While the hydrocarbons in petroleum jelly do degrade, this process is so slow that it could take an entire lifetime for petroleum jelly to go bad. Vaseline petroleum jelly doesn’t contain any active ingredients that can spoil, so even if it’s past its expiration date, petroleum jelly doesn’t really expire.
A true jack-of-all-trades when it comes to pantry products, every well-prepared household should have petroleum jelly on hand. It can be used as a cosmetic product or beauty hack to repair split ends, lotion, remove eye makeup, and protect the skin from hair dye and nail polish. It serves as an effective moisturizer for you and your pets. Around the house, you can use vaseline to loosen stuck objects. Perhaps most practically, petroleum jelly can prevent diaper rash, and heal scrapes and minor burns.
But does petroleum jelly expire? Before putting your petroleum jelly to the test, it’s important to make sure it’s safe to use.
Does vaseline petroleum jelly expire?
Technically, yes, petroleum jelly has an expiration or expiry date. Honeywell, the manufacturer of the popular petroleum jelly brand, whose brand name is Vaseline, advises that there is a recommended three-year shelf life. However, it’s important to know that this is a by-product of FDA regulation. In reality, there are no active ingredients in petroleum jelly that can go bad, so it doesn’t really ever expire.
Additionally, there are some things you can do to help prolong the shelf life of your Vaseline. Keep your jar of vaseline out of the sunlight in a medicine cabinet, and away from heat sources. It will last longest if kept in a dark, room temperature area, such as a cabinet or closet.
That said, it is possible for bacteria to grow in your tub of vaseline that has become contaminated. This most often happens when germs are transferred from your fingers into the jelly, like during a skincare routine from your skin cells. To prevent this, use a spoon or other clean tool to scoop petroleum jelly out of its container, rather than your hands. This will keep bacteria out and help your petroleum jelly to last longer.
However, no matter how careful you are, there are a few signs that you should no longer apply old petroleum jelly to your dry skin. If your petroleum jelly looks or smells different in any way, it should no longer be used on your body. For this reason, it’s a good idea to replace your Vaseline petroleum jelly every few years.
What do I use expired vaseline for?
Once petroleum jelly has passed its expiration date, there are still many things it can be safely used for around your home, such as lubricating, finishing, or coating various objects.
When used like a lube, it can be applied to squeaky hinges to silence them, or to grease the gears on a troublesome office chair. It can be used to loosen zippers that are sticking, or even as a lubricant on some car parts.
If used like a mineral oil, petroleum jelly can seal and protect wood, shine patent leather shoes, and condition leather products and apparel.
Due to its water-repellant properties, you can use it to coat and protect metal items that are prone to rusting, like gun barrels, steel blades, and car wheels.
Look for 100-percent petroleum jelly
When shopping, be sure to look for 100-percent petroleum jelly, rather than a product that contains additional ingredients. Pure petroleum jelly doesn’t contain any active ingredients; rather, it’s a mixture of waxes and mineral oils. This is essential, because it means that nothing in 100-percent petroleum jelly can actually go bad. Products that contain other ingredients are more likely to become unusable, grow bacteria, or become contaminated much sooner than a 100-percent pure petroleum jelly.
Petroleum jelly doesn’t really expire, because it contains no active ingredients that can go bad. While it’s a good idea to replace an old jar of petroleum jelly every few years, especially if you’re using it on your body as sunscreen or for skincare, it’s safe to repurpose it as a lube for door hinges, office chairs, and anything else that needs a little elbow grease. Have any questions? Leave us a comment below!
How do I know if my Vaseline is expired?
Your Vaseline may have a “use by” date printed on its container, but even if that date has passed, it doesn’t mean it has really expired. Instead, use your senses to examine your petroleum jelly. Has it changed color? Does it have a new or different smell? If so, your Vaseline is expired, and it’s time to replace it.
Can bacteria grow in petroleum jelly?
In a sterile environment, no. However, if bacteria is introduced into the petroleum jelly, for example by dirty fingers, it’s possible that it will survive and grow. To prevent this, avoid sticking your hands or fingers directly into the jar. Instead, use a spoon, spatula, or other clean, unused object to scoop out the amount of petroleum jelly you need.
When should you not use expired petroleum jelly?
While generally safe, if you have any allergies or sensitivities to petroleum-based products, you should not use petroleum jelly. When using the product on your skin for the first time, be aware of any reactions that may occur.
If using petroleum jelly as part of a beauty regimen, it’s possible for excess use to cause clogged pores. If this occurs, it’s best to take a break, visit a dermatologist, or use a different product. Additionally, be sure to only use petroleum jelly topically. It is not meant to be consumed or used internally.
Refrain from using petroleum jelly around the nose area on children without first consulting with a doctor. While rare, it’s possible to contract aspiration pneumonia from inhaling mineral oils.
Finally, if you notice anything “off” about your petroleum jelly, don’t use it. If it changes color, texture, or smell, it’s time to throw it away and buy a new jar.
What is Vaseline petroleum jelly used for?
There are tons of practical uses for petroleum jelly, ranging from beauty hacks to easy furniture fixes. Here are just a few:
Heal skin abrasions and minor burns
Petroleum jelly helps keep skin moisturized, which can help to heal minor cuts, scrapes and burns. This study even shows that pure petroleum jelly is effective as a topical wound care agent after surgery.
Moisturize dry places on your skin
Petroleum jelly is excellent for moisturizing very dry skin. To soften dry and cracked hands or feet, soak them in warm salt water, towel them dry, and then massage in some petroleum jelly. As a daily moisturizer, apply it to your face and body after showering. To heal chapped lips, use petroleum jelly-like Chapstick. If your pet has dry or chapped paws, apply petroleum jelly to them in the same manner.
Prevent diaper rash
A tub of petroleum jelly is a popular and practical combatant for diaper rash. After you’ve cleaned your baby’s behind, apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly to protect against irritation.
Protect skin from nail polish and hair color
Use petroleum jelly as a barrier along your cuticles or hairline to protect the skin from becoming stained when painting your nails or coloring your hair.
Remove eye makeup
The oil in petroleum jelly can easily remove eye makeup, even if it’s waterproof. Use a Q-tip and gently rub away your makeup at the end of the day.
Make perfume last longer
If you apply a small amount of petroleum jelly to your skin before putting on perfume, it will help your perfume to stay fragrant longer.
Use as a household lubricant
Vaseline petroleum jelly acts like a grease when applied to household objects. Use it to fix a squeaky hinge, a sticking door, or a problematic desk chair. These uses are safe, even after the petroleum jelly has expired.