Does Dog Shampoo Expire? (Vet Explains)

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does dog shampoo expire

It was a great day at the dog park, and your furbaby came home caked with mud. As you prepare a bath, you reach for the dog shampoo. Looking at the label, you discover it’s past the product’s expiration date. Does it really matter that much?

Sadly, using expired grooming products is one reason we see dogs present with irritating skin rashes and infections at the clinic. Many pet parents don’t realize that the ingredients in shampoo can break down over time. Although they may notice the formula isn’t as effective, they can’t see changes in chemical composition or contamination until it’s too late. 

In this article, I’ll explain how long different types of dog shampoo, dry shampoo, and pet wipes, can last. After that, I’ll explain the potential consequences of using expired products and why we advise against using outdated shampoo. In case you don’t know whether your current bottle of dog shampoo is safe, I’ll give you some ways to tell if it’s expired. We’ll go over some commonly used shampoos and discuss how long you should expect a bottle to last. Finally, I’ll share some things you can use in an emergency if the only dog shampoo you have at home is expired.

So, let’s dive in.

How Long Do Dog Shampoos Usually Last?

Depending on the type and brand of shampoo, most will last between 6 and 18 months. You can find the expiration date on the bottom of most shampoo bottles. Avoid using unmarked or expired products because they can break down or harbor bacteria that may cause skin infections.

In general, a dog shampoo should last between 6 and 18 months. If you’re using a medicated shampoo, the product will likely have a shorter shelf-life, around 6 months or so. Organic and natural shampoos tend to last longer. 

When shopping for shampoo, you should always check for an expiration date, which is usually printed on the bottom of the bottle. It’s probably best to avoid buying products that don’t have a use-by date on the packaging because you don’t want to risk using outdated formulas. Every time you open a shampoo container, you expose the ingredients to the air and other contaminants. Over time, the solution may break down or become a breeding ground for bacteria. Either way, expired shampoo can potentially cause skin infections.

How Long Does a Waterless Dog Shampoo Last?

Waterless dog shampoos generally last an average of 12 months. They come in a variety of forms and are useful when you don’t have time to wash your pooch or if your pup hates water. The ingredients include an oil-absorbing material and other substances that help to clean and freshen the coat. 

Waterless dog shampoos can be helpful if you have a dog that hates to get wet or has sensitive skin or if you don’t have the time to give a full-scale bath. Some people like to have no-rinse formulas on had to freshen up their pup’s coat in between baths. Waterless shampoo can be a foam, gel, powder, or spray and contain oil-absorbing ingredients to help remove excess oils and debris from your pup’s skin and hair. Depending on the form and ingredients, a waterless shampoo usually lasts around 12 months, but some natural products may have a longer shelf life. 

Examples of waterless dog shampoos include:

  • Burt’s Bees Waterless Shampoo with Apple & Honey for Dogs – Burt’s Bees offers gentle natural products for dogs. This waterless shampoo is a pump-spray formula with no sulfates, dyes, or fragrances. With ingredients such as honey, apple leaf extract, and eucalyptus leaf oil, the shampoo is designed to nourish and cleanse the coat. According to the company, the product has a 12-month shelf life.
  • Wahl Pet-Friendly Waterless No Rinse Shampoo for Animals – Oatmeal & Coconut Lime Verbena – Wahl no-rinse foaming shampoo combines plant-based cleansers and oatmeal extract to gently cleanse the skin and fur. With no alcohol, dyes, or parabens, the formula is free of harsh chemicals. Lime verbena provides a fresh, clean scent without perfumes. The company does not provide information about the shelf life. Based on the expiration of other similar products, we advise discarding any remaining solution 12 months after opening the bottle.

How Long Do Dog Shampoo Wipes Usually Last?

Some unopened dog shampoo wipes have a shelf-life of 2-3 years, but once opened it’s best to use them within about 12 months. Over time, the ingredients break down and lose effectiveness, or contaminants may cause mold or bacterial growth. You should only use products formulated for dogs to clean your pooch.

Similar to waterless shampoo, dog grooming wipes are useful to freshen up your pup’s coat or for spot cleaning. There are a few different varieties of pet wipes for pups. Some products target specific needs such as those for cleaning the eyes or ears, paw wipes, and general shampoo wipes. While they resemble make-up wipes or baby wipes, you should not use human products to clean your dog because they may contain chemicals that are harsh or irritating for Fido’s skin. 

