Glow Sticks: How Long Do They Last?

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It is needless to say that knowledge is key when it comes to survival, especially in 2023. Even a super-hard case becomes easier when you know what to do in any situation. With knowledge come properly honed survival skills. And with them— the ability to pack your survival bag and prepare your survival shelter so that no economic collapse or off-the-grid situation will ever scare you. Preparedness is the way to go. To be well-prepared means to have all you need to survive: survival weapons, survival food and water, and your belief in yourself. But there is a lot more!

To the point

Remember glow sticks? You know, these tiny glowing sticks that you see at either concerts or children’s parties? Well, what if I told you that a glow stick is not just a fun little toy for kids but also a very useful tool for a survivalist, as well as a bug out bag for children.?

A glow light stick is basically a sealed tube with a mix of two chemicals: a base catalyst and a suitable dye. Glow sticks, also known as light sticks, can emit light without any outside power source and provide short-term illumination, proving to be quite important in a survival situation.

Today, we will be discussing the advantages of adding light sticks to your survival kit, their qualities, and their characteristics. How long will a glowstick glow? How do they work? Are they toxic?

In this article, we will try to answer these and some other questions that might be bugging you.

How Do Glow Sticks Work?

So what is a glow stick, and how does it work?

A light stick is essentially a plastic tube filled with a chemical called hydrogen peroxide and containing a glass vial inside. There are two chemicals inside a glass capsule of a glow item – Phenyl Oxalate and fluorescent dye solution. The hydrogen peroxide solution is positioned between the capsule and the outer plastic casing.

The exact chemicals used may be different from product to product. For instance, some glowsticks use a chemical called dibutyl phthalate, while other models glow due to a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and phthalic ester contained a glass vial inside their plastic tubes.

When you bend a light stick, the capsule breaks, freeing the chemicals, the chemicals mix, and a chemical reaction begins inside, due to which the stick begins to glow intensely with beautiful luminescent light. The light emitted by glow sticks looks similar to a radioactive glow, but there’s nothing radioactive involved in the chemical process.

How Long Do Glow Sticks Last?

The glow duration of an activated glow stick depends on several factors:

  • the glow stick’s brand
  • the stick’s length
  • the amount of the chemical glow inside of the inner tube
  • the exact chemicals inside of the stick

Based on said factors, a glow stick can last from a few hours to a few days. Most standard glowsticks commonly used in day-to-day life will glow from eight to twelve hours, with some lasting up to 24 hours. Long-lasting glow sticks produce light for so long due to a special powder-based formula that they use.

How Long Is The Shelf Life of a Glow Stick?

Glow sticks can expire, and you can either prolong or shorten their shelf life based on the conditions you store them in. In general, when wrapped in foil packaging, most glow sticks can last for up to two years. Glow products without foil packaging have a much shorter shelf life and will only last for a year or so. You can make their shelf life longer by putting your glow products in a cool dark place. Ambient temperature will help your glow sticks last longer as well.

How to Make Glow Sticks Last Longer

You can’t really turn off a glow stick. However, you can slow down the chemical reaction inside the stick, allowing for a longer lifespan of the product. Colder temperatures slow down any reactions, and the one that makes your stick glow is not an exception. Once the chemical reaction inside the plastic tube has begun, you can only slow it down by putting your light stick in the freezer or otherwise cooling it down. Putting an activated glow light product in cold water might help as well. However, after you take the glow stick out of the freezer, you’ll have to wait for a while before it reaches room temperature and starts glowing again. Lightsticks used in cooler temperatures will glow less brightly, but their glowing time will increase significantly.


  • If you heat your light stick, it will emit brighter light but stay lit for a much shorter time. To make your light stick glow brighter, put it into warm water.

After your glowstick stops glowing and the chemical reaction that causes the glow effect stops completely, there is no way to refill the stick, restart the chemical reaction, and use it again, so you will need to throw it away.

How To Utilize Glowsticks

Unfortunately, glow products are not recyclable. Once it runs out, you cannot refill your glow product and reuse it. Before throwing it in the trash, make sure that it does not have any punctures to prevent the chemicals from leaking and thus polluting the soil. To ensure that the chemicals will not leak, we recommend that you put your glow stick into a plastic bottle or a plastic bag before throwing it away. A broken glow stick must be utilized as soon as possible. Look out for the glass pieces fallen on the ground, and clean up the spilled liquid with water and soap.

