Do sourdough starters go bad?

In this brief article, we are going to answer the question “does sourdough starter go bad?”. We will discuss the signs through which it can be determined if the starter has gone bad. In the end, we will discuss things that will not harm starters.

Do sourdough starters go bad?

Yes, the sourdough starter does go bad. It mostly goes bad when the mixture is contaminated by germs. Starters that have gone bad and give off a foul smell should not be eaten because they can make you sick. 

How to tell if your starter has gone bad?

When the starter hasn’t been fed sufficiently, a liquid (called hooch) gathers on the top. This is the alcohol produced when wild yeast ferments. 

The presence of alcohol does not indicate that your starting is in jeopardy. Your starting, on the other hand, is hungry and needs to be fed.  

When your starter is left unattended for a long time, the hooch will transform into dark-coloured liquid.  

If it has developed a pink hue, it has gone bad and should be tossed in the trash and start again.

If a sourdough starter doesn’t respond to frequent feedings or if it develops mold or discoloration, it’s rotten or dead. If you see one of these indicators, the starter should be discarded. 

If you take proper care of your starter, it will not go bad. Regularly feeding it and ensuring that it is not contaminated in any way can assist to keep it from dying.

What are the signs that your sourdough starter is bad?

When you notice the following, you know your sourdough starter is bad: 

After feeding, there is no activity.

A sourdough starter can be kept in the fridge, but it won’t last indefinitely. It will perish if it is not fed for a lengthy period of time. 

If you want to know if it’s alive, feed it and notice how much activity it produces. If it’s still alive, it’ll double in size and be virtually new in a few days.  

But if you see little to no movement, it’s likely dead, and you’ll have to start over.

A Stinky Smell

It’s common for starters to have a nasty odor. Some may have a scent similar to vinegar. Because the majority of the foul odors are caused by beneficial bacteria, you may rest certain that your starter is healthy.  

If it develops strong and nasty odors, you should be cautious. If your starter smells pungent, it’s probably bad and shouldn’t be used. 

When starters acquire a terrible odor, it’s usually due to a build-up of nasty bacteria that has outnumbered the healthy bacteria. This produces a foul odor, which must be discarded, and the process restarted. 


If the sourdough starter starts to turn strange colors, it’s a warning that it’s gone bad and shouldn’t be used. 

There’s nothing that can make a healthy starter change color, except that it has gone bad. 

Starters that produce different colors should be discarded since this signals the development of a large number of harmful germs. 

The mold that can be seen 

Some unfortunate sourdough starts can develop mold under unusual circumstances, but it is almost due to bacteria.

Some people believe that if there is only a tiny bit of mold on the surface, it may be removed and reused.

But it’s better than the entire starter should be thrown away.

After being kept in a high-temperature environment 

high heat will almost certainly damage your starter.  

If a sourdough starter receives excessive heat, it may be permanently ruined. 

Temperatures above 49°C are commonly thought to be harmful. Any temperature greater than this will result in a useless starter. 

What are the things that won’t harm the starter?


Using a metal spoon to stir your starter or storing it in a metal dish will not harm it, stainless steel is completely safe. 

slight neglect

Not feeding irregularly or failing to time feedings will not harm your starter. 

inaccurate feedings

Using the wrong quantity of flour or water to feed your starter will not kill it. While it may appear to be overly dry or moist, no damage has occurred. You may adjust the consistency by feeding it more carefully the following time.

briefly freezing your starter

Some disagree on the advantages or risks of freezing sourdough starter, a little stint in the freezer is unlikely to harm a fully formed starter.

Prolonged freezing, however, will undoubtedly harm yeast in the starter, as well as kill off some of the flavor-producing bacteria.

You can dry your starter if you need to store it for a prolonged period.

Other FAQs about Dough that you may be interested in.

Can you defrost pizza dough quickly?

Can you defrost phyllo dough in the microwave?

Do sourdough starters go bad?


In this brief article, we answered the question “do sourdough starters go bad?”. We discussed the signs through which it can be determined if the starter has gone bad. In the end, we discussed which things will not harm starters.