Like other shampoo forms, the ingredients in dog shampoo wipes can break down and become less effective over time. While unopened packages may last for 2-3 years, provided that they’re stored properly, opened packs have a shorter shelf life. That’s because once they’re opened, the wipes are exposed to the air and contaminants. They can dry out or become moldy over time. Otherwise, bacteria and other microorganisms may break down the ingredients in the formula so that they’re not as effective. Provided the wipes don’t dry out earlier, we recommend you discard wipes within 12 months of opening the package.

Below, you’ll find a few examples of pet shampoo wipes:

  • Nature’s Miracle Deodorizing Bath Wipes for Dogs – Designed for dogs of all life stages, these wipes are useful for cleaning and freshening your pup’s coat between baths. Use this product to remove dirt or dander from your pup’s hair, or to wipe his paws after a walk. The formula is alcohol-free and gentle so the wipes are safe for everyday use. It’s available in spring waters or honey sage scents. There’s a Julian date stamp on the package to indicate the date of production.
  • Earth Rated Dog Wipes – With these wipes, you can clean and refresh your pup while protecting the environment. Featuring plant-based, compostable materials, the product is certified to be 99% bio-based. The ingredients, which include chamomile, aloe, and shea butter, are gentle and hypoallergenic. 

What Can Happen If You Use Expired Dog Shampoo?

Using expired dog shampoo could have harmful effects on your pooch. As the ingredients age, they can break down and become ineffective. Older formulas are also more likely to harbor bacteria, mold, or other contaminants that may trigger allergic reactions or cause skin infections and other undesirable conditions.

You may be wondering if it really matters if you use expired dog shampoo. It does. Because the ingredients can lose potency, outdated products may not clean as effectively, or they may lose the ability to deodorize the coat. Additionally, the solution is more likely to become contaminated over time. If bacteria, fungus, or mold starts growing in the formula, the shampoo can cause more harm than good. When you wash your dog with an expired formula, you put him at risk for allergic reactions, skin infections, or other conditions like hot spots. 

Old products can also make existing conditions worse. For example, if your pooch suffers from fleas, and you use an expired product, the medicine may not work. While you’re expecting to eliminate the skin parasites, the formula could allow the infestation to fester. Additionally, as the chemical compounds break down, they could irritate the skin and cause dermatitis. Clearly, it’s best to avoid using expired dog shampoo.

Can I Use a Dog Shampoo That Expired This Month?

It’s better to play it safe and avoid using any outdated product even when it’s less than a month past the expiration date. Over time, formula ingredients can break down and become irritating to your dog’s skin. Old shampoo may also harbor bacteria and other microorganisms that can cause skin infections and other unwanted conditions.

Expiration dates are printed on the bottle for a reason. Always check the bottle for a use-by date before applying shampoo products to your dog. If it’s outdated, discard it. It’s better to play it safe than to risk causing your pooch to experience unwanted consequences. 

Even if the formula smells normal and has the usual consistency, you can’t ensure there’s no contamination. Bacteria and other microorganisms are too small for the eye to see, but they can still cause infections or other harm to your pup’s skin. The other concern is that ingredients in the formula can break down over time. As the chemical composition of the formula changes, it can become more irritating for your pooch. Rather than risking your pup’s well-being, avoid using expired shampoo products even if they’re less than a month past the use-by date. A new bottle of dog wash will cost less than a visit to the vet!

How Can I Tell If My Dog Shampoo Expired?

The easiest way to tell if your dog’s shampoo expired is to look for expiration or use-by date on the label. Quality products usually print the information on the side or bottom of the package. If you have shampoo and can’t find an expiration date, you should carefully inspect the product before using it.

Quality dog shampoos will have an expiration date on the bottom or side of the package. You may also find a label that lets you know how long you can safely use the product after opening. Look for a symbol that looks like a small open container with a number followed by the letter M(for months). If you can’t find an expiration or use-by date, go with another brand that includes this information. 

But what if you have dog shampoo at home that doesn’t have any of this information? While your safest move is to discard the bottle and buy a fresh product, you can inspect the contents. Check for:

  • Unexpected odors – If the shampoo is scented, it may have a weaker than expected aroma. However, you may also detect a pungent odor that indicates spoilage.
  • Change of consistency – Expired shampoo may be watery or clumpy depending on how the ingredients break down.
  • Discoloration – If the shampoo should be clear or cream-colored and has a pink tint or other discoloration, it could be due to bacterial growth. 
  • Loss of Effectiveness – The product doesn’t eliminate odor or clean the grime as well. If you’re dealing with a medicated shampoo, it no longer seems to help with the condition.

Any of these signs are indicators of an expired or contaminated product. Don’t use it. If you don’t have these signs, it still may not be safe for your pooch. Try using a little on a small section (1-2 inches square) of your pup, and check to make sure there are no adverse skin reactions. If your dog has any signs of irritation or inflammation, throw the rest away.

