How Long Does Perfume Last? [It’s Got To Expire Sometime!]

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We’ve all seen it.

That bottle in granny’s bathroom cabinet that seems to have lasted for a thousand years. It’s covered in dust, the liquid is not quite viscous yet, and it is definitely a brand of perfume that no longer exists.

How Long Does Perfume Last

Yet, that doesn’t stop grandma from dutifully taking it out and giving herself a loving spritz from it.

If this has been a common occurrence in your house growing up, then you may be asking the same question that you did when you first saw this happen:

How long does perfume last before it expires?

It’s not a food or an object that noticeably degrades over time (well, not usually anyway). There often aren’t any indications or warnings on perfume bottles either.

Yet at some point it must go bad, right?

Does Perfume Go Bad?

The short answer is yes, perfume does go bad eventually.

But – it does last longer than most other scented items, as oils in a contained bottle don’t easily oxidize.

However, the flowers and plant material used to create many perfumes (especially natural perfumes) are perishable and will eventually go bad.

Floral fragrances are especially vulnerable to degradation over time.

When in contact with moisture in the air, flowers and plants will degrade and change faster than other products. This means that the perfume used to create a fragrance item will degrade when exposed to the air at a faster rate than scented oils.

Other substances that can cause perfumes to degrade quicker are fruits, like citrus smells, and likewise, it is because the things they are from are known to degrade at a rapid rate, again due to the oxidation.

(It’s not surprising that synthetics last longer – that’s part of their appeal to perfume makers.)


Since it’s contact with the air that causes the perfume to degrade, there is another implication here.

A full bottle of perfume has less exposure to the air than a bottle with only a little perfume left in it. (There’s air in the bottle itself.)

As such, the degradation starts to pick up speed the less perfume there is in the bottle.

So, How Long Does Perfume Last?

Well, this is actually a tricky question.

Unfortunately the answer is somewhat vague. This is due to a couple of factors which would need to be considered.

The first is the fact that each perfume is made up of a different chemical composition.

More natural ingredients: last a shorter time. More synthetics: last a longer time.

The other factor is how you store your perfume.

Should you store it in direct sunlight, in a warm place, with the lid off, then expect that perfume to go bad within days. But if you store it properly, then it could last years.

The amount of time a manufacturer will give the shelf life of a perfume bottle can be between 1 and 10 years. This range is for unopened bottles and is obviously not that helpful, as it is a huge range!

The a more-commonly quoted shelf life of an unopened perfume bottle is 3 to 5 years (source), so unless you have a very niche perfume, this is a more reasonable guideline to follow.

If you store your perfume properly, though, there is no reason it should not last to the longer end of the range.

How To Tell If Your Perfume Has Expired?

No matter how soon you buy the perfume, it is always worth doing a little test to see whether it has gone bad or not.

There are a couple of ways to tell whether your perfume has gone bad, but there are three things to look out for before applying it:

  • Looks: This is probably the most obvious of the three ways to tell whether your perfume has gone bad. If your perfume is darker than it once was or has changed color, even a little, then you’ve got a problem. Alcohol is a key ingredient in perfume, and it evaporates over time. This leaves a higher concentration of oils in the perfume, which will make it darker in color and less transparent.
  • Smell: Never spray your perfume on yourself if you think it may have gone bad. Instead, give it a spray away from yourself onto something disposable and smell it. If it smells more oily or sour than before, then it has gone bad or is about to go bad. Lots of ingredients in perfume expire, and some of those are oils and fats. When they begin to degrade, they change the smell of the perfume, making it unpleasant.
  • Expiry date: Some perfumes nowadays will have an expiry date, even if it is just a vague one (“Best Before”). If you cannot tell whether your perfume is bad or not, then have a look at the bottle and see whether you can find an expiration date. The expiration dates on perfumes are simply guidelines, and you should use your own judgment to decide whether the perfume is bad. However, if you can’t decide, and it is past the expiration date, it may be best to dispose of it.

As you can see, there are a couple of ways to check whether a perfume is past the expiration date or not. Still, it is up to your judgment, and you should make your own decisions on whether or not you can get any more spritzes out of that bottle of perfume.

Before You Go

So what do you do if your perfume has gone bad? Sadly, there is no way to resurrect an old favorite, you’re going to have to let it go. Read on to find out how…

How To Dispose of Perfume (Safely!)

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