Gearing Up for a Sexy Summer? Quick Reminder That Both Lube and Condoms Expire

Picture this: It’s the heat of summer and you’re in the middle of a romp with a sexy stranger when you fumble through your nightstand for your trusty bottle of lube. But wait—“does lube expire?” you wonder, just as the A/C kicks into high-gear. The answer is "yes"! Consider this your quick PSA before we collectively get on our hot girl sh*t: Both condoms and lube expire.

Judging by this weekend’s weather, summer is this close to being here, and with that: the inevitable wave of new summer hookups. But before you go last-minute cleaning your room (if you get it, you get it), we just wanted to give you a quick reminder for safe sex’s sake that both condoms and lube expire. So, just as you swap out your winter wardrobe for breezier clothes, perhaps also double check on that bottle of lube in your nightstand for maximum peace of mind. We spoke to the experts to help you best assess if your lube is still good to go.

Experts In This Article
  • Andrea Giebel, Andrea Giebel is the head of quality management at the lubricant brand pjur.
  • Andrea Sleeth, APRN, nurse practitioner and medical operations lead at Wisp
  • Jess O'Reilly, PhD, sexologist and host of the podcast Sex With Dr. Jess
  • Lindsay Wynn, Lindsay Wynn is the co-founder and CEO of Momotaro Apotheca, a cosmetics company featuring a line of organic, natural, and balanced products for vaginal wellness.
  • Lucky Sekhon, MD, board-certified OB/GYN, reproductive endocrinologist, and infertility specialist
  • Mary Jane Minkin, MD, board-certified OB/GYN and clinical professor at the Yale University School of Medicine
  • Vince Spinnato, cosmetic chemist and certified nose

Does lube expire?

Yes, lube expires. “After the expiration date, lube can become more sticky in texture as opposed to slick to lubricate during use,” explains nurse practitioner Andrea Sleeth, APRN, medical operations lead at Wisp. Not only does this mean your lube can’t do the one job it has (which is to, you know, lubricate), but also, it can cause pain and other issues. “Expired lube can cause discomfort during sex and irritation that can increase the chance of a yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis, or other infections,” says cosmetic chemist Vince Spinnato. This means that for those with sensitive skin or prone to UTIs, keeping note of the expiration date is extra important. (It also might be worth specifically looking into lubes for sensitive skin and lubes to use if you're prone to UTIs.)

“It’s best to use your lube as soon as you can, instead of letting it sit on the shelf for years, collecting dust,” adds Sleeth. “Once you open a brand new lube, its expiration date accelerates,” Spinnato explains.

Instead, a good tip is to buy smaller bottles of lube that you’re likely to use up in a year or less, Spinnato adds. (Consider this your excuse to go shopping for a bunch of versions of lubes to try out and or have a ton of sex.)

Is it okay to use expired lube?

It’s not ideal to use expired lube or lubricant past its shelf life since, best-case scenario, it won’t do the one job it’s supposed to do, and worst-case scenario, it might expose you to some gnarly irritation and or infections, as noted above.

“Certain chemicals in lubricant can change properties over time in a way that could be irritating to skin or disrupt the normal balance of bacteria in the reproductive tract,” says board-certified OB/GYN Lucky Sekhon, MD. Spermicides, like Nonoxynol-9, which can be found in lubricant or as a coating on condoms, can also be less potent after its expiration date, says sexologist Jess O’Reilly, PhD. Other specialty lubes such as CBD lubes may also be less effective once expired.

What is the shelf life of lubricants?

"In general, a lube’s shelf life can vary between one and three years depending on the environment and conditions in which it is stored,” says Spinnato. The kind of lube (water vs. silicone) will also make a difference, which we’ll get into more in a bit.

That one-to three year mark isn’t just something out of thin air, but rather based on recommendations from the World Health Organization, Spinnato explains. These recommend that a shelf-life (or expiration date) of one to three years for most personal lubricants is best.

"In general, a lube’s shelf life can vary between one and three years.” —Vince Spinnato, cosmetic chemist

How can I tell if lube has expired?

You can tell if your lube has expired by checking the expiration date on the bottle, says Spinnato. You can also see if your lube is still good by squirting a bit of it in your hand (ideally, before you’re in the heat of the moment) and checking. Look for a chance in viscosity, explains Lindsay Wynn, co-founder and CEO of vaginal-wellness brand Momotaro Apotheca: “What might have once been super slippery and wet may now look and feel thicker, which can happen from evaporation and dehydration of the product.”

Dr. O’Reilly also adds that “if you observe anything unusual in its consistency, color, smell, or tackiness, you may want to replace it as a precautionary measure.” This is a good way to further investigate if your lube is still good, because panic-Googling "does lube expire"? or "is this still good?" every time gets annoying after a while.

What are the longest lasting lubricants?

Silicone-based lubes last the longest. This is because “water-based lubes tend to have a shorter lifespan than oil or silicone based lubricant due to their higher water content, which can cause them to spoil more quickly,” Spinnato explains.

How do you store lubricant?

Since the storage conditions of lube can affect its longevity, this is important. It’s best to keep lube in a cool and dry space, Sleeth says, as this ensures the lube doesn’t break down faster due to excess heat in the storage space. So if your lube has been sitting in a sunny spot or on top of your literal heater for the past three years, it’s probably time to replace it.

When do condoms expire?

“Latex and polyurethane condoms will last longer—closer to the five-year mark—than condoms made of polyisoprene, which typically expire after three years,” says Wynn. Natural materials like lambskin will expire even more quickly, adds Dr. Sekhon. So, if you can’t find an expiration date on the label of an old pack of condoms, you can always start by checking the ingredients list for the above materials, and doing the math from there.

If you’re still on the fence or can’t quite remember when you purchased a particular pack, open one up, and give it a good look. You might have to unroll it for a full assessment, but if the condom feels extra chalky, dry, or brittle, that’s a good sign that it's time to toss it, says Wynn.

Why can’t I use a condom that’s expired?

The main concern with an extra-old condom is that its dryness and brittleness could lead to cracking during sex, says OB/GYN Mary Jane Minkin, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine. That, of course, can reduce its overall efficacy in preventing pregnancy and transmission of STDs. Not to mention, the decrease in user-friendliness that might come with a chalky condom, which already sounds icky enough just on the page.

How should I store condoms?

All the experts recommend keeping both condoms and lube in a cool, dry place. That applies to any type of condom, latex, latex-alternative, flavored condoms, or other types. Room temperature is generally sufficient, but just like with lube, any excess heat or humidity could break down the ingredients in both products more quickly. Dr. Sekhon also suggests you avoid storing condoms in any place where there is a risk of tearing. This means keeping your condoms inside a toiletry bag with sharp objects is a no-no.

Keeping condoms inside a pocket (or a wallet that’s inside a pocket) for more than a few hours also isn’t recommended, as Dr. Sekhon notes that those spots get a lot of body heat. “If you’re planning on doing this, consider refreshing your supply often to ensure you have a fresh, unexpired condom whenever you’re ready to reach for it,” she adds.

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