It can happen with a fancy French cologne or an inexpensive scent you picked up at your local mini-mart. The bottle has been sitting on your bathroom counter for a couple of years and you wonder if it’s still good. Though colognes are made up of a variety of ingredients, most won’t last forever. But with some basic tips, you can keep your cologne smelling like new for a long time.


Depending on the scent, cologne is made up of a mixture of alcohol, water, chemical compounds, mineral oils, essential oils and other elements. The alcohol in cologne will not break down, but the other ingredients will over time. Because each fragrance has a different mixture of ingredients, each bottle of cologne will have a slightly different shelf life. But the average length of time that cologne will retain its good smell is two to two and a half years.

Signs of Spoiling

Even though cologne changes color over time, that doesn’t mean it’s going bad. Some cologne might get darker depending on its ingredients. However, if your bottle of previously clear cologne looks cloudy, it is likely that it is beginning to spoil. Other signs of spoilage are when the cologne thickens, gets lumpy or separates into layers. An obvious test to see if cologne has spoiled is if it smells bad. If you see any of these signs in your cologne, discard it. Sometimes cologne will go stale before it spoils. In this case, the cologne hasn’t necessarily gone bad, but its fragrance might have changed. If you don’t like the way it smells on your skin, you should dispose of it.

Prevent Spoiling

There are some simple steps you should take to prevent your cologne from going bad. Keep the bottle in a cool, dry place. Consider keeping it in a dresser drawer instead of on the steamy bathroom counter. Another option is to keep it in the refrigerator. Always keep the lid on the bottle. Keep your cologne out of direct sunlight, as the direct rays will break down the ingredients much quicker.