pepper sprays

Are you not sure how long your pepper spray will last? Well, here is all you need to know about when does a pepper expire Pepper sprays are arguably the most used amongst all self defense weapons. But does a pepper spray expire? 

Imagine the very weapon that is the source of all your confidence in being able to defend yourself, fails you at the critical moment.

There is a reason our pop culture is obsessed with pepper sprays. They are user-friendly, extremely effective and have been glamourized as a beacon of women empowerment by their ability to cause excruciating pain to a person who dares to look their way. But beneath all the hoopla, there is a layer of technicalities you need to be aware of, that can cast some doubt about the effectiveness of pepper sprays-most importantly- does a pepper spray expire?

You need to know the ins and outs of the pepper spray you are carrying. Having enough information about possible expiry of a pepper spray, may not only prove fatal but also cause unnecessary wastage of money.

Like any self defense weapon, a pepper spray has its limitations. So, to answer the question of does a pepper spray expire, let's look at the answer with some scientific analysis.

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What is Inside a Pepper Spray?

pepper spray

Before we answer, does a pepper spray expire? You need to know how pepper spray works. What causes all that agony that you have witnessed in various movies and television series? Knowing about the essential ingredients that make a pepper spray, you will be in a better position to understand the how and why does a pepper spray expire.

The stuff inside pepper spray wrecking havoc of the receiver is actually called OC(Oleoresin Capsicum). This is a chemical made from capsicum-a chilly. The OC is then made into a solution by dissolving it into ethanol. The resulting mixture is then emulsified in propylene glycol. This is the final composition of a basic pepper spray mixture.

The consistency or final form of the ejection varies across various types of pepper sprays. You have a lot of choice in the area. There are pepper sprays that project out the propellent in the form of liquid stream, some propel out mist or foam or aerosol droplets. Each category of pepper sprays has its advantages and disadvantages depending upon the needs of the user.

Why Does a Pepper Spray Expire?

Now that you have some basic idea about the ingredients making up the pepper spray, you can understand how and why does a pepper spray expire. If you are in possession of a pepper spray right now, you will notice an expiration date stamped somewhere on the bottom of the spray. 

Now you are wondering if the expiry date relates to the bottle or its constituents. Does a pepper spray expire because the main ingredient used in making the pepper spray, OC, has lost its potency by the stamped date?

The answer is, no. The main constituent of a pepper spray, the OC, retains its potency for a very long time. It is actually the pressure inside the spray that reduces over time. A low pressure means that the contents of the spray will not eject out effectively from the canister. It is natural for a canister to lose its pressure as the time goes on. The date stamped on the bottom of the spray, thus gives you an estimate of that time and hence when does pepper spray expire.

So the answer to the question, does a pepper spray expire, is yes but not because the essential components of the spray have derided but because the spray has lost its ability to dispense them properly due to loss of pressure inside the spray cane-indicating that the pepper spray has expired.
When a pepper spray expires, it's nozzle will work perfectly but the contents of the pepper spray will come in spurts and without force causing the hazardous OC containing liquid to   dribble on your fingers holding on to the nozzle. The components may also spill over to your hands.

When the pepper spray does expire, it may not dispense its components at all. You can keep the nozzle pressed and nothing but empty air may come out of the spray can. Or worse, the stream that may come out will not extend far enough making the pepper spray useless. As you all know, the distance that the propellants travel in a life or death situation, is all that matters so knowing whether or not your pepper spray has expired becomes extremely vital.

How to Tell if Your Pepper Spray Has Expired?

Like previously mentioned, most pepper spray brands do have an expiration date stamped somewhere on the cane-either at the bottom or on the cap- but that may not be a perfect way to confirm if your pepper spray has expired or not. 

Your pepper spray may not have hit the expiration date pasted on it, and yet, it may still have expired. You need to test out your pepper spray regularly before putting it in your bag and being disappointed later.

A fairly evident sign that your pepper spray has expired is that will lose its ability to spray at all. The propellant may leak out but it will nor spray out into the air. If your pepper spray was small size one, then the possibility of it expiring sooner is greater. Larger the canister size, the more pressurized it is and hence less likely it is to lose pressure and expire quickly. 

How frequently should you test if your pepper spray has expired or not? A rough estimation is, every three to six months, depending upon the size of the canister. A small canister would require you to replace the pepper spray every year. This is because, even if you test it periodically, the volume of contents will decrease over time making it more likely to expire each time you test it. 

When to Test Your Pepper Spray?

Now that we have established an answer to the question, does a pepper spray expire, let's think more practically in order to avoid the potential dangers of having an expired pepper spray and not knowing it. You have to test it repeatedly. But when will you get the most accurate results?

Even if you use the thickest streamer of a foam pepper spray, the aerosols can blowback and cause damage to yourself. The best weather conditions to test out whether your pepper spray has expired or not, is therefore a non-windy environment. 

However, if there is some wind, you have to stand in opposition to the wind direction. Then, you need to press the nozzle for about half a second to check the effectiveness of propellant ejection. Carry out this little test every six months and you are good to go. 

How to Avoid Harmful Effects of an Expired Pepper Spray?

Now that you know that a pepper spray does expire, you need to be prepared for a situation where an expired pepper spray ends up causing you harm. Like earlier mentioned, expired pepper spray contents tend to leach out into your finger and hands. 

Even if the spray has some ejection capacity left, it won't be powerful enough and can blow back to you, causing a deadly exposure of the contents of pepper spray meant for your attacker to harm you instead.

