How Long Does Milk Last?

How long does milk last? Milk lasts for 7 days beyond its "best by" date if properly stored as described below. Milk is a dairy product produced by mammals such as cattle, goats and sheep. It comes in a variety of types (whole milk, reduced fat, skim and non-fat milk) and can be processed into other dairy products such as yogurt, butter and cheese. Studies suggest that, as a result of its high vitamin content, consumption is effective in promoting muscle growth and improving post-exercise muscle recovery.

From the full taste and high cream content of whole milk to the skim and non-fat versions (which actually help when on a weight loss diet), it provides the body with much needed calcium and vitamin D to name a few of the benefits of milk. However, it is more fragile than most people realize. The shelf life of milk is influenced by a variety of factors, such as processing method and carton date, exposure to light and heat, and how it is stored.

So, how long does milk last? When properly stored at or below 40°F, containers of milk last for the time periods past the date printed on the carton as indicated in the table below:

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Milk Expiration Date

(Unopened) Refrigerator
Past Printed Date
Lactose-Free Milk lasts for 7-10 Days
Non-Fat Milk lasts for 7-10 Days
Skim Milk lasts for 7 Days
Reduced-Fat Milk lasts for 7 Days
Whole Milk lasts for 5-7 Days
(Opened) Refrigerator
Past Printed Date
All Milk lasts for 5-7 Days

Of course, all types of food and drink products last for a shorter period of time if they are not stored properly. But remember, dairy products usually have a sell by date - which is the last date by which a manufacturer will vouch for a product's quality, not its safety. Because of this distinction, you may safely use it to compliment your favorite meals even after its "sell by date" has lapsed, according to the table above if it is stored properly at all times.

How to tell if Milk is bad, rotten or spoiled?

Practicing proper hygiene and food safety techniques will help prevent foodborne illness.

Although not a perfect test, your senses are usually the most reliable instruments to tell if your drink has gone bad.

Some common traits of bad milk are discoloration, lumpy texture and a very distinctive unclean sour smell (which you will notice when removing the lid). These changes occur from lactic acid producing bacteria.

If you have sour milk, it can be cooked or used in recipes that call for sour milk - but do not drink it without properly cooking it first. Check our substitute page to find a proper alternative instead.

There are, of course, certain health risks associated with spoiled foods so always remember to practice food safety and enjoy your foods before their shelf life has expired!

How to store Milk to extend its shelf life?

Keeping milk cold is essential to extending its shelf life. You can help keep milk fresh longer by keeping it away from light and by placing it back into your refrigerator immediately after each use. Store milk on an interior refrigerator shelf rather than in the door, where the temperature fluctuates with frequent opening. In addition, opened milk should be stored tightly in its original container as the containers were specifically designed for this purpose.

Unfortunately freezing milk, although safe, isn't a great option. Freezing is not recommended because freezing destabilizes the molecular structure and the resulting product will be less desirable than the fresh product. If you do freeze your milk, it will keep for about 3 Months in the freezer. When thawed, the texture and color will be slightly altered, it will be lumpy and yellow but the product does remain safe.

Some benefits of proper food storage include eating healthier, cutting food costs and helping the environment by avoiding waste.

How to use extra before your Milk goes bad?

What if you have extra and don't want it to spoil and go to waste? Here are a few simple suggestions to use up your milk before it spoils:

  • Get out a box of cook & serve pudding mix. This uses up 3 cups of milk and also heats it to boiling as an extra precaution.
  • Make some hot chocolate in a pan with milk and cocoa, again heating the milk.
  • Many people find that they fall asleep quicker if they drink warm milk before bedtime.
  • How long is Milk good for when prepared in a dish?

    How long does milk last? That depends. How long do eggs last? In general, foods last only as long as the quickest expiring ingredient that they are mixed with.

    What are our shelf life resources?

    In determining how long Milk lasts, our content incorporates research from multiple resources, including the United States Department of Agriculture and the United States Food & Drug Administration. In addition, we scoured the web for informative articles and reports related to food safety, food storage and the shelf life of Milk.

    *An important note about expiration dates...

    Although the Milk shelf life information on Eat By Date is generally reliable, please remember that individual cases will vary and that our advice should only be taken as an opinion and not a replacement for your health care professional. Please eat responsibly!

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