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If you have a baby, the stress of keeping your baby safe can be overwhelming. They seem like such fragile, little beings that, in your mind, almost anything can hurt them.
However, some products are a bit of a gray area in terms of whether they can be used on or by children. Take diapers, for example. A staple of baby care. With my first born I bought so many newborn diapers because I didn’t know how many i’d actually need. My son outgrew them pretty quickly, and I was left with a stash. I donated some and gave some to friends for their new babies, but when cleaning up just before my second child arrived I found another box!
Could I still use them? Do they ever expire?
Diaper packaging, like any other baby product, can have a printed expiration date. The diapers should outlast this date, because diapers are primarily paper and plastic-based, but they might not perform as well as they would have prior to their expiry date. Diaper manufacturers Huggies and Pampers are known not to provide expiry dates for their products.
If there is a printed expiry date, the manufacturer does not guarantee the same performance as advertised after the time has expired. Some aging effects, such as discoloration of the outer layer, reduced absorbing capacity, leakage concerns, and a change in fragrance, are possible after the diaper surpasses its peak efficiency period.
Expiration Date On Diapers
This question is a little difficult even for pediatricians and experienced parents. The problem is that diapers are normally used pretty quickly, as babies need to go to the bathroom a lot.
However, when you look at manufacturers and what they say about a diaper’s shelf, most will say that diapers – be they opened or unopened – have no expiration dates as long as they are not used.
Diapers are a manufactured paper or plant based product, so naturally they will last a lot longer than animal based ones. But the period of time they can be used is kind of an unknown quantity, even by manufacturers, what they do know is that they can last years.
Because of this unknown nature, most manufacturers will recommend that you use diapers within 2 years, though they say nothing bad about using them beyond this, it’s just that they are best within that time frame.
Part of the reason for this is that no matter the product or material, it will degrade over time. Metals, foods, trees, even stones succumb to degradation, over time everything does degrade and its usefulness does too.
Therefore, the time frame set by the manufacturers is less of a strict rule and more of a recommendation that you can listen to or ignore at your leisure.
Times Effect On A Diaper
With the time affecting diapers as well as everything else, you may be wondering what that degradation looks like and what to look out for. Well, there are a couple of things that happened to a diaper over time, and here are a few to look out for:
- Discoloration – Due to a diaper being a primarily paper-based product, they are going to experience some discoloration over time. This happens to all paper products, including books and flyers, as they turn from a bright white to a pale yellow. Although this slight yellowish hue looks dirty, it is simply discoloration, and they are as clean as new diapers, so they should be okay to use.
- Absorption – Diapers are known for their absorbing ability. This is due to the diapers having a polymer inside them that expands when water is introduced and prevents it from escaping. Polymers work by making chains that bind together and form a barrier. Over time, this barrier will be less solid or effective and will start to break out with leaks. As such, diapers will be able to absorb less overtime.
- Elasticity – Diapers use elastic substances and adhesive tape to keep a diaper in place while still making it pliable and non-chafing. Though, if you’ve ever had an elastic band too long or cello tape past its prime, then you know that these things start to stop working as well after a few years. The same is true for diapers and while it is okay to use an old diaper, you don’t want a diaper falling off in the wrong place thanks to old materials.
By no means does this mean that you shouldn’t use old diapers, it’s just you need to keep an eye on them more than you would a newer diaper. They work well in a pinch and could save you trouble, so maybe don’t throw them away just yet.
There is no wrong or right way to store diapers, unless you are literally keeping them outside in a hurricane, which is most definitely the wrong way to store diapers. Yet, there are still ways that you can store diapers that will increase their shelf life.
- Unopened – I know that earlier in the article, we mentioned that manufacturers said that unopened or opened diapers will last, and this is true. But if you want to avoid the effects that make a diaper look slightly old or discolored, then it is best to leave them unopened. The packaging will keep them nicer looking for longer and their materials more intact.
- In a dry, cool, and dark place – Heat, moisture, and direct light are the bane of preservation and that is not just for diapers. You will notice that preservation places in universities or museums never have any of these three things, and neither should areas where you are preserving something in its current form. As such, putting your diapers in a well-ventilated cupboard or in a storage room is the best place for them.
- Off the ground – The ground is the foundation of everything that we use in our lives. That doesn’t just go for good things, either. The ground can be wet, damp, moldy, dirty, and have lots of animals on it, both big and small. As such, you don’t want to store your diapers there, not just for cleanliness but because a lot of heat or moisture can be transferred through the ground to your diapers and make them degrade faster.
It may seem trivial to try to store your diapers, but honestly it makes a difference and can set your mind at ease when you pull them out, and they look usable, rather than discolored.
Diapers don’t really have an expiration date, more of the best before date. Even very old diapers can still be used, the problem is that they may not work as well as you think.
However, if you do have a lot of old diapers, don’t fret, by storing them well you should still be able to use them for many years to come.