Bottled Water shelf life

What is The Shelf Life of Bottled Water in Plastic Bottles?

In Prepping and Preparedness by M.D. Creekmore24 Comments

Bottled Water shelf life

What is the shelf life of bottled water? That’s a great question and one that everyone who stores more than a case of bottled water has probably asked at some point.

From what I’ve read online and from the emails that I’ve gotten from my readers it seems that many think that drinking bottled water that’s over a few weeks old will result in sickness or instant death and this simply isn’t the case.

So what is the shelf life of bottled water… well, the simple and most accurate answer is that bottled water has an indefinite shelf life if it’s stored properly. However, the plastic bottles can breakdown or leach chemicals such as BPA causing problems… this is especially true if bottled water isn’t stored properly.

How to Store Bottled Water

Since the shelf life of bottled water depends mostly on storage conditions it’s important to know what those conditions are so that you can store your bottled water under optimal conditions which provide the longest possible shelf life and water quality for consumption.

Store in a cool, dark place away from products with strong odors such as cleaning supplies.

Avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight and if forced to store water outside then keep it covered up and protected from the elements and temperature extremes as much a possible, however, outside storage isn’t recommended and water stored this way should be brought inside and stored under proper conditions or consumed as soon as possible.

Don’t store bottled water near a heat source or directly on the floor or on the ground (this also applies to any other consumable beverages or food items). To minimize the possible growth of bacteria and algae store bottled water in the dark.

I store bottled water in my basement on free wooden pallets that I get from a local hardware store and cover with a tarp to keep out any light.

To avoid crushing or damaging the cases of water on the bottom I stack the cases no more than six cases high. If you have a lot of cases than you could build or buy shelving to make better use of storage space in your allotted storage area.

As with food storage, bottled water should be dated using a permanent marker to note the storage date on each case and then use on a first-in-first-out rotation this will minimize the chance of the plastic bottles breaking down or any degradation of water quality.

What Happens When Plastic Water Bottles Get Hot?

According to The University of Florida water stored in plastic bottles can be unsafe to drink after being left in a hot car because some water bottles (maybe all?) are made from polyethylene terephthalate and can release the chemicals antimony and bisphenol A, or BPA, when exposed to heat and can raise the BPA levels above what is considered safe..

What is BPA, and what are the concerns about BPA?

According to the Mayo Clinic:

BPA stands for bisphenol A. BPA is an industrial chemical that has been used to make certain plastics and resins since the 1960s.

BPA is found in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. Polycarbonate plastics are often used in containers that store food and beverages, such as water bottles. They may also be used in other consumer goods.

Epoxy resins are used to coat the inside of metal products, such as food cans, bottle tops and water supply lines. Some dental sealants and composites also may contain BPA.

Some research has shown that BPA can seep into food or beverages from containers that are made with BPA. Exposure to BPA is a concern because of possible health effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children. Additional research suggests a possible link between BPA and increased blood pressure.

However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said that BPA is safe at the very low levels that occur in some foods.

So the takeaway is that while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration states that small amounts of BPA are “safe” larger amounts can pose a health risk when consumed especially when consumed over an extended amount of time like that would be the case if you had stored several months worth of bottled water inside your car trunk or inside an outbuilding in the summer.

The same goes for soda (or pop in the south) don’t leave or store it inside a hot car or in other areas where heat could become a problem… 

To recap – don’t store bottled water (or soda pop) inside a hot car, outbuilding or other location where heat could be an issue and you won’t have to worry about BPA or other nasty and potentially health-harming substances leaching into your bottled water.

Or, will you?

Another problem when it comes to bottled water is that we have no way of knowing how long or how it was stored before we came along and put it in our shopping carts.

For all, that we know the cases of bottled water that we picked up yesterday at the local grocery could have been sitting for days or even weeks in a semi-truck trailer in Arizona during the peak summer heat or in a hot warehouse under the same conditions. 

The Bottom Line

In my opinion, it is best to avoid drinking or eating from plastic as much as possible. Although the FDA has stated that BPA is safe at low levels, that could change after further research into BPA safety, and then who knows if the FDA reports and recommendations were influenced by outside sources such as in the case of the pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device companies as detailed in this report.

