When you start planning for your little one’s arrival and stocking up on baby diapers, wipes, rash creams, and other things, you may wonder if you’re buying these items too soon.
No one ever talks about the expiration date of any of these items.
Many parents ask profound questions such as: Do diapers have an expiration date? What about the shelf life of other baby supplies? Once the bottle or jar is opened, how many months from then is it safe to use?
This article will answer those questions for you, not only about unused diapers but also about other baby products that you may be considering purchasing ahead of time.
Do diapers have an expiration date
Stocking up on disposable diapers isn’t a bad idea, especially if you’re on a budget and plan to use disposable baby diapers rather than cloth diapers.
Many women start to purchase and store disposable diapers soon after finding out they are expecting. Many more soon-to-be moms register for disposable diapers in anticipation of their baby shower.
This begs the question: Does a disposable diaper “go bad?”
The answer is: no. Diapers technically don’t expire.
However, suppose you have looked at a pack of Pampers diapers or Luvs diapers. In that case, you may notice that the disposable diaper companies have an expiration date printed on the packaging.
Diaper packaging expiration date
While unused diapers don’t technically expire, they start to break down and lose their effectiveness in preventing leaks.
Because they are paper products, essentially, diapers expire in a sense that after time goes by, old diapers are simply less effective at doing their jobs.
Major disposable diaper manufacturers have this expiration date on their packaging to inform consumers that if you keep old diapers past the recommended time frame of two to three years, they will no longer perform optimally as the packaging promises.
Most diaper manufacturers include promises to go along with their brands. Because of these promises to consumers, diaper manufacturers recommend a date by which they are best used so that you aren’t upset or expecting a refund if old diapers, even those that are unopened, are less effective.
What happens to old disposable diapers?
As a diaper ages, it starts to break down.
So-called expired diapers, past the age of two years, begin to break down, and the superabsorbent polymer sandwiched between the outer layer and inner layer of the diaper starts to lose effectiveness resulting in a leaky diaper.
More issues can come up with the hassle of using more diapers than you hoped. For one, a baby’s delicate skin is more prone to rash when the baby’s skin is exposed to urine from an old diaper that no longer has an absorbent core.
Most diapers are made of several layers and components. There is the inner layer, which is what touches your baby’s skin.
Next, the middle layer is the absorbent core that keeps the urine from making direct contact with the baby’s bottom.
Then a waterproof material acts as an outer layer. The outer layer is the part you see that is soft and often has a cute design and the size printed on it.
There are also leg cuffs that are most often made of elastic material to keep the urine contained. And lastly, the tabs that secure the diaper to itself.
Older diapers start to deteriorate slowly after the two or three-year period of time after they are manufactured.
The baby’s diaper will go from having tight leg cuffs to cuffs that sag. A pack of once-white diapers turns into yellow diapers.
A pack of diapers older than two years old, even if unopened, will lose efficacy and should not be used unless properly stored.
How to properly store diapers
Since we know now that diapers expire in integrity after two or three years, it may leave you wondering if there is a way to store diapers so that you can save rather than throw them away.
Throwing diapers away means they sit in a landfill for a long time. They are terrible for the environment, as they take forever to break down.
Biodegradable diapers are a much safer pack of diapers to purchase if you worry that you won’t use all of your diapers before they expire.
If you are looking for a way to store disposable diapers to get more life out of them, there are tips and tricks that you can employ to get the most life out of your older diapers.
Nearly any old diaper will lose effectiveness over time, but using a vacuum sealer to suck all the air out of a package can help you get the most out of an old diaper.
There is no direct harm in putting your new baby in an old diaper, but to best protect against blowouts and keep their skin as healthy as possible, keeping as much of the integrity as possible to the old diaper is critical.
A sealer to suck all the extra air out of opened diapers older than the “best by” date can help make the diapers last longer.
Avoid direct sunlight
Sunlight and extreme heat will make the absorbent material lose effectiveness. You also don’t want to overheat any chemical crystals in making some of them.
If you’ve got a cardboard box of diapers at your baby shower, and it has yet to be opened, don’t open the box. Keep it in a dry and dark place, away from all wet surfaces until you need them.
Sunlight can yellow the diapers, make the stretch panels less stretchy, and dry out the chemical crystals that make up the absorbent polymer.
