I have a camping stove and heater and often buy butane canisters in bulk as it’s more cost-effective. If I see a real bargain, is it worth stocking up and do they ever expire or go bad?
You can store butane canisters for up to 10 years or even longer as long as the can has not deteriorated and it's been stored properly. Butane gas itself never expires or goes bad but the canister it’s stored in can corrode or get damaged, making it dangerous to use. Most butane cans are safe to use for 10 or even 20 years.
You just need to make sure the metal can isn't damaged in any way otherwise the canister could potentially be dangerous to use.
If you have old butane canisters and want to use them, it’s important to know if it’s safe to use and how long you can still store them for.
What Is The Shelf Life of Butane?
Butane gas has an indefinite shelf life because it doesn’t degrade or become less effective with time.
Most butane canisters don't have an expiration located anywhere on the bottle. This is because they don't expire.
However, most butane canisters will have a printed manufacturing date – likely located on the bottom of the canister.
This allows you to see exactly when the canister was made and you can then work out how old it is.
The above canister is manufactured on 4th December 2020 (or maybe the 12th April 2020) making it years old now. However, the can is still in great condition, shows no visible signs or rust or damage and I would personally happily use this for years to come.
If you see an expiry date on a butane canister, it’s referring to the canister’s shelf life. After about 10 years, butane canisters often show signs of corrosion and the seal or valve may become worn down, causing the butane to leak out.
You can still use them after this “expiration date” as long as the canister itself looks to be in good condition.
How Long Can You Store Butane Canisters?
You can store butane canisters for 10 and sometimes even 20+ years as long as they’re in a dry, well-ventilated and cool place out of direct sunlight.
If your butane canister has an expiry date printed or stamped on it, it’s a good idea to dispose of it safely and not use it beyond this date because any damage or wear and tear could cause a gas leak or explosion.
Here’s how to store butane canisters safely so they last as long as possible:
- Store butane canisters in a dry place. Continuous exposure to moisture can rust the canister, causing holes to form or the walls to become thin and worn out. This can lead to a gas leak.
- Keep them in a well-ventilated space. Butane is odorless so it’s usually difficult to detect a leak. If butane accumulates in a poorly-ventilated room and there is a small spark or a little static electricity, it can easily result in an explosion or fire.
- Store them below 122°F (50°C) but above freezing point. Anything above this and butane will heat up and pressurize the canister walls, and the can may explode. On the flip side, be careful not to keep butane cans below freezing point as this is the temperature at which it becomes ineffective.
- Always keep butane canisters upright. This lets the butane distribute evenly in the canister. Butane is a heavy gas and storing canisters on their side or upside down will put pressure on the walls and could cause an explosion.
Can Butane Canisters Go Bad Over Time?
Butane canisters can go bad over time. After a decade or more, the canisters start wearing down, the metal degrades and the valve and seal can weaken and malfunction. This can cause a dangerous gas leak or explosion.
However, storing them properly can delay this by a matter of decades or storing it incorrectly could make a canister unsafe for use in a much shorter period of time.
Butane gas never expires so if your canister is still in perfect condition, it’s safe to use (otherwise dispose of them safely at a hazardous waste recycling facility).