Fresh lemon juice can last up to 4 days in the refrigerator while commercial lemon juice can last up to 12 months. Proper storage methods can keep your lemon juice fresh for longer.
Lemon juice is versatile AF. Not only it loaded with nutrients, lemon juice also has beauty benefits and can be used as a food preservative or multipurpose cleaner. The downside? Lemon juice can go bad.
Here’s how long lemon juice lasts, plus storage tips to help increase its shelf-life.
Yup! Lemon juice can go bad. At first, you may notice it has a slightly off taste or smell. But over time, it can grow mold and bacteria, making the taste and smell 10/10 rancid. Yuck.
The good news is that, while it can go bad, lemon juice lasts a pretty long time when stored correctly. Plus, it’s loaded with citric acid which acts as a natural preservative.
How long does it last you might ask? Well, freshly squeezed lemon juice is good for up to four days when stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. But commercial brands can last anywhere from 3–12 months, depending on how you store it.
As with all perishable food and beverages items, once you open the container the countdown begins. The spoilage process starts once the fluid is exposed to the air and microorganisms.
Lemon juice is an ideal environment for yeast, mold, and bacteria to grow. This is why commercial lemon juices go through a thermal pasteurization process before hitting the shelf.
Pasteurization kills any microorganisms contaminants that could be present in the juice, rendering the fluid commercially sterile. The process also allows for the juice to retain its attractive qualities (e.g. taste, smell, color) for consumers. As a result, commercial lemon juice has a longer shelf life than juice squeezed straight from lemons themselves.
Spoiled lemon juice can lead to food poisoning. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is an irritation or infection in the digestive tract, resulting from the consumption of contaminated food or drinks.
when you eat or drink something that’s contaminated with microorganisms, such as yeast, mold, or bacteria. Food poisoning symptoms include:
Symptoms usually start within a few hours after eating bad food, but sometimes it can take up to two days.
Seek medical attention if your symptoms are super severe, or if they last longer than 24 hours.
Here’s how to tell if your lemon juice isn’t safe to use:
- Check for mold. Chuck your juice if you see any signs of mold. You should also be sure to wash the container really well to destroy any lingering bacteria.
- Color check. Fresh lemon juice has a very light yellow color. But, bad lemon juice will have a dark or cloudy color.
- Take a good, long whiff. If you detect any other odors other than fresh lemon juice, it’s time to toss it.
- Taste test. Spoiled juice loses its distinctive citrusy flavor. Instead of being sour and slightly sweet, it will taste bad and bitter.
The lifespan of your lemon juice depends of if its:
- been kept in the fridge or pantry
- been stored in an airtight container
- fresh squeezed or pasteurized commercial juice
Fresh squeezed lemon juice has a shelf life of about 3–4 days if it’s stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container.
Due to pasteurization and added preservatives, commercial bottled lemon juice has a much longer lifespan. An unopened bottle can last for 3–6 months in the pantry or 6–12 months in the fridge.
PSA: Discard freshly squeezed juice that’s been left at room temp for more than a day.
The best way to store all fresh or commercial lemon juice is in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. This minimizes its exposure to oxygen and microorganisms that lead to speedy spoilage.
If you have some time to kill, another option is canning the juice. Properly canned lemon juice can last for years. To can the juice, bring the lemon juice to a boil. Not sure you can can? Here’s our Greatist’s Beginner’s Guide to Canning Food at Home.
If you have some extra lemon juice you know you know will not be used before its expiration, freezing it is always an option. Just be sure to use a freezer-friendly storage container.
Pro tip: Ice cube trays allow for optimum storage and allows you to defrost as little as you would like at a time.
Lemon juice is a versatile item and does go bad. In order to maximize its shelf life and avoid early spoilage, attention needs to be paid to how it is stored.
Freshly squeezed lemon juice lasts up to four days in the fridge when stored in an airtight container. Pasteurized store-bought juice can last 3–6 months in the pantry or up to a year in the fridge.
If you think your lemon has gone bad, err on the side of caution and throw it away. It’s not worth having your toilet becoming your main squeeze as a result of food poisoning.