Remember, a pepper spray does expire, but it doesn't mean that its contents have become any less lethal than they were before expiration. You need to treat the exposure by an expired pepper spray like a normal exposure because the contents have not expired and are capable of causing irreversible damage to you.

Whether you have hurt yourself using an expired, or have come in contact with the OC by accident while testing out your pepper spray for expiry, you need to be aware how to safely and quickly remove those contents off your skin, eyes, handbag or clothes. Here is a step by step guide:

  1. It may sound obvious, but you have to stay calm and composed. Take a bearing of your surroundings and not lose your wits.
  2. Don't try to touch or rub off the spilled content off of your eyes or skin no matter the irritation. Most pepper spray sprays-especially the foam ones- are designed to precisely make their effect worse should an attacker try to do the same. You don't have to male matters worse for yourself.
  3. Try to relocate to a more exposed area for better ventilation. If the pepper spray has gone into your nostrils and is causing breathing problems, more air will help alleviate some of these effects.
  4. It is obvious that the skin will be the most exposed area on your body should you accidently spray yourself while testing out a pepper. spray. Application of cool milk, via a spray bottle or gentle dabbing by a towel soaked in milk can do the trick. The milk provides a soothing effect and an antidote to the burning sensation caused
  5. Milk won't soak away the oils in the pepper spray content so you need to use a dishwashing liquid for that effect. Splash the area with cold water afterwards for 100% removal.
  6. You need to splash your eyes with cold water ASAP. Pepper spray can cause a lasting damage if it comes into contact with sensitive retina tissues of your eye. Blink a lot and use brine (salt and water mixture)to ward off the burning feeling.
  7. A moisturizing cream can be applied to fabrics exposed to pepper spray contents. Rub the cream ( wear gloves) on your clothes or handbag and wait for twenty minutes. The pepper spray residue will get absorbed seamlessly by the cream.
  8. If the exposure has been too much, or the pain in the eyes has not gone away even after two hours, you have to seek medical assistance. Accidentally ingesting a mouthful of OC can be deadly and in that case you have to call the emergency medical service before following any of the above protocols.

How to Avoid an Early Expiry of a Pepper Spray?

Does a pepper spray expire? Yes. Will it expire before the expiration date mentioned on it by the brand? Maybe. In order to prolong the usage of your pepper spray and avoid its expiry before the due date, you need to follow some basic rules.

The key lies in the storage of a pepper spray. Don't store it or leave it in high or low temperatures, like places where sun directly hits ( backseat of your car etc). It would be best if you store it at room temperature. Most places tend to feel normal but have an ability to absorb a lot of heat and radiate it later. Most interiors, like kitchen cabinets or cars can damage your pepper spray by keeping it heated.

To make sure that your pepper spray is always stored at optimal temperatures, hook it with a keychain. This will help you in remembering carrying the pepper spray wherever you go and also avoid the pepper spray being left in the car. An extra protection in the form of a pepper spray is imperative in these dangerous times.

Another safety protocol for tugging the pepper spray along with you, is that it will be kept out of reach of children- a situation you would want to avoid at all costs. A pepper spray has to be stored in a way that it is easily accessible to you at all times. 

So coupling it with a keychain or a hook ( if you want to keep it with you during jogging or intense physical activity) will not only make your life easier ( self defense wise) but also help pepper spray from expiring prematurely.

So a Pepper Spray Does Expire, Why Should Still Buy One?

Regardless of all the precautions you have taken in order to avoid your pepper spray from getting expired, it will eventually happen. It is not only a hassle having to replace a pepper spray every year or so, but also incredibly hurtful throwing away a hardly used pepper spray. 

You may be thinking maybe pepper spray isn't the most economical choice for a self defense weapon. But hey, just because a pepper spray does expire, doesn't mean it doesn't have an enormous amount of advantages. Your safety comes first and you need a pepper spray because of following benefits it boasts:

  1. Pepper sprays most easily usable tools to deploy. Anyone can use a pepper spray without having much practice with it-unlike some other self defense weapons like a stun gun or a knife. Pepper sprays are hands on and prove ultimately lethal to your aggressor without you being professionally trained in the art of self defense.
  2. Pepper sprays are extremely impactful. They will inflict an immediate burning, swelling and irritation regardless of the size of your attacker. You can depend on your pepper spray to give you the much needed seconds to make an escape while your attacker is distracted and probably screaming his lungs out.
  3. You don't have to be two inches away from the deadly aggressor in order to deploy your self defense weapon on him. Unlike a stun gun or knife, pepper sprays can easily shoot anywhere between 10-20 feet and you don't need to be a ninja to enjoy such a range.
  4. Most self defense weapons can intimidate you, and for good reason. you. The very idea of carrying a gun or knife in your average handbag is daunting. The discomfort, the suspicious eyes, the issues about legality can put you off from carrying self defense weapons. But peppers sprays aren't scary. You can carry them with confidence anywhere anytime without freaking out about it.
  5. Even if pepper spray expires and needs to be replaced, they are still comparatively cheaper. With prices ranging between $10 to $25 depending, pepper sprays still make for a pretty economical self defense weapon for choice for you. 

Final Thoughts

Does a pepper spray expire? Yes it does. But is it still worth purchasing? Most definitely. Every self defense weapon comes with its pros and cons. Let the fact that a pepper spray expires, not deter you from owning one and holding your safety in your hands. Self defense should be a priority and pepper sprays afford you one with ease and economy.

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