Does Pepper Spray Expire — and If So, How Long Does It Last?

Raise your hand if you have the following questions:

  • Does pepper spray expire?
  • If a pepper spray expires, does it lose its sting?
  • If it loses its sting, does it become ineffective for self-defense?

If your hand is raised, then we’re here with the answers! Keep reading to find out all you need to know about the duration of pepper spray and what steps you should take when using this life-saving tool.

Does Pepper Spray Expire?

Unfortunately, pepper spray isn’t like salt. It expires after a certain time and when it does, the product is no longer reliable.

How Long Does An Average Pepper Spray Last?

That depends on the product. The shelf life of a particular type or brand of pepper spray depends on its ingredients but typically ranges from two years to five years after manufacturing. This is why you must read the label carefully before buying one for yourself!

What Happens When a Pepper Spray Expires?

When a pepper spray expires, it may or may not become unusable depending on whether the bottle is still sealed.

If you’ve got hold of some old-stock (but still sealed) bottle which has passed its expiry date — don’t fret! You may not get as much out of this canister as expected, but there’s no need to worry about being harmed. The active ingredients will still be there, however, they may not work as well. In contrast, if your pepper spray has been opened and used before the expiration date, it’s best to replace it.

Will an Expired Pepper Spray Help You Defend Yourself?

Once again, the answer depends on whether the bottle is sealed. If it is, then it is likely to be effective enough for self-defense. But if the seal is opened and the product has expired, then you should get a new one because the chances of that product working are slim to none.

Why Does Pepper Spray Expire?

To answer this question, we have to first take a look at what makes up pepper spray.

What Pepper Spray is Made Of

Pepper spray is made up of Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) — an oily resin that’s extracted from chili peppers. This ingredient makes up the “sting” in pepper spray and, when it dries, it forms a film on the skin.

The expiration dates for pepper sprays are set to ensure that the OC remains potent enough to cause irritation. Once it starts to lose its potency, the manufacturer can’t guarantee that the product will be effective in causing discomfort or incapacitating someone.

Now that you know what pepper spray is made of, you’re ready to learn about how it expires.

Why Pepper Spray Expires

You’re probably thinking now that pepper spray expires when its OC loses its potency. While you’re right, you’re also wrong. You see, pepper spray does expire when its OC loses its potency. But the product becomes unusable long before the OC loses its potency because the pressure inside the bottle decreases much quicker.

When the pressure becomes too low, the bottle can no longer effectively eject out the pepper spray. That’s when a pepper spray expires — and the expiration date mentioned on products is based on the lifetime of their pressure.

What Are the Best Pepper Sprays In 2021?

It depends on who you ask. But the following five make the top ten in most expert rankings.

1. The Mace Pepper Gun

This pepper gun is designed for people who want the convenience of a handgun with the stopping power of OC pepper spray. It holds enough pepper spray to disable an attacker for up to 30 minutes and has a range of 20 feet.

The Mace Pepper Gun retails for $34.95 on the Mace website and is available in many retail stores nationwide, such as Walmart and Kmart.

2. The Sabre Red Police Strength Stun Gun Baton

This stun gun baton not only sprays Oleoresin Capsicum but also emits an electric shock, making it twice as effective. It retails for $74.95 on the Sabre website and is available in many retail stores nationwide, such as Walmart and Kmart.

3. Fox Labs Mean Green Pepper Spray

This product contains a higher concentration of OC than other brands and is reported to have a high rate of success in disabling assailants. It retails for $18.99 on the Fox Labs website.

4. Sabre Red Pepper Gel Streamspray

Formulated with patented gel formula, this stream spray is less likely to cause cross-contamination and can be used indoors without causing any damage. It retails for $21.95 on the Sabre website.

5. The Streetwise 18 Pepper Spray

This pepper spray is small enough to fit in your pocket but packs a powerful punch with its 18% OC concentration. It retails for $12.95 on the Streetwise website.


In conclusion, yes, pepper spray does expire. When it does, it may become practically useless. So you should read the date on your product to ensure that it’s still working. That way, your self-defense tool won’t fail you in your time of need, such as when being attacked in a fight, by a thief, a vicious dog, or any other assailant.


  • Nathan Collins

    Having spent years working in the landscaping industry, Nathan Collins has cultivated a wealth of knowledge about the natural world. He is committed to helping others appreciate the beauty in their backyards, whether it's through identifying rare rocks and minerals or crafting the perfect landscape.

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