Many survivalists have a topical antibiotic like Neosporin in their med kits to prevent cuts, scrapes and burns from becoming infected. Occasionally, these ointments may need to be replaced, but probably not nearly as often as you might think. 

Drug expiration dates have been debated for decades, but much of the debate stems from a misunderstanding of the expiration date itself.

Many people assume that when a medication reaches its expiration date, it suddenly becomes harmful. The truth is the expiration date doesn’t have anything to do with how long the medicine stays good or goes bad.

Does Neosporin Expire?

Every tube of Neosporin has an expiration date stamped on it. And while Neosporin’s website discourages using topical antibiotics beyond their expiration date, they don’t really explain why. The FDA provides a much better explanation of what expiration dates truly represent. 

In 1979, the FDA required manufacturers to place an expiration date on their products to guarantee full safety and potency of the medication. Thus, the expiration date signifies the retention of the purity, quality, and strength of the topical ointment or any other medication when stored properly. 

Antibiotic ointments don’t just spontaneously go bad beyond the date of expiration. All medicines gradually degrade as they mature. Even with that degradation, however, Neosporin doesn’t become harmful. So there’s really no need to throw it out except in a few instances.

How Long Does Neosporin Last?

Off the shelf, I’ve seen Neosporin with an expiration date anywhere from one to three years beyond the date of purchase. Once you’ve reached that date, however, there’s no need to toss it. Worst-case scenario, it simply becomes less effective. 

As a matter of fact, one PubMed study that tested over a hundred different medicines revealed that 90% of them were still perfectly safe 15 years after their expiration dates.

How Do You Know Neosporin Has Gone Bad?

Although rare, there are some occasions when your Neosporin needs to find a home in the trash can. If your ointment smells bad or has had any change in its appearance, such as discoloration or separation, then it’s probably best to go ahead and discard it. 

Likewise, if there’s any change in the texture, it’s better to err on the side of caution. 

How to Store Neosporin

As with most medications, Neosporin should be stored in a cool, dark, and dry place. The ideal temperature zone is 68 to 77 degrees. Avoid keeping your Neosporin in the bathroom, refrigerator, freezer, or other areas where humidity can be high. 

You should also use a cotton swab for application instead of your fingers since your fingers contain moisture and may otherwise contaminate your ointment. 

What You Should Know About Neosporin

Neosporin is a triple antibiotic ointment that contains bacitracin, zinc, neomycin, and polymyxin B. While marketed for healing wounds and preventing infections, clinical trials show that petroleum jelly works just as well, if not better. Plus Vaseline is undeniably shelf-stable.

There have been some concerns noted about the use of neomycin due to allergic reactions. Approximately 11% of users experience an allergic reaction without realizing it. A common scenario is that with ongoing use of Neosporin, wounds gradually become red and inflamed and then develop weeping fluid giving the impression that the wound is worsening.

In actuality, that person is experiencing an allergic reaction to the neomycin instead. Because of this, many preppers choose to stock just a bacitracin zinc ointment or petroleum jelly instead of Neosporin. 

Additionally, the use of Neosporin or any other antibiotic ointment can contribute to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as MRSA. Since there is no significant evidence to suggest that antibiotic ointments are beneficial, the best thing to do for minor cuts and skin abrasions is to simply clean and cover. 


Understand that regardless of the medication you’re using, most of them won’t go from healing to harmful overnight. Expiration dates should not be thought of as use-by dates, so you don’t have to toss your tubes just because that day has come and gone. 

However, you might want to consider whether you even need Neosporin in your medicine kit at all. A tub of Vaseline is a fraction of the cost and equally effective.

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