How Long is the Shelf Life of Kerosene and Does it Go Bad?

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Kerosene is one of the many fuels, widely used for heaters and lamps at our homes, typically around the cold winter season. If you have heaters in your home, you probably have a generous amount of kerosene left. However, storing fuels can bring its own complications. So, its storage raises the question; How long is the shelf life of kerosene and does it go bad? 

The shelf life of kerosene is between 3 to 5 years. Also, keep in mind that it can go bad after a certain period of time, depending on how well it is stored. It comes down to how you keep it. If you fail to store it properly, it could be compromised with water that can degrade fuel systems.

However, there are a lot of people who have used Kerosene that lasted for more than 5 years with no issues. There are other factors at hand that can weigh on the extension of its shelf life. So, without further ado, let’s find out more about this topic!

How Long till Kerosene Expires?

If you go on looking for how long Kerosene is good for by Googling it, the general results will not be reliable enough. Some will say it will go bad in a matter of several months, some will say they are only good for a few years, and others may even say over a decade!

In reality, kerosene should be good to use for a minimum of 3 years. When stored in original packaging or a proper container, the standard shelf life of kerosene is expected to be ranging from 3 to 5 years. You should know that poor storing of kerosene can cause its shelf life to be cut short.

Eventually, it will go bad. But, why does it go bad over time? The answer is; condensation. It’s the main reason for kerosene to go bad after a while. The possibility of water being introduced to it is very common. From a chemical standpoint, water clogs the fuel systems and causes malfunction. In simpler terms, it would not be as efficient as the first time.

Unlike diesel or gas, kerosene is less prone to go bad. So, it is not likely to absorb the water from the air so the use of fuel stabilizers is not always necessary.

In addition, kerosene is also likely to grow biological material. Sludge develops from mold and bacteria that were already living in it and feeds off of fossil fuel that can break it down and decrease its quality. This commonly occurs in poor storage or improper containers where they usually turn bad.

How can you tell Kerosene has gone bad?

This can lead to the question of how one could know whether the kerosene is bad. When it does go bad, you will easily notice it to be in a rather cloudier form. Although it’s more common for it to go unclear, you could also observe it to be a bit more yellow in appearance.

Another notable way to know if you have good fuel is to collect a small portion of your kerosene from the very bottom of the storage or container into a small transparent jar. You might be wondering why you have to collect it from the bottom. It’s because the specific gravity of Kerosene is lighter than water. So, if there is any water in your kerosene it will be at the bottom.

If you see the formation of bubbles at the bottom of the transparent jar, this means your fuel is not good. Those bubbles are water, not air. The Kerosene needs to be crystal clear.

How to Store Kerosene for Longest Shelf Life?

It is much easier to prolong the shelf life of Kerosene than to try to extend the shelf life of gasoline or diesel. It’s naturally less vulnerable to water absorption than other fuels.

First and foremost, the type of storage containers you use and where you keep your Kerosene is the most important factor when it comes to storing. This explains why the containers in which Kerosene originally comes in are designed for storage.

However, not everyone chooses to or is able to use the original containers. If that’s the case for you, the next substitute is using clear plastic containers that are specifically designed for Kerosene storage. I recommend storing Kerosene only in new, sealed, and fresh containers that are only made for storage. 

You can find such containers in hardware stores and as well as online. These specially designed containers can be convenient for preserving the shelf life of Kerosene and also protecting you and your home altogether.

Don’t confuse yourself by storing Kerosene in heaters, lamps, or some other device that runs on it thinking it helps maintain the fuel better. It will still last as long as it would last in any other container. In fact, the Kerosene is much more likely to spoil faster inside the device it is intended for as they are made to hold and use fuel, not store it.

Improper containers such as used milk bottles, drums, used plastic jugs, and cans of gasoline can easily contaminate the fuel and cause the fuel to spoil.

The best way to store your Kerosene is in an approved container in a dark and cool place, preferably away from the living areas. Keeping the fuel separated from living quarters, especially away from children’s reach, not only keeps it safe from getting spoiled but also prevents any possible hazardous events from taking place. 

An unattached shed would be a good place to store Kerosene. But, don’t think of keeping it outdoors as direct sunlight can drastically degrade the fuel.

Can You Still Use Bad Kerosene?

Not interested in throwing away the bad kerosene? Don’t worry because it can still be used! However, it can be used to a certain extent. Here are a few ways I’ve listed for you to use bad Kerosene.

Filter the Contaminants: What you can do about the bad fuel is strain the Kerosene through several coffee filters. The filters will filter any developed sludge from the bacteria and mold, and as well as the water formed from condensation in the fuel. It might not seem necessary, but it can make a difference.

Mixing: You can take the bad fuel and fresh Kerosene and put them together. After mixing them, the resulting mixture should be safe enough to be reusable. Although the mixed batch can be reused, there is no possibility of it being as fully efficient as a new kerosene batch.

Fuel Stabilizers: Although it’s not necessary for Kerosene, fuel stabilizers can still increase its shelf life if added annually. Adding fuel stabilizers annually from the get-go will also keep the kerosene from going bad.

Keep in mind that none of the above measures will be as efficient as fresh Kerosene. It can be disappointing if you want to use your old and bad kerosene and expect it to perform just like you used it the first time as it will not be the same.


Just prior to winter, there’s a surge in Kerosene purchases as people don’t like to buy them over and over again. Are you planning on buying Kerosene for your heater this winter? If so, you should be prepared to maintain this fuel; from preserving its shelf life to knowing how to reuse bad Kerosene.

It can be hard to fully understand the shelf life of Kerosene as it depends on so many factors. Nevertheless, this article should prove to be enough to assist you in that regard. Thank you for taking the time to read this article and I hope you have a nice day!


Shanna is the 2nd half of Top Outdoor Survival. Like Forest, she has a passion for guns and knives. They love to go on a survival trip at least once a year. They love to go camping, hiking, and traveling.

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