Store only a few cases of bottled water or soda at a time, date and use as soon as possible on a first-in-first-out rotation.  Also, use glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers for hot foods and liquids instead of plastic containers as much as possible.

Related Questions

How long does bottled water last after opened? Opened bottled water will last indefinitely as long as it’s clean and stored under the proper conditions as stated above, however, over time it may lose its peak quality and or taste.

How can you tell if bottled water is bad or spoiled? If the bottled water develops an off odor, flavor or appearance it should be discarded – in an emergency, it can be purified before drinking (click here to read my article on water storage and water purification).

How long do 5-gallon water jugs last? Milk jugs are biodegradable, meaning that they will break down over time and should not be used for long-term water storage. The best storage containers for drinking water are the AquaBrick Emergency Water & Food Storage Containers that are sold on Amazon or by the prepper supply dealers (click here to see current price and availability on

Is it safe to drink old bottled water? Yes, it’s safe to drink old bottled water as long as it hasn’t developed an off odor, bad flavor or appearance then it’s probably safe to drink. However, if in doubt then purify the water before drinking. You do have a water filter, right (click here read the full review of the Katadyn Vario Water Filter)?

Also, read:  

If this article was helpful or interesting then please leave a “heck yeah” in the comments section below…



  1. I did some ‘testing’ of bottled water. My water was left in the garage in Phoenix AZ, so no light, but lots of heat. The water was from Kroger, gallon jugs and 500ml bottles.
    For the HDPE (milk jug) gallon, after six months, the water had a definite plastic taste. After a year of storage, it was basically undrinkable.
    The 500ml PET bottle showed some stretching after six months, but tasted ok. After a year, it had a plastic taste. At two years, it was nasty – would only drink if dying of thirst.

    My conclusions – don’t use HDPE for long term water storage, PET was okay for six months or less.

    1. Author

      Thank you for your comment and for sharing your personal experience with storing bottled water…

  2. I have 50 cases of good old Safeway ‘Refresh’ bottled water in storage, I rotate it out about one case a month.
    Still kicking at 65, so must be ok???? Except for that third eye in the forehead, but I cover it with my hat HAHAHAHA

    1. Author


      Is it stored under proper conditions – cool, off the floor, and in the dark? BTW get the third eye checked out… I don’t think that’s normal lol.

      1. M.D. Creekmore;
        Ahhhh yes, I keep it under the house, HUGE Crawlspace, temps vary from around 48 in winter to right around 68 in summer, so no problems there.
        Tis nice to have it JIC, of course there are the normal backups, Big Berkey and Sawyer Mini’s for starters.
        Remembering 3 days without water and yar day goes all to heck real fast.

    1. Author

      Matt in Oklahoma,

      I don’t have any experience that type of canned water. Would probably be a lot cheaper to buy these containers and fill with water…

      1. Oh no doubt it’s probably the highest money of all in water preps but it’s an option that might fit some needs.

    2. Matt in Oklahoma & M.D. Creekmore;
      I also bought some of that “Canned Water” has a heck of a long shelf life, they are calming almost 100 years…..
      According to the instructions, it’s simple, just open can, add water and there ya go. Water…. HAHAHA
      Sorry could not resist…. 🙂

  3. I store between 10-15 cases of bottles water in my garage, on the floor….I live in the Sierra-Nevada Foothills. I do rotate the cases, but other than that I take no other precautions. I’ve been storming water this way for many years, my husband and I are still healthy, and drinking the bottled water. I might add that no case has been stored for more than a year.

  4. Thanks for the informative article. We store most of our water in our basement where it remains cool throughout the year and we are diligent in rotating it. The challenge I face up here in central Canada (Manitoba) is keeping water in my vehicle prep case during the winter. I bring fresh water in my “get home pack” each day when I travel or go to work but the water I keep in the vehicle is frozen solid this time of the year (think northern Minnesota then head north). I suspect it is ok when thawed in its’ plastic bottle but my wife is doubtful. Any thoughts?

    1. Author

      George in Winnipeg,

      Freezing will not pose any additional danger or health concerns…

    2. Idea 1: You could make a faux fur-thinsulate bag to go around a cooler that you store the water in. It will help insulate it so that it stays cool, but might not freeze. Whether it freezes or not depends on your insulation. You do want a very good faux fur.

