Does Vaseline Petroleum Jelly Expire or Go Bad?


Petroleum has many benefits. It can be used as a moisturizer, used as a lube for stuck objects, heal diaper rash, burns, and scars. It can also be healing for your pet’s paws. Vaseline is so versatile has become a staple in every home, and for a good reason. It can solve almost any problem you have in your home. But how long does it last, and does it go bad?

Well, I’ve done the research for you. Here is everything you need to know…

While a “best by date” of 3 years is often found on Vaseline or other petroleum jelly brands, it can last up to 10 years or even longer after being opened. To extend the life of petroleum jelly, never stick your fingers into the jar. This will help keep harmful bacteria or fungi from being introduced.

Please keep reading for a deeper dive into the topic. That way, you can be fully informed on the shelf life, storage guidelines, and how to tell when petroleum jelly has potentially gone bad.

How Long Does Petroleum Jelly Last? – Shelf Life

Want to know another reason why Vaseline is so great? It has a really long shelf life. Its characteristics do not change for at least five to ten years, and maybe even longer.

Now, manufacturers have to add an expiration date. Usually, the “best by” date is about three years. That’s because manufacturers like Unilever (the ones who make Vaseline) must follow safety measures. Therefore, an end date must be put in place.

You may find that some petroleum jelly has an expiration date, while others don’t. There’s a reason for that. You see, petroleum jelly is considered a cosmetic product, and cosmetic products aren’t required by law to have an expiration date.

So, don’t be alarmed if your petroleum jelly does not have a use-by date.

Can the Life Span of Petroleum Jelly Be Extended?

Technically, yes. It is all about how you store it. It’s not that you can really extend the life span of it per se, but more to do with how you preserve and look after it.

Where ever you look around your house, you can probably find a tub of Vaseline or petroleum jelly.

The storage of petroleum jelly can be optimized to extend or maximize its shelf life. According to Vaseline, the best way to store a petroleum jelly container is away from sunlight and heat sources such as radiators. The best way to preserve it is to keep it at room temperature in a dark cupboard.

So, next time you see your tub of petroleum jelly lying around the house, pick it up, and throw it in your cupboard.

Is Vaseline Flammable?

You would think that it most likely is. But, guess what?

Vaseline is not flammable. In fact, it is entirely safe and is not a fire hazard. It has to be heated to over 400 °F before it will react to heat and give up “vapors.”

So, if you were ever concerned about it being a flammable product, you don’t need to be.

How Do You Know When Vaseline Expires?

Here’s the thing, Vaseline doesn’t really expire.

Unopened petroleum jelly degrades very slowly and might take a lifetime or longer to go bad. There are technically no active ingredients in it to expire. The only reason many brands include an expiration date is due to being regulated by the FDA and required by them.

What it does do, is lose its effectiveness over time. It will lose it’s effectiveness even quicker if you do not store it correctly. Petroleum jelly is made from hydrocarbons, which degrade over time. But, the degrading period is a very slow process.

There are a couple of things you can look out for if you have an inkling that your Vaseline may have expired. For example, if it has changed in color, or has a smell that you didn’t notice before, then it is best to throw it and buy a new one.

Pro Tip: If your petroleum jelly jar contains other ingredients, then you should always read the label and follow instructions. You should always follow the safety guidance regardless, but it usually isn’t a problem if your jar is 100% percent petroleum jelly.

Can Bacteria Grow in Vaseline?

This is a tricky one.

While there aren’t enough nutrients in petroleum jelly for bacteria to grow, it does not mean that the jar can’t get contaminated. Certain fungi and bacteria and survive in your Vaseline jar. Your fingers can transfer bacteria into the jar every time you use it.

Your skin cells can provide the moisture and nutrients for bacteria to survive. Even though it won’t last long, if you are other family members use it, more bacteria are likely to be transferred.

The best way is to scoop out the amount you need using a spoon.

Is Expired Vaseline Dangerous?

If you have had your Vaseline jar for more than 10 years, is expired, or may be contaminated, it can cause infection. While this is unlikely because let’s face it, Vaseline has so many uses, and it’s doubtful that it would last that long.

In general, expired Vaseline is not dangerous. Petroleum jelly has no pharmacological properties. In other words, it has no chemicals, drugs, or compounds that would make it hazardous if expired. If your Vaseline jar has gone past its expiration date but looks and smells fine, it should be safe to use.

But, that depends on what you want to use it for. For example, if you’re going to use it as a moisturizer and part of your skincare routine, then it’s best to buy a new one.

Heck, it’s really cheap anyway! Another added benefit.

But that doesn’t mean that you should let your old jar go to waste if it seems fine. You can leave the old petroleum jelly for other uses around the house, such as:

  • Make items shiny- Wood surfaces, shoes, leather, etc.; a tiny lather is all you need!
  • Stain remover- A dollop of petroleum jelly can get rid of stains from coffee to make up
  • Slug repellent- Combine salt and Vaseline and apply it to any cracks around the house; this will stop any slimy slugs from entering.
  • Protect skin from chafing- If you play sports, you may be all too familiar with chafing. Massage it onto your skin where your areas are exposed.

What Exactly Is Petroleum Jelly Anyway?

Did you know that Robert Augustus Chesebrough discovered Vaseline in 1859? He noticed that oil workers used a gooey jelly-like substance to heal their wounds and burns.

And that’s how Vaseline was born.

Petroleum jelly, originally known as “Wonder Jelly,” is a mixture of waxes and mineral oils. Chesebrough was a young chemist that began to study ”rod wax.” After he refined it, it came to be the transparent substance we all know.

The Bottom Line

The uses for Vaseline seem endless. That is why it is a must to keep around the house. It is effective, lasts longs, and won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

Just remember to store it correctly, use it efficiently and enjoy it in all its glory.

Thanks for reading!

For more, don’t miss Is It Safe to Use Wd-40 on Car Paint? | What You Need to Know.

Jim James

Hey, I'm Jim and the author of this website. I have always been interested in survival, fishing, camping, and anything in nature. In fact, while growing up I spent more time on the water than on land! I am also a best-selling author and have a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. I hope you find value in the articles on this website. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or input!

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