How long does it take for milk to go bad?

In this brief article, we will answer the question, “How long does it take for milk to go bad?” shelf-life of milk, tips to store milk, and detect spoilage in milk.

How long does it take for milk to go bad?

Milk can last for 4 days to a week without going bad if it is stored well. If the milk is opened, the shelf-life would reduce to 2-3 days.

There are various labels present on the milk carton. The best-by date would indicate how long the milk would remain in the best quality. The use-by date would be an indicator of how long the milk would be safer to consume.

The sell-by date is used by shopkeepers and is not an indication of the safety of the milk. The sell-by date indicates the date by which the milk can be bought by the consumers beyond which the quality of the milk can get affected.

You can refer to these dates to check the safety and quality of the milk. 

The shelf-life of other types of milk is stated below.

Type of milkShelf-life of milk past the printed date
Reduced-fat milk/ skimmed milk1 week
Whole milk5-7 days
Lactose-free milk7-10 days

Can milk be consumed past its expiry?

If the milk is pasteurized, it means most of the harmful microbes have been killed. This does not mean that all microbes have been killed. Some microbes would still be present in the milk and can contribute to the spoilage of the milk.

The temperature of the fridge can play a major role in regulating the quality of the milk. If the temperature of the fridge is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the shelf-life of the milk would be extended.

If the milk has not been pasteurized, the shelf-life would reduce considerably. Aseptic milk produced using Ultra High Treatment (UHT) can also last for 2-4 weeks past the printed date. Opened UHT milk can last for only 7-10 days.

It is essential to check the milk for signs of spoilage especially if you are planning to consume them post their expiry.

How to store milk?

  • Milk should not be stored at room temperature for more than 2 hours as this can attract the growth of microbes in the milk.
  • Keep the milk in the refrigerator immediately after you have bought it. Store at a temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Place the milk on the back of the fridge as the back would be the coolest place in the fridge. Avoid placing the milk at the door of the fridge as it is subject to fluctuations in temperature.
  • Seal the milk properly and place them in the fridge.
  • For longer shelf-life milk can also be kept in the freezer. It is important to remember though that freezing followed by thawing can alter the texture and color of the milk. It would still be fine to drink it.
  • If you are buying milk from a shopkeeper, make sure to check whether the milk has been chilled. Ensure that the milk has been kept in a fridge or cool place.
  • To thaw the milk kept in the freezer, place them in the fridge overnight. Thawed milk can stay in the fridge for 1-2 days. You can also thaw the milk by placing it in cold water as well.
  • If you have placed milk alternatives in the freezer, it would be best to consume them within 2 months. If you wish to quickly freeze them, place the milk in ice cube trays.
  • Avoid defrosting milk at room temperature.

How to detect spoilage in milk?

  • Smell the milk. If the milk gives off a bad odor, it is better to discard it immediately.
  • The texture of spoilt milk can also change. It can show the appearance of lumps.
  • The color of the milk might change to pale yellow which can also be another indicator of spoilage.
  • Spoilt milk can taste sour. In such a case, throw the milk away.

The methods to check for spoilage in plant milk is similar to the one listed above.

Other FAQs on milk that you might be interested in.

What happens if you consume spoilt milk?

Consumption of spoilt milk can result in the development of symptoms of food poisoning. The symptoms of food poisoning would include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and bloody urine.

Extreme cases of food poisoning can cause dehydration as well.


In this brief article, we have answered the question, “How long does it take for milk to go bad?” shelf-life of milk, tips to store milk, and detect spoilage in milk.