Open bottle of expired multivitamins against a yellow background

Do multivitamins expire?

Medically reviewed on September 9, 2022 by Jillian Foglesong Stabile, MD, FAAFP. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.


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Sometimes you forget what's inside your medicine cabinet. While cleaning it out, you discover a few bottles of Vitamin C from last year, a half-empty bottle of vitamin A, a chewable multivitamin supplement with folic acid, fish oil capsules, and old vitamins past their shelf life that has oxidized.

Before you pop the cap and fill up a glass of water, you might ask yourself, “Do multivitamins expire?”

Yes, multivitamins do expire. But does that mean you must throw them away or stop taking them once they’ve passed their prime?

Below, we’ll explore everything you need to know about multivitamin expiration, including how to tell if your vitamins have expired and how to proceed when they do. Even if you have to dispose of a bottle of multivitamins, a replacement bottle and consistent supplementation could help you meet your wellness goals, keeping in mind that it’s generally best to take a “food first” approach to meeting nutritional goals (wherein diet is used to meet nutrition goals prior to starting supplementation).

When do multivitamins expire?

Multivitamins expire, and different products, brands, and doses typically carry their own expiration dates. So, it’s crucial to check the expiration date on your multivitamin bottle (or any over-the-counter or prescription medication containers) before taking one [1].

You’ll probably find the expiration date:

  • On the bottom of the bottle
  • Inside the cap
  • Printed on the label

If your bottle has a printed label, it may have a second page of information underneath the first. If this is the case, you’ll find instructions to peel back the label to read more about your vitamin supplement.

While it’s unlikely, you may not be able to find the expiration date on the bottle, or the ink has rubbed off with age and wear. If this is the case, you should discard the bottle safely (more on that later) and purchase a replacement bottle if you’re ready to add a multivitamin back into your routine.

What happens when multivitamins expire?

Multivitamins and vitamin supplements aren't like milk or other dairy products that spoil and develop a foul odor and chunky texture and could make you feel sick [2]. Instead, they're much like expired medicine—multivitamins decrease potency as the ingredients degrade over time [3].

So, are multivitamins good for you when they’re past their shelf life? Expired multivitamins won’t make you sick or cause any negative health impacts, but they won’t provide the same volume or quality of nutrients promised on the label.

Just like your favorite cooking spices, as vitamins age, they lose more potency—so, the older the multivitamin, the less potency it will provide. However, certain vitamins that contain pectin, gelatin, and natural flavorings may have shorter shelf lives. Gummy vitamins, liquid supplements, and chewable vitamins may go bad, especially when not properly stored and kept in a place with high moisture, sunlight, and heat.

The most important note is that expired vitamins aren’t harmful. Taking an expired multivitamin won’t make you sick, cause an adverse reaction (unless you’re allergic to the ingredients), or negatively impact your health in any way. That said, taking an expired multivitamin won’t positively impact your health either.

Can you take expired multivitamins?

So, if multivitamins simply degrade with time, and if they don’t create any negative health impacts past their expiration date, can you take expired multivitamins?

Yes—you can take expired multivitamins.

Let’s explore two scenarios:

  • As you’re cleaning out your medicine cabinet, you find a bottle of multivitamins that expired two months ago. You look up the brand, search their website for information about vitamin potency after the expiration date, and determine that the vitamins likely still have some “life” left in them. You add the vitamins to your pill case, taking one each day until you run out.
  • While you’re cleaning, you discover a bottle of multivitamins that expired two years ago. After searching the manufacturer’s website, you will find a recommendation to discard the multivitamins 12 months after the expiration date. You decide to take the multivitamin dietary supplements anyway, finishing the bottle before replacing it.

In both scenarios, you’re not subjecting yourself to any harm. But the multivitamin dietary supplements in the second scenario are likely significantly less potent than the vitamins in the first. As such, you’re less likely to receive or notice any positive impact from taking them.

What should you do when your multivitamin expires?

Whether you discover a bottle of expired multivitamins or the bottle you’re currently using is about to expire, you might decide to simply throw them out and purchase a replacement bottle to ensure optimal potency.

Here’s what’s next:

  • Like any other medicine (prescription or over-the-counter), safely dispose of your multivitamins [4]. Don’t flush medications down the toilet or sink drain—this could harm the water supply. Instead, follow the waste management guidelines in your area.
  • This is a good time to reflect if you've been taking this multivitamin consistently before the expiration date. Has the multivitamin produced any noticeable impacts on your day-to-day life or your routine blood work? If not, it might be time to consult a healthcare provider to explore diet changes or other wellness tools.
  • If you’re interested in continuing your multivitamin regimen, restock with a fresh bottle and continue as usual.

Everlywell: Your source for multivitamins, at-home testing, and more

As you’ve learned, multivitamins do expire. But taking expired vitamins won’t hurt you—in fact, you might be able to make use of recently-expired vitamins since it takes time for vitamins to lose their potency completely.

That said, if you’re still uncomfortable with the idea of taking expired multivitamins, it’s time to restock. And if you’re looking for a multivitamin to help you meet your wellness goals, turn to Everlywell. We offer a multivitamin gummy that could help you meet goals and fulfill the nutrients you need.

Plus, we offer a variety of wellness tools like expert advice from healthcare providers, health and wellness information, and at-home tests for numerous health markers.

When you’re ready to take control of your wellness, Everlywell has your back.

Why should you take a multivitamin?

What to look for in a multivitamin

Vitamins and Supplements 101: An expert breaks down the vitamins you actually need — and how to make them most effective


References

  1. Vitamins. MedlinePlus. URL. Accessed September 9, 2022.
  2. Spoiled Milk. Missouri Poison Center. URL. Accessed September 9, 2022.
  3. Why take vitamin and mineral supplements? Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed September 9, 2022.
  4. Dispose of Medicines, Vitamins and Other Supplements Properly. Environmental Protection Agency. URL. Accessed September 9, 2022.
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