When hearing the term shelf life, people commonly think of food items or medication...but what about tampons? As it turns out, the feminine hygiene product does have an expiration date.
To better understand what that means, women's health experts break down everything there is to know about tampon storage and shelf life.
Do tampons expire?
In short, yes. But osteopathic OB/GYN Anna Cabeca, D.O., says the shelf life is quite long.
How do you know if it's expired?
When looking at a tampon box, there are generally two dates listed: the manufacture date and the expiration date. "I would always check the expiration date on the box," pediatric and adolescent gynecologist Rachael L. Polis, D.O., says. "It's typically about five years from when they were produced."
If a tampon is not in its original packaging or if the wrapper has been damaged, Polis says to discard it, as dust or bacteria may have collected on it. Other factors she recommends looking out for include: color change, extra-fluff sticking out from the tampon, or a bad odor. In any of these circumstances, the tampon should be discarded.
What happens if you use an expired tampon?
"If someone uses an expired tampon, it can put them at risk for vaginal infections, and they could have irritation or abnormal discharge," Polis says.
If any of these symptoms occur, it's important to reach out to a physician or a gynecologist to be evaluated.
How to store tampons.
Most people store tampons in the bathroom out of convenience, but that's actually not the best place to keep them, and it may shorten their shelf life.
There's a lot of moisture in the bathroom, Polis explains, which means tampons will be more likely to accumulate bacteria or mold.
To prevent moisture from seeping into the cotton tampons, Cabeca suggests keeping a dehumidifier in the bathroom. More effectively, both experts recommend storing tampon boxes in a cool, dry room—such as a hallway closet or the bedroom.
Oh and next time you buy a new box, keep the receipt and follow these steps to protest the Tampon Tax.
Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine. She has covered topics ranging from regenerative agriculture to celebrity entrepreneurship. Moore worked on the copywriting and marketing team at Siete Family Foods before moving to New York.