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Can Lemon Juice Go Bad?

Lemon juice is a popular juice used mostly in small amounts. It’s good to know whether lemon juice does spoil or how long does it last. This article will provide you with the most important facts about storage and shelf life of lemon juice.

Lemon honey tea
(credit: Anda Ambrosini)

How long does lemon juice last?

The answer to this question really depends on the juice itself.

If it’s a freshly squeezed lemon juice, it’ll last only a few days, provided it’s stored properly.

When it comes to commercially bottled lemon juice, it varies quite a lot. Some bottles of lemon juice are loaded with preservatives, which keep the juice fine for quite a few months. As long as the bottle is unopened, the juice will be fine for over a year.

Once the bottle is opened, its contents should be fine for at least half a year. Some manufacturers add only a tiny bit of preservatives to their product, so it’ll last only a couple of days without going bad: a week, maybe two weeks at most.

How to tell which lemon juice is loaded with preservatives and which is not? It’s simple – check out the “Best By” or “Sell By” date of the juice. If that date is only a couple of days ahead, it doesn’t contain much preserving agents. If not, it definitely has a lot of them. If you’re not planning to use the lemon juice in cooking (as a seasoning or flavoring), it’s fine to buy a bottle of lemon juice that lasts a long time.

Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Freshly squeezed lemon juice

How to store lemon juice?

It’s quite easy, and pretty much the same as storing lime juice. When it comes to freshly squeezed lemon juice, that contains no or only a little amount of preservatives, it should be stored in the refrigerator.

Take note that vitamin C that’s in the juice starts to decompose pretty quickly, so if you’re going for that vitamin C boost, try to drink as fresh lemon juice, as possible.

If it’s a commercially packaged lemon juice with a lot of preservatives, you can store it in the pantry as long as it is unopened. Once opened, it’s good to store it in the fridge.

Glass pitcher with sliced lemons
(credit: Toa Heftiba)

Does lemon juice spoil? How to tell if lemon juice is bad?

Even though lemon juice is a very acidic substance, it can go bad, and if it’s a preservative-free lemon juice, it goes bad pretty quick, especially if it’s stored in room temperature.

To tell if your lemon juice is bad you need to check three things: it’s appearance, odor and taste. If it’s dull or has become darker, discard it. Proceed similarly it it’s odor or taste changed noticeably.

Here’s a rule of thumb – if your freshly squeezed lemon juice has been left in room temperature for more than a day, throw it out.

Whole lemon before juicing
Whole lemon before juicing

So, you should know by now that the answer to the main question: “can lemon juice go bad?” is positive. How long does lemon juice last depends mainly on the additional substances that are added to it. If it’s a preservatives-free lemon juice, it’ll stay fresh for only a few days. Commercially bottled lemon juice with preservatives can last months.