricating mechanisms and such. There’s just one recommendation, though – when using old vaseline lubricating things around your house, wear rubber gloves to avoid contracting the contents.

Health Concerns

Another thing you should be aware of is that not all vaseline-like products are made of pure petroleum jelly. Some may include a vast array of extra components that degrade differently over time which may lead to certain results making such products quite dangerous when they get past their best before date. For instance, in the most extreme cases, using such overdue generic products may cause vision loss.

To understand if a product is not fit for use, you may smell it or exam its texture. Abnormal strong odor or inappropriate texture of the gel may signal that the product is overdue and you have to replace it with a new one.

Conclusion

Vaseline can be stored for up to ten years and does not technically expire. However, it requires proper storing conditions. You can use overdue petroleum jelly if the package was stored properly and was tightly shut. An old opened jar can contain bacteria in it. If you use such petroleum gel, you may introduce bacteria into your cuts, scratches, etc. Generic petroleum jellies may include various extra components that may become hazardous past the best before period. If oil gel looks or smells weird, don’t use it. You can use an expired solution for household and technical purposes, like smoothing the details of instruments from your survival checklist.

FAQs

How do you know if Vaseline is expired?

You may look for the best before information on the package. If there is none, try smelling it or examining its texture. If the gel smells or looks odd, don’t use it. Your best option is to replace the old jar with a new one. Or you may use the coconut oil and shea butter blend as a replacement homemade lube.

Do bacteria grow in Vaseline?

Bacteria can’t grow in pure vaseline. But you can introduce them yourself. Each time you’re putting your fingers into a jar, you’re at risk of contaminating the gel with the bacteria on your skin.

Can you use expired lotion?

You can use overdue lotion for household or technical purposes. Using an expired lotion for cosmetic and medical purposes (skin treatment, etc.) is not recommended unless the tub has been stored tightly shut and has not been opened before.

How to check vaseline expiry date?

Some companies choose to put expiry information on their products. However, technically, vaseline (white petrolatum as its main component) does not expire, so you may have a product with no best before information on it.

Author

A former USA Army sergeant and a highly educated survivalist and prepper with a degree and interest in Engineering and Electronics, Mike Millerson applies his extensive expertise in survivalism, homesteading, backpacking, hiking and hunting, spreading his deep knowledge about handling emergencies and prepping for them reasonably and effectively.

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