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Does Cologne Go Bad? (EXPLAINED)

If you’re willing to put down your hard-earned cash for a fine fragrance, you probably want to know: Does cologne go bad? If so, you’ve come to the right place — because we have good and bad news for you on how long your new cologne might last.

In this guide, we’ll be putting hours of research and testing to work in answering all of your questions about whether cologne can go bad, including helpful strategies for extending the life of your favorite fragrances. By the end of the article, you’ll know how long your cologne will last, how to get the most out of your fragrances, and what to do with cologne if it does expire.

Table of Contents

Does Cologne Go Bad Over Time?

Every cologne, no matter how well made, will degrade over time. 

It may not be fair to say that cologne “goes bad”, though — just that it will smell different than when it was first bottled. For some colognes, a small amount of aging can even improve the complexity and integration of their aromatics.

Thankfully, colognes are formulated to last for quite some time. 

With shelf lives measured in years, anyone who is regularly wearing a new cologne that they’ve bought will be at no risk of having it go bad. 

Does Cologne Go Bad In Cold Weather?

Seasonal changes can certainly affect other perishable products. 

But funny enough, winter weather is perfect for storing cologne. 

Because all liquid cologne is made with an alcohol base and infused with delicate aromatic oils, cooler temperatures will extend the shelf life. You don’t need to keep your cologne at refrigerator temperatures to get the best lifespan out of it, but keeping it at or below room temperature is a solid strategy, which cold weather naturally helps with.

Does Cologne Go Bad In Heat?

Compared to cold weather storage, keeping your cologne in tip top shape during the summer can pose a real challenge. Cologne’s alcohol base has a lower evaporation point than water, making it prone to losing quality if kept in overly hot environments.

Our suggestion for storing cologne in the spring and summer: Always keep your bottle indoors, and keep it out of direct sunlight. Indoor temperatures are perfectly suited to keeping cologne in great shape, so storing it in a covered box or in your closet will ensure that it lasts as long as possible. Of particular note, don’t store your cologne in your car or carry it with you in your briefcase or backpack during the summer — it’s at too much risk of overheating.

Does Expired Perfume Smell Different?

One of the most tell-tale signs of an expired perfume will be its aroma. Whereas a freshly-bottled cologne or perfume will smell as fresh, vibrant, and full-bodied as its composition allows, expired fragrances will lose their vigor and complexity.

If you’ve ever smelled a fragrance that was freshly bottled, and then bought a bottle of the same fragrance that might be near its expiration date, you’ll notice that while they smell quite similar at first the expired fragrance will smell washed-out and have much less longevity of wear.

And if you’re wondering whether your cologne or perfume is expired, that’s easy to figure out: Look for the expiration date on the bottle, or on the original packaging. If you can’t find that, look for the batch number and check it on CheckFresh, a website for checking the freshness of personal care products.

How Long Does Perfume Last In A Sealed Bottle?

Most fragrances will retain their optimal aromatic expression for about 3 years from the time of production. This can vary widely, though, depending on two factors:

  1. The type of fragrance. For example, citrus and aquatic colognes and perfumes tend to degrade faster than woody or oriental colognes.
  2. How the bottle is stored. If you leave a sealed perfume bottle in direct sunlight or prolonged exposure to heat, it will degrade faster than if it is kept at room temperature in a dark environment.

In the event that you don’t properly store your perfume bottle in a cool and dark environment, you can expect significantly less out of your fragrance — with improperly stored perfumes lasting only for about 1 year.

How Long Does Perfume Last Once Opened?

We have good news: 

As long as your perfume or cologne is not expired, it will last just as long as a sealed bottle (assuming you store it in a cool, dark place). This means that for most fragrances, you can expect to use them for around 3 years without any noticeable degradation of their complexity or longevity.

As always, keep your bottle out of heat and direct sunlight to keep it in tip-top shape. Otherwise, you’ll be looking at a reduction to just around 1 year of peak performance.

What Do You Do With Expired Cologne?

So, you’ve found a bottle of cologne in a box in the garage. On inspection, it’s already well past its expiration date. What should you do with it?

Here’s the thing: Expired cologne won’t smell as interesting and vibrant as when it was first bottled, but that doesn’t mean it will have no aroma — or that it’s somehow unsafe to use. You can still wear expired cologne, but it likely won’t impress upon your senses in the same way that a fresh bottle would.

What Happens If You Use Expired Perfume?

If you’re worried about the local perfume police knocking on your door after you use an expired fragrance, you shouldn’t be. 

Just like cologne, expired perfume will smell less fresh, vibrant, and complex than its freshly-bottled alternative, but it’s not completely without merit. You can still wear expired perfume without worry, as the expiration date does not indicate that it is somehow unsafe to wear after that point.

Can You Throw Perfume In The Garbage?

Found a bottle of expired perfume that’s too far gone to be of interest anymore? Feel free to toss it in the trash. A word of advice, though: Empty the bottle first, and pour it down the sink. Alcohols can ignite under certain conditions of heat and pressure, causing a fire in your garbage if circumstances conspire to create that danger.

Can You Extend The Shelf Life Of Perfume?

There are two main tricks to storing colognes and perfumes to get the best shelf life out of them:

  1. Never store your colognes or perfumes. in a hot environment, like your car, backpack, or purse. Even the best summer colognes shouldn’t come with you to the beach.
  2. Never store your fragrances in direct sunlight. Colognes and perfumes have delicate aromatic molecules that degrade with exposure to light.

Which means: You should always store your cologne and perfume in a cool, dark place if you’re looking to get the best longevity and performance out of them.

Brian has been fascinated with fragrances since his 8th birthday, when his Dad gifted him a bottle of Acqua di Gio. Since then, he has become a men's grooming & style aficionado who teaches men how to look sharp. Backed by personal experience, Brian's articles are known for his no-holds-barred style where he holds nothing back. You will get his real opinions on the latest men's grooming products and best practices where he reveals the best (and worst) style advice every man should know.