Overview of the Lifespan of Popular Dog Shampoos

Burt’s Bees Oatmeal Shampoo with Colloidal Oat Flour & Honey for Dogs

Burt’s Bees products have a three-year shelf life from the manufacture date, but the company recommends you use the shampoo within 12 months after opening. To determine the manufacture date, follow Burt’s Bees instructions for reading the lot code.

Hartz Groomer’s Best Dog Shampoo For All Pet Washing Needs and All Life Stages

Hartz does not specify a shelf life on their website. Check the bottom of the bottle for a production code or use by date. If you can’t find a code, it’s best to use it within a year of opening the bottle.

Wahl Dry Skin & Itch Relief Pet Shampoo for Dogs – Oatmeal Formula with Coconut Lime Verbena & 100% Natural Ingredients

Wahl does not print an expiration date on the bottle, but they do list a manufacturing date. For best results, select a product made in the past year. Once you open the bottle, we recommend that you use it within a 12-month period.

Aesop Animal | 500mL | Paraben, Cruelty-free & Vegan

Aesop products do not include an expiration date on the label, but they do print a use-by icon to indicate how many months the formula will last after you open the bottle. Most shampoos will be good for 9-12 months.

Oster Oatmeal Essentials Shampoo

Oster prints a product code on their product but does not have an expiration date. As with other products that don’t specify a use-by date, we recommend using the product within 12 months of opening the bottle.

Earthbath Oatmeal & Aloe Dog & Cat Shampoo

Earthbath uses natural preservatives and states that its products do not expire. Once you open the bottle, however, we recommend using the formula within a year to prevent contamination.

Cuddly-Coat Grooming Shampoo

Kiehl’s does not state the shelf life of the shampoo on its website. The safest approach with this product is to use it within 12 months of opening the bottle.

YU Oriental Natural Herbs Care for Pets

For these oriental products, there is no information about shelf-life or expiration dates. Check the bottle for further information. Due to the potential for ingredient breakdown and product contamination over time, we recommend you use the formula within one year of opening the package.

What Should I Do If My Dog Shampoo Is Expired?

When you need to bathe your dog immediately but only have expired shampoo on hand, do not use the outdated formula. It’s safer to use some common household products to make a homemade cleaner for your pooch. Then, when you can get to the store, replace the outdated shampoo for the next time.

It’s the end of the day, and your pooch just rolled in something slimy. When you reach for your pal’s shampoo, you realize it’s past the expiration date. What should you do?

Rather than risk irritating your furbaby’s skin with expired shampoo, you can try one of a few home remedies to cleanse Fido’s fur in an emergency.

  • Castille soap is a safe and gentle cleanser for dogs. As an olive-based soap, it’s also a natural moisturizer.
  • Prepare a mixture of  1 cup finely ground raw oatmeal, ½ cup baking soda, and water for a soothing oatmeal bath.
  • Mix ½ cup white vinegar, ¼ cup Dawn dishwashing liquid, and 2 cups water to make homemade shampoo.
  • Brush your pup’s coat to remove excess debris then massage either baking powder or cornstarch into the fur to absorb grease and eliminate odors. Wipe your pooch with a damp rag to complete the cleaning process.

Bear in mind that none of these solutions is intended for regular use. As soon as you are able to get to the pet store, restock your regular dog shampoo.

The Final Woof

Yes, dog shampoo and related grooming products expire. Depending on the ingredients, formulas may have a shelf life anywhere from about 6 months to 2 or more years. However, once a bottle is opened, it’s best to use it in 6-12 months. The reason for this is that the materials in the shampoo can deteriorate or break down over time and become ineffective. It’s also possible for contaminants to get into the shampoo and cause bacteria or mold growth that may cause skin irritation or infections. 

With many products, you can find a product code, use-by date, or expiration date on the packaging. If you can’t locate this information, either buy a product that provides the details on the label or as a rule of thumb, use the product within a year of opening. If your dog’s shampoo is expired or outdated, we don’t recommend that you use it. You’re better off making a homemade alternative in case of an emergency and buying a fresh product as soon as possible.

Photo of author
Dr. Libby Guise earned her DVM from the University of Minnesota in 1994. After working in private practice in Wisconsin for two years, she joined the USDA as a Veterinary Medical Officer. In 2011, Libby came home to focus on raising and teaching her adoptive daughter. She lives in Wisconsin with her daughter, husband, and two furbabies: Charis, a lab-mix rescue pup, and Chesed, a Springer Spaniel.

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