Does Pepper Spray Have a Shelflife?
Unfortunately, too many people who purchase pepper spray neglect to carry it with them everywhere they go. Remember, pepper spray can't protect you if you don't have it. After you purchase pepper spray, don't just stow it away and forget about it. If you do remember to carry it every day, don't forget to replace it every few years. If you miss this crucial step, your pepper spray may lose effectiveness.
Can yo think of anything worse than trying to use your pepper spray in a dangerous situation, only for it to spit and sputter because the propellant no longer works? If you've purchased pepper spray more than five years ago, you should not rely on it to stop an attack. Can't remember when you bought it? It's probably time to purchase a replacement.
Like any other aerosol can, such as spray paint, the ingredients that propel your pepper spray out of the canister in a fine mist will break down over time. Spraying pepper spray that is well past its shelf life may result in a sputter, rather than the solid, forceful stream that is expected. If too much of the aerosol is gone, your pepper spray may not even spray at all; in other cases, it may not spray as far as you're expecting. Even pepper spray a few months after its expiration can be less effective, meaning you'll have to get closer to your attacker or use a longer burst of the spray in order to take your attacker down.
Pepper spray's effectiveness is a result of its concentration of Oleoresin Capsicum, a chemical compound derived from hot peppers. This natural compound may break down over time, especially if you've stored your pepper spray in excessive sunlight. If the OC has degraded, your pepper spray may not be as potent. While this is a genuine concern, research has also shown that as pepper spray passes its expiration date, it is more likely that the propellant will become less effective than that the pepper spray itself will stop working.
Pepper spray is most effective within three to four years after purchase. Most canisters are stamped with an expiration date. If yours does not, and you're not sure when it was purchased, replace it the next time you replace your smoke alarm batteries, which should be done every year. In fact, if you carry a pepper spray canister with you everywhere, replace it on a yearly schedule so that you can rest assured that it will work as expected when you need it most.
It is possible to test the effectiveness of pepper spray, although this should be done carefully. Stand outdoors and upwind to avoid the possibility of accidentally spraying yourself. Spray a short, one second burst. Did the spray come out in a solid stream, or an uneven sputter? Once you replace an old can of pepper spray, it can also be used for training and practice against an outdoor, inanimate target. This can be an effective strategy for preparing yourself for a dangerous situation.
Properly storing your pepper spray will extend its shelflife. Always keep pepper spray in room temperature environments. Excessively hot or cold storage may change the chemicals inside the canister, making them less effective. In very hot temperatures, like in your car on a summer day, your pepper spray canister could even burst, causing a sticky and dangerous mess.
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