Does Bottled Water Go Bad?

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This post is by Bernie Carr,

If you store bottled water for emergencies or for daily use, I am sure you have wondered whether they expire or go bad. One of our readers asked the question so I thought it would be great to discuss it on the blog.

A reader asked “Is Expired Bottled Water Safe to Drink?”

“I have a water storage question. I was clearing out boxes from a recent move & found these bottled waters that I had originally stored at the office in case of emergency. But as you can see in the photo, the bottles have changed shape like I drove up & down a mountain.  My mom, on a visit, saw these & made me throw them out (recycled bottles but water went down the drain) with the logic that the date on the bottle had past. But I thought that water couldn’t expire. Or is it the plastic the thing that expires?   If this was an emergency & I found these, would it be safe to drink? If I boiled & strained it first would that be safe to drink or only for sanitation?”

First, let’s discuss a few things.

What does the FDA say?

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA):

“Bottled water is considered to have an indefinite safety shelf life if it is produced in accordance with CGMP and quality standard regulations and is stored in an unopened, properly sealed container. Therefore, FDA does not require an expiration date for bottled water. However, long-term storage of bottled water may result in aesthetic defects, such as off-odor and taste. Bottlers may voluntarily put expiration dates on their labels.”


There is also some concern that the plastic and chemicals such as BPA may start to leach into the water, but it is not known whether it does it for fresher bottles as well.  If it were an emergency and that is the only water I found, I’d run it through a water filter to improve the taste.

What is the best way to store bottled water?

According to the International Water Bottle Association, where you store the bottles also makes a difference. The bottles in the photo were stored in an office. Keep water bottles in away for light and heat for best results. That’s because when water is exposed to sunlight or heat for an extended period of time, it may develop mold or algae.

Do not store your water bottles next to noxious, or odorous chemicals such as gasoline as the water may absorb the fumes around it.

So does bottled water go bad?

The reader who asked the original question is correct:  The water itself does not really expire.  Bottled water has an expiration date because some states like New Jersey require them to have one.  Because the bottling companies prefer not to have different guidelines for every state, they put dates on all their waters.  As long as the bottles are sealed, if you are ever in an emergency and you had to drink it, they should be fine.  However, the water may not taste or smell as good as water you buy today. 

What to do if your water does taste “funny?”

Although they will technically not expire, the taste may change over time. I have found older water bottles to have somewhat of a plastic taste. I’d rather just rotate my water bottles so I use them within two years of purchase. If you’d like to improve the taste of the water, run it through a water filter if you have one. Or aerate the water by pouring it between two glasses.

If you are not in an emergency and you find your bottled water to be too old, you’ve left them in a hot car for too long, or you just don’t feel confident about drinking them, just use them for something else. You can water your plants with them or use them for cleaning. Start a new stockpile and remember to rotate them on a regular basis next time. In an emergency, it’s fine to drink old bottled water – even the FDA says so.

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About the author

Bernie Carr is the founder of Apartment Prepper. She has written several books including the best-selling Prepper’s Pocket Guide, Jake and Miller’s Big Adventure, The Penny-Pinching Prepper and How to Prepare for Most Emergencies on a $50 a Month Budget. Bernie’s latest e-book, FRUGAL DIY has just been released on Amazon. Her work appears in sites such as the Allstate Blog and, as well as print magazines such as Backwoods Survival Guide and Prepper Survival Guide. She has been featured in national publications such as Fox Business and Popular Mechanics. Learn more about Bernie here.






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  1. OK, so, admittedly, I stored up a bunch of food and bottled water for Y2K. But I never threw the stuff out, I just kept it. Just as an experiment, back in 2009, I took a bottle of water that I had for over 10 years, cracked it open and tasted it…..the water did taste a but funny, but not too bad. I drank a bunch of it to see if it would give me any intestinal problems……hey, I’d rather know now than later when it all hits the fan, right?….. The good news was that I did not have any problems. But that’s just my own experience.

    1. Joe H., I wondered about those Y2K bottles myself. I think I ended up watering the plants with them after 5 years. Thanks for the comment.

  2. Thank you. I was wondering about this since most of the water I have is in those bottles. I don’t drink bottled water, but now I know the water will be fine.

  3. Even the ones that taste “off” can be improved by pouring them back and forth between two containers to aerate the water more, which helps improve the taste. Or shake them up well. Add flavorings (Tang etc.) if you want to help disguise less than pristine taste.

    1. Good idea. I never considered “aerating” the water to improve the taste, as you suggest. I think flavor packets are good idea too.

  4. I had been wondering this myself because I was thinking of buying some of those 1 Lt bags of water to stash back but did not want to waist my extreamly tight prepping dollars if they could not last a year or two. Thanks for clearing that up and as always keep up the great work

    1. Hi adam, those bags of water do tend to be pricey, but are quite portable. Thanks for the comment.

  5. Thanks for this post. Having drank some long expired bottled water myself I can add my voice to those that didn’t get sick from drinking it. My water was stored in a cool, dark location which is why I felt ok to drink it. If it was out in the sun and heat, I suspect that the quality would deteriorate quickly but like you say, you could always run it through a filter, Speaking of bottled water, I need to make a run to BJ’s to stock up! Take care everybody!

    1. Hi A/P Now that hurricane season is starting up again, not a bad idea to pick up a case or two. Thanks for the comment.

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