Does Cologne Go Bad? (8 Important Facts)

Have you ever looked at your collection of cologne and wondered how to determine whether or not any of them have gone bad?

Cologne can potentially last for years but all cosmetics have an expiration date. There are certain conditions that can expedite that expiration process, like extreme heat or extreme cold. If your cologne looks or smells funny, it’s gone bad and should be thrown out.

Keep reading to understand more about the conditions that can cause cologne to go bad and how to prevent it from happening too quickly.

Does Cologne Go Bad

Does Cologne Go Bad in Heat?

One of the ways to assure that your cologne will become useless in a short amount of time is to expose it to high heat conditions.

This is why storing it in a cool, dry place is essential. 

When a bottle of cologne is left exposed to direct sunlight, it becomes degraded. Even if your cologne is left in a hot room, away from the sun, the heat can alter the scent and appearance of your cologne.

It is common practice for fragrance companies to conduct lab tests, determine whether or not their cologne can withstand extreme temperatures.

They found that if cologne is exposed to heat temperatures above 110 degrees F (43 degrees C), it will begin to decline more rapidly than expected if the cologne were to remain at room temperature.

Scents used to make up your fragrance is another factor in conjunction with heat. For instance, colognes that are all or mostly citrus would be more sensitive to high heat temperatures. Instead of them beginning to degrade at 110 degrees F (43 degrees C), prolonged exposure over 98 degrees F (37 degrees C), can lead to deterioration.

But keep in mind that damage only begins to occur when the cologne has been left in high heat conditions for months or years, even. If your bottle of cologne was mistakenly left on your dresser, and then you realized that it was sitting in direct sunlight, don’t panic.

Simply place the bottle in a cool, dry, dark place, and allow it to reach room temperature again. 

Does Cologne Go Bad Behind Dark Colored Glass?

The color of your cologne bottle is also a contributing factor. 

Clear glass bottles leave your cologne most vulnerable because the light shines directly into it; there’s no barrier.

Amber or cobalt-colored glass is a different story. While high heat can still present a problem, direct sunlight is not as much of an issue because the colored glass acts as a shield against direct sun rays. The same holds true for essential oils, if you have those.

The darker the bottle color, the more protected your cologne is from direct sunlight.

But even if your cologne comes in a dark container, don’t display your cologne on a shelf or dresser where it’s exposed to direct sunlight. Even though it’s more protected, the heat generated by the sunlight can cause the chemical structure to break down.

If this happens over an extended period of time, your cologne will become useless. Or at the very least, less potent.

Does Cologne Go Bad in Cold Weather?

Unlike hot weather, cold temperatures don’t seem to ruin cologne. I wouldn’t suggest placing it outdoors while living in Siberia, but you don’t have as much to worry about if your cologne has been left out in the cold.

If you’ve ever put an alcoholic beverage like vodka or gin into your freezer, I’m sure you noticed that it didn’t freeze. It gets colder, but it doesn’t freeze like an ice cube would. That’s because it mostly consists of ethanol. Yep, that’s the same type of alcohol used to make personal fragrances.

So your cologne won’t freeze if it’s in cold weather for a few hours. In order for alcohol to freeze, it would have to be in a setting like Siberia or a commercial freezer that can go up to -173 degrees F (-114 degrees C) or higher. For sake of comparison, most consumer freezers only get as cold as -17 degrees F (-27 degrees C). That’s a huge difference.

So similar to heat, extreme cold might alter your fragrance. 

If your cologne is left in freezing cold temperatures for months or years, then it’s possible that your cologne would be damaged.

After pulling it out of the cold temperature, you can allow it to go up to room temperature, let it rest for a couple days, and then test it to see how it looks and smells before using it.

Does Cologne Go Bad in High Humidity Conditions?

When the air is excessively moist, having high amounts of water vapor, those conditions create humidity. It’s basically moisture in the air.

Humidity, or moist air can create all kinds of damage, think mold and fungal growth. But in terms of cologne, humid conditions have been found to break down chemical bonds, causing the cologne to deteriorate faster. 

This chemical reaction can reduce the potency of your cologne, meaning you’ll likely to spray it on in larger quantities just to get the same fragrant effects as you did prior to its exposure to humidity.

This is why you should avoid storing your cologne in the bathroom, unless it is somehow stored in a place where it’s shielded away from the humidity.