      Idea 2: Buy a cooler that fits inside of another cooler. If you have room for a 7 day cooler, and can fit another hard cooler, with a soft cooler inside, then you have better insulation. Play around with it and see what fits, based on what you can find in your area.

      What I have is a coleman on wheels (day use, hard plastic), with a mountainsmith soft cooler inside, that is used in my house for my water to take meds with. I add a ice pack and it last for 12 hours or more. The water is cold enough for me, if the room is 64F, even after 16 hours.

      My 7day cooler will fit a hard sided lunch cooler (man sized, not the “lunch size”) with a soft sided cooler inside. That soft cooler though, only fits 3 water bottles.

  5. Been storing water in empty 2 liter bottles. Kept in the basement no sun, never gets warmer than 70 degrees F at best. I’ve consumed water well over 7 years old with no ill effect. IMHO it takes a lot for resonably stored ( no extreme heat or direct sun) water to “go bad”,

  6. if your talking about bottled water from a store, 6 months is about the recommended time, even if kept in a dry cool place out of direct sunlight, as the plastic will “leech” into the water, dispose or use in a non drinking manner, and replace with fresh bottles.

  7. I am a self proclaimed expert on expired food/drinks. My record is 3 years past the “best by” date on a box of crackers. They were fine, I am alive. (They were sealed in mylar, to my amazement, but lots of air in package because it wasn’t boxed for long term storage) I routinely eat food a full year past the (arbitrary) date on the package and am currently working my way through 2 boxes of juice pouches that are a year past date. (again, still alive, still feel fine) (no, my rotation plan isn’t failing me, I am doing this on purpose so I KNOW before I need the information)

    It is my understanding that they have taken the BPA’s out of water bottles (it is a plastic hardner…have you noticed the whole bottle twists now, is not at firm as the old ones?) Water is water is water and lasts forever, if stored properly. (see above for proper storage) But even if you haven’t stored it properly (like my repurposed gallon jugs in the sunporch) it is still water and will keep you from dying of dehydration. (or the chickens from dying in the winter when the outdoor faucet is turned off, again, in my case) If it tastes “off” use it for the animals or cleaning. (Animals drink from puddles, they won’t even notice the “off” taste)

    FYI, those grocery store gallon water bottles develop holes after a time….consider something sturdier for long term storage (I find Ice Tea Bottles MUCH sturdier)

    1. Cass,
      I’ve had similar issues with the grocery store gallon water bottles developing holes/cracking. Stay away from them.

  8. I work in the plastic industry and I would never trust plastic containers that are foggy and not completely see through. Most water bottles that are clear are crystalline structures meaning the plastic molecules are arranged in such a tight and aligned form during the extrusion process that nearly nothing can pass through.
    Opaque or the foggy looking plastic containers are not like this, the molecules are more messy and contain a lot of free space. This will allow for chemicals, odors and elements to pass through them, thus not safe long term.
    The weekest point of a plastic bottle is on the bottom, there is a dot that is not see through. This is the spot that last left the extruder/mold die causing it not to cool down fast enough allowing the molecules to lose it’s crystalinity. Due to this you should make sure your containers are staged on a clean, dry surface.
    If you do have long term water storage in clear bottles as we all know keep them away from excessive heat. Heat will cause the molecules to unstack creating space allowing for pass-through. One way to see if a plastic container is too far gone is if the previously clear plastic has started to fog, that would be a situation I definitely wouldn’t drink the water.

    That’s my 3 cents worth a penny.

    1. Author


      Good information… Thank you for your comment!

  9. I won’t buy water in a milk jug, type of container I had a break and it leak all over my cupboard I got it from Walmart, I get the Crystal brand of water from Dollar tree, or my Grocery Outlet has it for .89 cents, depending on where I am. I have 12 gallons, I use one gallon a month in my coffee maker and rotate it. I also can water in mason jars, just fill filtered hot water in your canning jars then use a lid and ring can it in your canner for 10 minute’s I have around 3 gallons of water in my quart jars. Yup without clean water, it will not be be pretty picture.

  10. My gallon containers of bottled water have best by dates of 12/20 or longer. I rotate them just like anything else. I keep them in their cardboard cases which hold 6 gallons. They are stacked on the floor which is concrete covered with indoor/outdoor rugs. They don’t have an off taste, and the water is cool, likely because the floor is a slab without a basement under it, so is cool.

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