Extra diapers don’t necessarily have to be thrown out after the baby’s arrival, but they must be stored properly.
Here are some more tips to get more bang for your buck on your stock of disposable diapers.
One idea is to pair them with diaper covers. These are typically worn in conjunction with cloth diapers, but they will also help you in the case of an old disposable diaper.
If the plastic fiber that makes up your diaper has lost some of its efficacy, you can still put this diaper on your baby if you use diaper covers. The cover will keep the diaper from leaking as badly.
While it may not completely stop unpleasant odors due to the absorbent layer not absorbing liquids as well as it used to, and you’ll have to change your baby more often, this is one way to keep from wasting the diapers altogether.
Exchange for a bigger diaper size
Sometimes our well-meaning friends and family come to a diaper party and bring us bags and boxes of diapers that are all size newborn or a size 1.
While it’s wonderful that they want to help us, it’s sometimes impossible to use them before the baby outgrows them.
As your baby starts to outgrow a size of diaper, take an unopened package to the store, and exchange them for a different size.
Many stores will even allow you to trade or exchange diapers for pull-ups. Pull-ups are another paper product diaper item used for potty training toddlers.
How long do baby wipes last unopened?
You can’t use diapers without diaper wipes. It’s a must-have in every diaper caddy.
Baby wipes are useful for easy clean up of accidental spills where soap and water are not readily available.
Many new parents buy baby wipes in bulk and get a lot of them as gifts at a baby shower or a diaper party.
Diaper wipes don’t expire either, but they do dry out.
It’s best to stick to the same two-year window as your diapers when thinking of when it is best to use them up.
While they dry out regardless of the brand over time, opened packs of wipes that no longer have an airtight seal will dry up even faster.
Using a pack of wipes within a month is usually the recommended time frame that is optimal for use.
Does diaper rash cream expire?
Diaper rashes are common in infants.
Red, tender patches of skin that are irritated due to baby poop or pee making contact with the skin can cause this issue and make the baby sore and miserable.
Diaper rash creams have an expiration date printed on the tube or packaging. In the same way that diapers “expire,” rash creams don’t go bad but lose their potency over time.
A sealed, never opened tube of diaper rash cream is typically okay to use six months past its expiration date without losing effectiveness.
However, anything past that or an opened tube up to the expiration date may well be a totally different story.
Two types of rash cream
There are two main types of diaper rash cream.
Petroleum-based cream, such as Vaseline, simply creates a barrier effect. It doesn’t work to treat the rash, but it prevents moisture or wetness from touching your baby’s skin to help prevent further rash.
This type of cream doesn’t typically go bad and can be used for as long as your need it.
There are also many other uses for products like Vaseline, even after your little one is out of diapers.
The other type of rash cream is zinc oxide based.
Desitin and A&D ointment are two top-rated brands of zinc oxide rash creams. The zinc oxide in the formula creates a barrier between moisture and the skin and also treats the actual rash, healing it more quickly and relieving the discomfort.
Zinc-based creams start to separate over time.
If you have ever opened an older tube of Desitin and a watery or grainy substance came out, this is because the ingredients that create this chemical compound start to separate over time.
As a result, the cream loses effectiveness in treating diaper rash and has a strange and even offensive smell. Discoloration, often a yellowing of the once white cream, can also occur.
You should throw away old or expired diaper rash creams that are zinc oxide based.
Expiration of baby products
While many of us use up all of the baby products we stockpile in anticipation of a new baby, some of us have babies that grow too quickly. Other new parents never see the need for a larger-sized diaper because they potty train early. Some babies don’t get enough rashes to warrant the use of an entire tube of rash cream.
While wasting products is never what any parent wants to do, it’s safer to discard older products.
However, if you store your diapers properly, you should be able to get plenty of life out of them. You can also return them before they expire for another size, another product, or a refund if you have the receipt.
You can repurpose older wipes and petroleum-based creams.
You can use baby wipes to clean up nearly everything. Keep a tub in your car to wipe up food spills. Keep a pack in your purse for dirty hands after playing in the park.
Vaseline can be used for chapped lips, cold sores, and many other issues.
There are dates printed on packages of nearly everything that say “best by” and “use by,” and diapers are no exception.
Smart storage practices will help you get more life out of your diapers. Just be thankful that you had plenty for your little one to use.