What if you can’t avoid the humidity? Some geographical areas are naturally humid, and it would be difficult to prevent your cologne from being exposed to those conditions. In this case, you might want to run a dehumidifier in the area where you store your colognes. 

It’s understandable that you may not be able to operate the dehumidifier all day. If you’re able to run it during the times of day when humidity is at its highest though, that could go a long way towards preserving the original state of your cologne.

Does Cologne Go Bad in The Car?

Storing your cologne in your car may not be such a bad idea, but it depends on the temperature. 

If your car is parked in direct sunlight or high humidity, that could damage your cologne over time. Be sure to place your cologne in the coolest part of your vehicle if you have no choice but to store it there when it’s hot or humid outside. Placing the bottle underneath a seat, so that it’s shaded or in your trunk, would help protect the fragrance.

Avoid placing the cologne on your dashboard or another spot where it would be exposed to direct sunlight and high heat.

If your car temperature is fairly cool, and it’s sheltered in a garage or covered by a port, then you likely won’t experience any problems with your cologne.

Excessive shaking can be a problem if you’re driving off-road or extremely bumpy road conditions. Constant shaking or vibrating over and over again can damage the scent molecules in your cologne because they begin oxidizing as more and more air is introduced to the cologne.

So cologne won’t necessarily go bad in your car, but you have to be mindful of temperature and environmental conditions if you want the cologne to last.

Does Cologne Go Bad if Unopened?

Leaving cologne in its original packaging actually helps to preserve it over time.

You’ll be protecting it from direct sunlight, and you’ll avoid exposing it to air. You’d also be keeping its cap on while left unopened, which preserves its scent.

If stored in proper conditions, unopened cologne would smell just like new once you begin to use it. But if you’ve kept it in its original packaging for longer than five years, you will want to test it to determine whether or not it’s gone bad.

Does Cologne Go Bad if You Leave the Top Off?

If cologne is exposed to air over a long period of time, it will eventually go bad. 

Leaving the cap off of your cologne bottle will cause the ethanol and water to evaporate. This process would happen more quickly than expected if the lid is off for weeks and months at a time. 

Eventually, you’ll notice that nothing but thick, concentrated fragrance remains. But it’s likely that the scent will have changed. The sticky mess that’s left behind can’t be used, and will have to be thrown out. 

The only exception is if there’s an atomizer/sprayer on your cologne bottle. If you’re missing the lid of the sprayer, then the cologne will still evaporate, but at a slower rate. You can also hamper the process by keeping the container in a dark, cool spot.

So if you’ve misplaced your top, you’ll want to get a replacement in order to be able to continue using your cologne before it goes bad.

Does Cologne Go Bad Over Time?

Cologne can typically last up to four years. But if there’s concern, look at the bottom or back of the original packaging to see if there’s an expiration date.

No longer have the original packaging? If the cologne has gone bad, you might notice that the color is off. Typically it’s significantly darker than the original color. If it was a light amber, it might begin to look dark brown. Other times, it might shift to a different hue altogether, like going from deep blue to green.

If you decide to use your cologne after four years or after its printed expiration date, then it may not smell the same, either. As cologne ages, it can mellow out a bit, similar to fine wine. So that’s normal. But if it’s gone bad, the smell won’t be something you’d want to wear. It might be more of a stench than a fragrance.

In addition to a change in smell, you might find that the cologne begins to irritate your skin as it ages. If this happens, you should immediately discard the cologne.

Cologne formulas vary, though, some of the more expensive colognes can last longer than four years. It’s been said that colognes with high concentration of fragrance last longer. But even premier colognes by Clive Christian are suggested to be used within three to five years. 


Was this list helpful to you? The nature of a fragrance is to change over time. But the rate at which this happens partially depends on you.

Proper storage can prolong the use of your cologne. Keeping it in a cool, fairly dark place away from direct sunlight, humidity, high heat or extreme cold, helps preserve your cologne for years to come. You’ll also want to avoid fluctuating temperatures back and forth between hot and cold temperatures. 

Your cologne will eventually go bad, but if you protect it in ways outlined above, you’ll get better use out of it prior to its date of expiry.

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Hello and welcome to Fragrance Advice! My name is Grace Young, and I’ve been drawn to fragrances since I was a little girl. There's just something about scent that brings me so much joy! 

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