Yesterday you used your regular floor cleaner and got the usual results. The product had a pleasant scent and worked wonderfully, as always. But today you’re wondering if you should use it because it just passed the expiry date.
So what exactly happened to the product overnight? Is there an evil genie trapped inside the container that cursed it? Should you hurry up and throw it out before the container explodes?
The answer may surprise you.
Serious manufacturers conduct stability tests when creating new cleaning or sanitation products. These tests consist of exposing the product to a variety of conditions over lengthy periods of time. Among other things, these tests tell manufacturers how the product will react when exposed to extreme storage conditions for various lengths of time.
For example, how does product react when stored at near-freezing temperatures? At room temperature? Or at temperatures well above room temperature? How does the product react after being frozen and thawed?
Throughout the testing period, the manufacturer checks the quality of the product at regular intervals. Some products may react badly. They may change in colour or scent, or some of their active ingredients may begin to decompose. Moisture or sedimentation may form inside in the container or the container may start to swell. Other products may not be affected at all.
Essentially, these tests give the manufacturer a good idea of the product’s useful life. In other words, the maximum period of time during which the manufacturer guarantees the efficacy of the product when it is stored under normal conditions.
However, these tests are often lengthy and significantly increase the time it takes to market a product. For this reason, manufacturers will often determine what they consider to be a reasonable warranty period. This warranty is generally long enough to give the vast majority of users enough time to use up the product before it expires.
It is very likely that many products are still in excellent condition even after the warranty date has come and gone. In many cases, in fact, the warranty period could have been lengthened by several months or even years. The manufacturer simply did not continue the testing beyond that particular time frame and therefore does not have the necessary data to support a longer warranty period.
To put all this in practical terms, what should you do with a product that has expired?
The answer is, it depends…
For non-critical activities such as cleaning windows urinals, offices, etc.
If the product hasn’t changed in appearance or scent and if there is no visible separation or condensation, then the product can continue to be used.
In other cases, the call can be harder to make. Consider the case of degreasers, which are typically emulsions. Over time, the size of the suspended particles can increase and significantly affect the quality of the product. To further complicate matters, this phenomenon can be difficult to detect with a simple visual inspection. If the emulsion is destabilized, the final appearance of the film that’s formed can be greatly affected.
Given the high costs involved in degreasing (raw materials, labour, etc.), using a sub-par product can have a huge impact on your budget. The bottom line? Think twice before using expired cleaning products. Often it’s just not worth the money.
For products that degrade naturally over time (such as sodium hypochlorite) and which are NOT used for disinfection purposes (such as sanitizing cutting tables)
These products can continue to be used after the expiry date. However, to achieve equivalent efficacy, you may need to use a larger dose to compensate for the lower concentration of the active ingredient.
For critical activities such as disinfecting with products with a DIN
DIN-issued products that have passed their expiry date should not be used. If the integrity of the product is altered, the consequences on human health and safety can be dire.
Since the efficacy of such products is difficult to determine without expensive and time-consuming microbiological tests, it is virtually impossible to determine whether or not efficacy has been compromised after the expiry date.
Some cleaning and disinfection or sanitation operations require long and costly validations, such as those typically found in the pharmaceutical and food & beverage sectors. In some cases, the validation tests and documentation that needs to be produced to support the use of expired products would be so tedious and complex that it is simply much easier to just discard them.