How Long Do Disinfecting Wipes Last?

If you stocked up on disinfecting wipes last year, you’re not alone. They’re great for cleaning bathroom surfaces, high-touch areas, and more. But they only last about a year or two until they start losing effectiveness. And the way you store your disinfectant wipes impacts ingredient effectiveness.

Key takeaways

  • Disinfecting wipe expiration dates depend on the brand
  • In general, most expire after about 12 - 24 months
  • Store your wipes somewhere dry and avoid extreme temperatures

How to store disinfecting wipes

Every brand of disinfectant wipes has its own formula. Some wipes disinfect with alcohol. Other wipes use common disinfecting ingredients like:

  • Bleach (sodium hypochlorite)
  • Alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride
  • Benzalkonium chloride

The way you store wipes changes how effective they are. This is because those disinfecting ingredients can change based on temperature.

For example, if you store alcohol-based wipes in direct sunlight, they’ll only last for about a year. This is because sunlight and higher temperatures cause alcohol to evaporate. This throws off the ratio of water to alcohol in your wipes container. When there’s less alcohol, your wipes kill fewer germs (if any).

Many disinfecting wipes also contain preservatives. When you store wipes in extreme temperatures, those preservatives break down. This includes extreme heat and extreme cold. And your wipes can actually develop what’s called “fold mold.” It’s a kind of fungus that grows in the folds in your wipes.

Even worse, if you don’t notice wipes have expired, you can actually spread germs, instead of killing them.

How do I know when my wipes were manufactured?

You can check the bottom of the container for a manufacture date. This tells you when the wipes were made and, in effect, how long the shelf life is. Most disinfectant wipes last for about two years if stored properly. But some brands only last about a year.

Read the back of the wipes container label thoroughly since some brands list the shelf life. Look for terms like:

  • Shelf life
  • Expiration date
  • Best by
  • Use before
  • Most effective before

Alternatively, you may notice an ink-jet print on the bottom or back of the container. It may be a series of letters, numbers, or both. It’ll usually follow a month-day-year format. Here’s an example:


In this example, the container was manufactured on August 13, 2020. Depending on the brand and how they’re stored, those wipes should last until August 2021 or 2022.

Other brands use a year-day format. For example:


This means the manufacture date (or MD) was in 2019 on the 332nd day of the year. Or November 28, 2019.

Should you find a date, keep in mind that it’s most likely the manufacture date. Not the expiration date. And yes, it’s possible to accidentally buy expired disinfecting wipes. So when you’re at the store, check the bottom of the container for the manufacture date before you buy.

But if you can’t find a manufacture date, there’s another way to gauge. A good way to tell if your wipes at home are still good is to check how strong the smell is.

If you pop open the disinfecting wipes container and the odor is strong, they’re probably still good. But if you don’t notice any chemical odors, they’re probably past their prime.

These techniques apply to most other disinfecting products as well. Similarly, check your sanitizing products for manufacture dates as well. This includes hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, and so on. Once they expire, they’re no longer as effective against bacteria and other kinds of germs.

Summary: Disinfecting wipes and how long they last

Your disinfecting wipe container likely lasts about two years from when it was made. But some wipe brands only last for about 12 months. After that, wipes are less effective at killing germs and should be discarded.

Check the bottom of the container or the back of the label to find the manufacture date. And make sure to store your wipes at room temperature. Extreme heat and cold can make your wipes less effective and/or shorten their lifespan.

If you're not sure which wipes are relevant for the cleaning method you're about to perform, check out our article about the correct order of cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting. Make sure you're using the right wipes or other tools for any of those actions.