Do Diapers Expire? What You Need to Know

Do Diapers Expire? What You Need to Know

Anyone with a baby has probably wondered if their diapers will eventually expire. Our experts have the answers.

Staring at a stack of unused, disposable diapers in the back of the closet? Whether you're new to parenting or have been around the block before, a common question is whether or not baby diapers expire. Fortunately, diapers don’t generally have an expiration date. That being said, old diapers are not immune to the effects of time.

This article will cover what happens to baby diapers over time, how to prolong their shelf life, and what to do with diapers you no longer need.

Do Diapers Expire?

According to pediatricians and major disposable diaper manufacturers, diapers do not expire. This means that you can continue using old diapers without risking any adverse effects. Though it is commonly believed that diapers are like baby formula and baby wipes, diapers don’t carry the same time-sensitive health risks as other baby products since they're essentially paper products. 

That being said, time does take a toll on diapers, which is likely where the misconception about diaper expiration dates comes from. For best results, most major disposable diaper manufacturers recommend using diapers within two years of purchase. We’ll dive more into what happens to diapers over time, but, in a nutshell, disposable diapers decline in quality and efficacy once they’re more than two years old.

Of course, this recommended best-by date varies depending on the type of diaper you use for your little one. Regular disposable diapers and eco-friendly disposable diapers are essentially the same when it comes to the two-year recommendation.

However, cloth diapers are a bit different when it comes to best practices. Like with disposable diapers, cloth diapers don’t expire. However, if not properly stored, cloth diapers are more susceptible to developing mold or mildew since they’re not sealed like their disposable counterparts and require sanitization after each use.

Factors Affecting Diaper Shelf-Life

So, what impacts the shelf life of diapers? It comes down to three main components: the material and quality used to make the diapers, how you store diapers at home, and how they're packaged by the manufacturer.

Here's a closer look at each of these factors affecting diapers’ shelf lives:

  • Material composition and quality. What materials are the diapers made with? Disposable diapers are often made with chemical components that keep them from breaking down. On the other hand, fragrances could get funky over time. If diapers are cheaply made and don’t come tightly sealed, their efficacy may deteriorate faster.
  • Storage conditions. Humid, warm spaces with high exposure to light will cause your diapers to discolor faster or decrease their absorbency. Storing diapers in a cool, dry place is the best way to keep them in top condition for years to come.
  • Packaging integrity. If disposable diapers don’t come properly sealed, they become susceptible to mold and mildew. Opting for high-quality diapers is one way to ensure your diapers are properly packed and protected from the elements.

Signs of Diapers Past Their Shelf-Life

If you’re wondering whether your diapers are past their prime, here are some signs to look for.

Discoloration or odors

Start by looking for visual clues and any odd smells. This is your first and most obvious sign that the diapers are no longer in prime condition. Diapers that are slightly yellowish and no longer bright white are past their best-by date but still safe to use, according to health professionals.

Diapers with an odd smell should be tossed—this olfactory clue may indicate that mold or mildew has developed.

Texture changes

If the diaper is no longer smooth or has developed an odd texture, it is best to toss it. This may be a sign that the diaper wasn’t sealed and has developed mold or mildew as a result. Like with discoloration and odors, changes in a diaper's texture result from not storing diapers properly, and not because diapers have an expiration date.

Elastic degradation

Over a couple of years, the elastic that seals the diaper around the baby’s legs may weaken. This is totally normal for elastic to break down with the passage of time! The elastic degradation makes the diaper more prone to leaks. If you want a diaper that’s completely leak-proof, you'll want to opt for newer diapers.

You may also notice that the diaper's adhesive waistband is not as sticky as those on new diapers. This loss of stickiness commonly happens to adhesives over time. Fortunately, these signs simply mean that your diaper is no longer in its prime but still safe to use.

Changes in your baby’s skin health

Though very rare, irritation like rashes or infections, may be a sign that your diapers are past their shelf life. If you notice any changes in your baby’s skin, stop using the diapers and consult your pediatrician. 

However, it is also important to know that other factors may be affecting your baby's skin as well. Not all diapers are made the same, so your baby may have a case of classic diaper rash or an allergic reaction to the materials in some diapers and not others. Again, consult your doctor to determine the underlying cause of what’s irritating your baby's skin.

Effectiveness in containment and absorption

Leaky diapers or diapers that aren’t absorbing are signs that they’re past their shelf life. This is just a sign that the materials used to make the diapers are deteriorating. Of course, the diaper is still safe to use, but it may not be as effective at stopping leaks or other messes as a new diaper.

Tips for Prolonging Diaper Lifespan

If you want your diapers to stay effective for years to come, it’s recommended that you avoid the urge to buy diapers in bulk every time you go to the store. This helps you avoid ending up with a pile of diapers that your baby has outgrown. This also ensures you use up the diapers within the manufacturer’s recommended timeframe.

You may also want to consider the type of disposable diaper you buy for your baby. VeryVery’s premium, eco-friendly diapers are made with hypoallergenic, plant-based materials without additives like lotions, dyes, perfumes, or latex that could degrade over time.

It is also critical that you store diapers properly. Keep them in a cool, dry space out of direct sunlight to ensure they remain effective for as long as possible.

What to Do With Old, Unused Diapers

What to Do With Old, Unused Diapers

We reiterate the importance of trying not to overstock on diapers. Though the urge to buy diapers in bulk is probably there, plan ahead and buy only what you need to avoid ending up with extra unused diapers! 

If you do have a lot of old, unused diapers on hand, don’t just throw them away. If you anticipate going to any baby showers in the coming years, hold on to them to wrap up and give away to the new parents. If no baby showers are on the calendar or you don’t anticipate having any more little ones yourself, post them to BuyNothing groups or Facebook Marketplace. Diapers are expensive, and parents would love an opportunity to get perfectly good diapers on the cheap.

Finally, you can donate them to nonprofits that support new parents who are struggling to afford basics for their little ones. Do some research online to find reputable organizations in your area that will accept your unused diapers.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, diapers do not expire, nor do they have a strict “best-by” date. Though manufacturers recommend using diapers within two years of purchase for best results, it’s perfectly safe to use older diapers on your little ones. Just keep an eye out for the telltale signs that the diaper is past its prime, such as odd smells or texture changes. 

And though the impulse to stock up on diapers is hard to ignore, planning ahead and buying only what you need is the best way to ensure you’re using the freshest and most effective diapers every time.

For further tips, support, and advice from parents like you, check out VeryVery’s blog. 

Frequently Asked Questions

There are so many questions about diaper care, so we answered some of them for you.

Do unopened diapers expire?

No, unopened diapers do not expire. However, their effectiveness may deteriorate with time, meaning that they may no longer be as leak-proof or absorbent as a brand-new one.

What can I do with old, unopened diapers?

If you don’t anticipate needing them in the future, hold on to old, unopened diapers to give away to new parents at baby showers. Alternatively, list them on BuyNothing groups or Facebook Marketplace—people are always looking for ways to save money on expensive baby products! 

Finally, do some research to find a local nonprofit that will take them. This is a great way to put your unopened diapers to a good cause.

How long can you keep diapers for?

Technically, you can keep them for years and still use them since they don’t have an official expiration date. However, manufacturers recommend using diapers within two years of purchase for best results.

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