Are Glow Sticks Safe?

The liquids inside your glow sticks are minimally toxic, so unless you drink a whole gallon of glowing chemicals or use them as face cream, you should be fine: direct contact with the chemicals inside the stick will most likely only slightly irritate your skin or cause throat irritation when ingested.

The consequences from coming into close contact with the chemicals inside of your glow sticks include:

  • Minor mouth irritation
  • Minor throat irritation
  • Minor skin redness and irritation

If you spill the liquid from your glowstick, simply wash the affected area. If the liquid gets on your clothes, wash it quickly before it dries to avoid getting a permanent stain on your shirt or your pants.

Glowsticks For Survivalists

As a survivalist, you already know how important it is to have some source of illumination in a situation of survival. Many survivalists pack their bags with dozens of lighters, survival matches, and flashlights yet totally overlook the possibility of using glow sticks for survival.

While light sources like flashlights and lighters should be present and plural in any survival kit, glow sticks deserve your attention too:

  • They are windproof, waterproof, and weatherproof;
  • They do not require electricity or any external power source;
  • They are completely self-sufficient and relatively cheap;
  • Glowsticks are also fairly hard to break;
  • They do not require oxygen;
  • They are lightweight, easy to transport, and will not stop functioning if dropped, unlike most candles and matches – once the chemical reaction inside of the glow stick begins, there is no way a glow stick stops. It will keep going, producing light, no matter the conditions.
  • Glowsticks are not a fire hazard, as they are non-flammable, so you will not need to worry about accidentally setting other things on fire.
  • Finally, glowsticks are safe to use in any environment.

Another nice feature of glow sticks is that some of them can be easily turned into bracelets. By putting these bracelets on children, for example, you will make them easily seen in the dark, lowering the possibility of getting lost in the darkness. Similarly, glow sticks can be attached to certain objects so you can easily identify them in the dark.

A long-lasting glow stick product with an increased glowing time with a special powder-based formula works best in emergencies. You wouldn’t want your glow stick to go out in just a couple of hours, so the ones that only last for 2 hours are off the table. You will also need the brightest ones possible.

Of course, there are certain disadvantages of using glow sticks for survival purposes. Namely, they are not extremely bright, they will start losing their brightness after a few hours, and they cannot be turned off or reused.

Nevertheless, glow sticks are definitely worth your time and money, and you should probably buy a few packs for your survival medical kit.

To Sum Up

Glow sticks can serve as a great illumination tool in an emergency. They usually last for up to 12 hours, and there are certain tips and tricks you can use to make your glow stick last for an even longer period of time. Lightsticks are safe, inexpensive, lightweight, easily transportable, and hard to break. They will be a great addition to your survival bag.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How long do most glow sticks last?

It depends on various factors, from the brand of the glow stick to the chemicals within the glass vial. Most glowsticks last from 8 to 12 hours. Some glow sticks have a longer glowing period: they can stay lit for as long as 24 hours. You can prolong the lifespan of your glow light stick by putting it in the freezer, in cold water, or otherwise cooling it down, thus slowing the chemical reaction inside of the sealed tube filled with chemicals.

What color glow stick lasts the longest?

Green and yellow glow sticks contain less dye than other glowsticks, so they are purer and generally emit brighter light.

How long do mini glow sticks last?

Most mini glow sticks will only last for 4 hours or so. There are, however, special long-lasting ones that can glow for about a day. Mini glow sticks are very portable, can easily fit in your pockets, and are very cheap. You can also attach them to important objects so that they don’t get lost in the darkness.

How toxic are glow sticks?

Glow sticks are minimally toxic! As long as you don’t drink a gallon of the chemicals inside the sticks or put the liquids all over your face, you’ll be safe. Chemicals used in glow sticks will only cause minor inconveniences like skin redness and throat irritation. However, you should not keep a leaking glow stick: if you notice a broken one, throw it in the trash immediately.


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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