Does Pepper Spray Expire: The Basics You Should Be Aware Of

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

To keep yourself safe from any untoward incidents such as an attack, you might be someone who brings pepper spray all the time.

Anything pressurized into a spray can have chemicals in it, and many chemical compounds tend to have an expiration date.

At this point, it would be helpful to answer some questions regarding pepper spray.

What is pepper spray? How do you use it? Does pepper spray expire?

If you work in law enforcement like me, you already have the training to answer some of these questions.

But they don’t discuss the details about any expiration dates, right? So let me go through each of these items in detail.

What Is Pepper Spray?

Pepper spray is also called oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray, capsaicin spray, or capsicum spray.

It is a lachrymatory agent, which means it contains substances that irritate the eyes and cause temporary blindness, pain, and burning sensations.

It also causes temporary discomfort in the lungs, which effectively results in shortness of breath.

Before OC spray came into production, manufacturers used chloroacetophenone (CN), which is more popularly known as tear gas.

Manufacturers then diverted from CN to a less toxic but more potent chemical called o-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile or CS.

CS and OC are widely used to control riots and apprehend lawbreakers who try to resist arrest.

The use of chemical agents to subdue criminals reduces the risk of physical injuries on both sides of any situation.

In 2001, the US law enforcement sector legally allowed the civilian use of pepper spray for self-defense.

Who Uses Pepper Spray?

Originally, pepper spray was used to fend off attacking large animals such as bears and dogs, but it developed into a type of law enforcement conducted energy device (CED).

If you are also working as a law enforcement officer, you already have complete access to a variety of CEDs, such as tasers, tear gas, and pepper spray.

You have had a better experience handling arrests and riots using CEDs that allow fewer and fewer physical altercations.

Aside from having primary use in policing and riot control, it has been widely marketed for self-defense.

Pepper spray is very effective for warding off any attackers who can harm you in many ways.

They can surprise you while walking in a dark alley, and they can jump out the side of a vehicle while you are walking to your car in the parking lot.

Additionally, perpetrators can break your doors and windows and enter your home without you knowing.

A pepper spray on your person is a piece of lightweight self-defense equipment, which is relatively easy to operate and carry around.

Anyone who knows how to use a spray bottle can ultimately use pepper spray.

It has the same effect on all types of body size, gender, weight, and age, and it has been a useful material for subduing people with evil and inappropriate intentions.

Differences Among Pepper Sprays

To answer the question “Does pepper spray expire?” let me discuss the differences among pepper spray variants.

Different pepper spray products offer variable potencies and firing distances.

The effective range of pepper spray canisters is anywhere between three and twenty feet, which usually depends on the brand.

The differences in effective range also dictate how many times a canister can dispense a stream of chemicals.

The longer the range it can fire means it has less spraying times.

Some pepper spray products also have different pressurization levels in their canisters.

That means they can either produce a strong stream or a light mist of the substance.

Moreover, some pepper spray canisters have a safety lock on the nozzle that can prevent any accidental release.

How to Use Pepper Spray

The best way to correctly use your pepper spray is by reading the included safety instructions before any first-time use.

Some pepper spray products will not fire if you don’t release the safety lock on the nozzle.

Do not use pepper spray to protect your territory possessively by spraying it towards any unsuspecting passerby.

Do not use it to deliberately harm another person, especially if that person has not done anything to provoke a defensive action.

Only use it in self-defense against assailants invading your personal space.

Use it as an effective distraction to escape from any attack or possible threats.

Direct the nozzle of your pepper spray towards the face of an attacker and dispense at close range.

If you cannot get closer to your attacker, at least try dispensing at the maximum effective range of your particular product.

Finally, if you work as a police officer, let me remind you that you should use pepper spray as humanely as possible.

Criminals tend to be stubborn while trying to resist arrest, and they can be very aggressive if not treated politely.

Do not use pepper spray on a subject that has already been restrained.

does pepper spray expire

Does Pepper Spray Expire?

Does pepper spray go bad? Can pepper spray expire? Definitely, yes.

Pepper spray expiration depends on the potency of the chemicals used to make a pepper spray.

It also depends on usage frequency and dispensing times.

How Long Does Pepper Spray Last Before It Expires?

Not all pepper spray products are the same.

They have written indications about when they will expire, mostly between two and five years.

These expiration dates are put there for several reasons, including dispensing ability and chemical effectivity.

Does Pepper Spray Go Bad?

Since pepper spray expiration also depends on usage frequency, it will usually expire by the time you used up most of the canister contents.

The average number of sprays is also usually indicated on the canister.

The number of sprays indicates when your pepper spray expires because even if it has released all of the chemicals, it may still have the pressure to produce a cone of mist.

This cone of mist could be ineffective against any attackers because it doesn’t have the components of oleoresin capsicum that can potentially save you.

Does Pepper Spray Still Work After It Expires?

If you don’t want to throw it away, you might want to know what happens when pepper spray expires.

Like most aerosol products, expired pepper spray loses its chemical potency and dispensing pressure after some time.

It will still work, but not as effective as before its expiration.

There is a large possibility that using expired pepper spray cannot ward off an attacker as intended.

Low potency pepper spray cannot convey enough chemicals that can effectively blind and distract an attacker.

It also reduces the time in which you can mount up a defense and escape an attacker effectively.

Additionally, as it loses its internal pressure, the pepper spray canister cannot deliver the chemicals to its listed effective range.

Expired pepper spray won’t dispense as desired even if it dispenses at all.

You might think that it can still be useful because you never had the chance to use it, but you can’t really stop the pressure from creeping out of the canister.

How Often Should Pepper Spray Be Replaced?

In law enforcement, we have a steady replacement of equipment, including pepper spray.

Our supplies department will typically tell us when to replace our gear and turn the old ones in for replacement.

However, for a civilian, you must check your pepper spray for the expiration date or ask your supplier when it expires so you would know when to get a replacement.

If you know the expiration date, you don’t have to find out what happens when pepper spray expires.

You might just be able to save someone or yourself from any surprising attacker, which you don’t know when and where they might pop out.

Also, replace used up canisters of pepper spray immediately.

Be aware of your pepper spray capacity and contents because a small difference in spraying capacity might just help you save another life.

Testing Your Pepper Spray

You may have pepper spray that is well within the period specified by its expiration date, but regularly testing the product helps you determine its effectiveness.

It is advisable to test your pepper spray every three to six months to know whether it still has spraying power.

Do not over-test your pepper spray since this will rapidly deplete the contents of your pepper spray canister.

Test your canister outdoors when the breeze is light.

Stand facing the wind direction to prevent the chemical spray from accidentally reverting to your face.

Press the release button for at least five seconds to check if it dispenses as it should.


Be wary of any possible attacks when you’re walking home alone in a dark alley or a poorly lit parking lot.

Keep your pepper spray in your hand, and be ready to ward off any attackers that may surprise you during any regular evening routine.

Can pepper spray expire? We already have an answer to that.

It expires as soon as it loses all of its internal pressure and as early as its chemical component shelf life.

Understanding when your pepper spray product expires gives you an edge against any mugger that you can encounter.

Remember to check the expiration date on your pepper spray bottle and replace it as needed.

If you are a police officer, don’t forget to bring your handcuffs to a sting operation.

You may not need to use your gun or taser because you have your pepper spray with you, but a pair of handcuffs can stop a criminal from doing any more harm.

Pepper spray can be very handy when subduing an assailant, which means you can partner it with the best restraining devices.

1 thought on “Does Pepper Spray Expire: The Basics You Should Be Aware Of”

  1. Pingback: Is Pepper Spray Legal in NYC? - Forever Police

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *