Does Pepper Spray Expire? And Why?

By Tim Chesonis •  Updated: 05/04/19 •  6 min read
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People carry Pepper Spray for protection should they find themselves in a situation where they feel threatened, or fear for their life. However, how long does it last, does it need to be replaced, and if so, why?

Pepper spray does have an expiration date anywhere from 2 – 5 years depending on the brand. There are 2 reasons why you will want to replace the canister after it expires:

1). Expired pepper spray looses its potency over time.
2). Expired pepper spray won’t dispense as desired, if at all.

We are going to explore the facts behind this claim discovering why pepper spray looses it potency over time, and why it won’t dispense with the same vigor it had when it was first purchased.

Expired Pepper Spray Looses It’s Potency Over Time

Expired pepper spray may still work, but it will not ward off the assailant as intended.

By no means, am I a doctor or a pharmacist, and I certainly do not claim to offer advice on taking medication of any sort. If a prescription has an expiration date, by all means, respect that expiration date. However, when it comes to pharmaceuticals, for the most part, the expiration date does not mean that it is harmful to use (unless refrigeration is required), it just may not be as effective at that point. The reason for the expiration date is to ensure that it can deliver the same potency of the chemical as intended.

When pepper spray expires, the chemicals that comprise pepper spray will have degraded to the point that it will not be nearly as effective. It *may* still work, but it also will not ward off the assailant as intended. In fact, in using an expired canister of pepper spray, it may just make matters worse.

Expired Pepper Spray Won’t Dispense As Desired

Pressurized canisters loose their ability to dispense over time.

Did you know that spray paint cans have a life-span as well? At some point there comes a time when a spray paint can will not dispense the paint. The paint may come out, but it will dribble on your hands when you hold the spray nozzle. This happens because pressurized canisters loose their ability to dispense over time.

With pepper spray, once it has reached it expiration date, it may not dispense at all, or it may not spray nearly far enough or have the desired stream and therefore will not be as effective.

Think of it this way. If you use pepper spray after the expiration date, though you expect it to come out like a fire hose, rushing out with vigor, you may find that it behaves much like a garden hose . . . . without the hose nozzle. No pressure. Completely ineffective. On top of that, the pepper spray may dribble out onto your hand, not the eyes of the perpetrator.

What’s The Difference Between Mace and Pepper Spray?

There is a brand called “Mace”, that uses pepper spray as its active ingredient. “Mace” is the same as “Pepper spray”, but “Chemical mace” is a very different product than the “Mace” brand of today. In effect, when we speak of “Mace” today, and “Pepper spray”, we are referring to the same thing as the brand, “Mace” uses pepper spray in its product.

For further clarification, let’s show the the differences between chemical mace and pepper spray.

Chemical mace, is an irritant similar to tear gas, whereas pepper spray is an inflammatory, meaning that it will immediately incapacitate the predator.

Chemical mace *may* not have an effect on someone who is under the influence of drugs, alcohol, but pepper spray will have an immediate effect anyone down, regardless of weather or not they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

This occurs because chemical mace will not inflame the capillaries of the eyes and skin, or cause temporary blindness, nausea or an intense burning sensation when you breath. But pepper spray will inflict all of those on an assailant.

In other words, pepper spray is more effective than chemical mace for the reasons stated above.

10 Benefits of Using Pepper Spray

  1. Anybody can use Pepper spray. Basically, if you can use a can of hairspray, you can use pepper spray.
  2. Pepper spray will cause excessive tears, a burning sensation, the swelling of the eyelids, and temporary blindness. It will cause great difficulty in breathing especially for those with asthma.
  3. Pepper spray can incapacitate a person anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour.
  4. Pepper spray will have an immediate impact on any person, regardless of age, size, gender, or if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  5. Pepper spray canisters often have multiple spray types. These can include a stream pattern, foam pattern, fog pattern, or a gel pattern.
  6. Some pepper spray canisters can shoot as far as 20 feet, but most generally have a range of about 12 feet.
  7. For most people, carrying a canister of pepper spray is less intimidating than carrying a gun. In other words, it’s less intimidating to you. Trust me, when an assailant sees the pepper spray come out, he will be intimidated!
  8. Using pepper spray does not require a license (though legal in all 50 states, each municipality has it’s own regulations).
  9. The shelf life of 3-5 years depending on the brand.
  10. Pepper spray is VERY inexpensive. Prices range from $10 – $25 depending on the brand you chose. The difference is not in how potent it is, but things like the shelf life, range, and how many ounces are included in the canister.

Product Recommendations

The following are product recommendations and can be purchased on Amazon by clicking the following links. In encourage you to read the reviews of each and make a decision that best suits your needs.

Final Thoughts

Not all pepper spray canister brands are the same. When purchasing one, be sure that you find one that has a long range. The further it will shoot, the further you can spray the assailant.

With that in mind, the longer it shoots, the less “shots” you have available to you. Each “shot” is about is considered half a second of spray time, so a canister that says it has 25 or 35 shots is about 10 – 15 seconds of spray time in total until the canister is empty.

Finally, for all the reasons stated above, I urge you to respect the expiration date listed on the canister. It’s not a scam to try to get you to buy more pepper spray. The expiration date is put in place to ensure that if you find yourself in a situation where you fear for your life, you will be able use it with confidence, knowing that it will deliver the goods, incapacitating the offender, freeing you of the threat.

Tim Chesonis

Tim loves writing to help people succeed. He loves tech, Linux, his iPhone and iPad. When he's not writing another article, he's probably binge-watching “The Middle” or “Breaking Bad”, (again). To learn more about Tim, click here.