A lot of people store water for emergencies and quite often than not, this water usually ends up staying in storage for too long sometimes even past its expiration date. So, is this something people should be worried about? Can you still drink water that has been stored beyond the printed date? Let’s find out.
Does Water Go Bad?
The short answer is no. However, you may have noticed that bottled water almost always has a best-by date on the label.
While this doesn’t necessarily mean the water will become unsafe to drink past this date, according to Healthline, it is generally not advisable to drink bottled water that has been in storage beyond the printed date. Why? The plastic material can start leaching into the water over time, releasing chemicals such as bisphenol A and antimony that can be harmful to your body.
Also, carbonated water may eventually lose its carbonation, which could alter its taste or cause it to become flat.
How Long Does Water Last?
Well, it depends on the type of water. Bottled plain water can last pretty much indefinitely. In fact, the Minnesota Department of Health states that the FDA doesn’t require manufacturers of bottled water to put a best-by date on the label anymore.
But people tend to have more trust in foodstuffs that come with a shelf life, so that’s why you see that some bottles still have a date on them.
Stored properly (in a cool, dark place), an unopened bottle of plain water can stay fresh for more than four years. But remember, we also mentioned that the plastic material can leach into the water and degrade it if the bottle is stored for too long.
The quality of your bottled water can also deteriorate if the water is left open for a while. The water will lose its carbonation, causing it to lose its flavor and go flat. Experts, therefore recommend keeping the bottle properly sealed in the fridge and finishing it within three to five days.
Other types of water like flavored water will need you to put the printed best-by date into consideration when it comes to their shelf life. While an unopened bottle will not go bad immediately after the indicated period, after some time, it will lose its flavor and won’t taste as good.
Most flavored water will keep its freshness between two to five months after the printed date. And as with plain water, an open bottle should go into the refrigerator and should be finished within three to five days.
Here is a chart that illustrates how long water is estimated to stay good for.
|Unopened, plain bottled water||Over 4 years||N/A|
|Opened, plain bottled water||Not recommended||3 to 5 days|
|Unopened flavored water||Best-by date + 2 to 5 months||N/A|
|Opened flavored water||Not recommended||3 to 5 days|
2 Tips to Tell if Water Has Gone Bad
Although water has a long shelf life, without following proper storage procedures, that bottle will not just lose its taste; it may even become unsafe to drink. Here are some things that can tell you that your water is not good to ingest.
1. Presence of Algae
If you see green algae in your bottled water, then that’s the first sign the bottle is done for. Algae flourishes when water is stored in a warm area. The warm temperatures cause chlorine to dissipate to a point where algae and other microorganisms start to grow.
The longer the water is left to sit at warm temperatures, the more these offenders multiply. That’s why experts recommend storing bottled water in a dark, cool place. If you live in hot climates, make sure to store the water in the refrigerator.
2. Change in Taste
As stated, water doesn’t really expire, but the plastic bottle in which it is stored does. If you have left your water in storage for too long, the chemicals in the plastic will leach into the water, altering its original taste and flavor.
Sure, water can last indefinitely, but it is recommended that you drink it as soon as you can because, after some time, it will lose that ‘mountain spring fresh’ taste.
And this phenomenon is not just common in water that has been stored way past the recommended time. If you leave a bottle in the car, especially during hot weather, the water will start tasting like plastic. The heat outside and inside the car speeds up the leaching process, causing the water to lose its original flavor prematurely.
A change of taste may also be experienced in water that has been left open for some time. This results from water absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The CO2 is converted to carbonic acid, which after some time loses some protons to form bicarbonate and carbonate. This brings down the PH of the water, making it slightly acidic, hence altering its taste.
5 Tips to Store Water
If you are looking to store water long-term, here are some tricks to help you.
1. Choose Food Grade Containers
Bottled water can be stored in their respective containers. But if you are bottling the water yourself, the first thing you need to do is select a suitable container.
Plastic food or beverage containers are excellent options. However, you should not use containers that held milk or fruit juice before, as these could leave a residue that may alter the water flavor or even worse, encourage bacterial growth. Only use brand new containers.
While at it, avoid containers made from harmful and hazardous material. Those made from polystyrene, polycarbonate, or polyvinyl chloride, for instance, can harm your health when these materials leach into the water.
2. Keep Water Properly Sealed
If you are storing bottled water, then you shouldn’t worry too much about sealing the bottles as these come already sealed. But for tapped water, ensure to close the lid tightly before putting the water away. Also, make sure you are not touching the inside of the lid to avoid contaminating the water.
3. Label Your Bottles
Bottled water will likely come with a best-by date. If yours doesn’t, write the date you purchased it on the side. The same case applies to tapped water. Label it as drinking water and mark the date you bottled it on the side. This will ensure you are not storing your water longer than recommended.
4. Pick a Cool, Dark Storage Area
Heat and light can damage the containers holding your water, especially the plastic ones. High temperatures can also cause algae and other microbial organisms to grow, rendering the water undrinkable.
As such, do not store your water near heat or light sources. Also, avoid putting the water near gasoline, kerosene, pesticides, or other chemical products. Vapors from these chemicals can seep through the water containers and contaminate the water inside.
5. Check Your Water Every 6 Months
Store-bought water can last indefinitely if stored properly. If you did the bottling yourself, however, make sure to check it every six months. Replace the water if it gets cloudy or discolored.
For more insights on how to store water, check out this video:
The Risk of Consuming Expired Water
Water will technically not go bad, but if you have your water stored for an exceptionally long time, you may want to think twice before drinking it, as the compounds leached out by the containers can be hazardous.
Of course, drinking a single bottle of such water will not harm you, but if consumed regularly, the plastic chemicals can gradually accumulate in your body, harming your gut health, immunity, and respiratory system.
Similarly, drinking algae-affected water can cause gastroenteritis, which can lead to vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, fever, and headaches. Toxins contained in the algae can also harm your liver or nervous system.
Can You Freeze Water?
Yes, freezing water for long-term storage is perfectly fine. However, it is important to note that water expands when frozen, and therefore, putting store-bought water directly into the freezer may not be a great idea.
If you want to freeze such water, make sure to remove some of the liquid from the bottle to allow for expansion. Then reseal the bottle tightly before placing it in the freezer.
The same goes for water you have bottled yourself. Do not fill the bottles all the way to the top. Leave a little bit of space so the liquid can expand freely once it freezes.
When you are ready to drink, transfer the bottle into the refrigerator or dip it into a bucket of water and let it thaw.
Water generally doesn’t spoil, but after some time, it can deteriorate in quality and become toxic as chemicals from the plastic bottles leach into it. That said, it is best to drink your water as soon as possible when it is still safe to ingest. If you notice suspicious growth or a change in taste, don’t drink the water.