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Thread: Betadine shelf life?

  1. #1

    Betadine shelf life?

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    I have a recently purchased bottle of betadine with no expiration date (no way of knowing how long it sat in a warehouse, or how long after that it sat on the store shelf) and I have some individual swabs that claim to have expired in November 2002.

    The date stamped on the swab wrappers and the lack of date on the bottle got me to wondering, what is the shelf life of povidone iodine? How long would you trust it for its antimicrobial properties beyond this listed "safety" threshold? Is there any way of determining when (if) a batch has expired beyond usefulness? What facilitates betadine's breakdown?

  2. #2
    The big bottles of the stuff are in a dark plastic so I imagine light and heat play a role in degradation.

    Packets are prone to abarsions and small scrapes so I imagine the expiration has something to do with that.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Springfield IL
    Most pharmaceuticals expire with in 1 yr of manufacture depending on if you have opened it you could extend this 6months. This was told to me by a pharmacist friend of mine when I asked him the same question.

  4. #4


    Betadine Solution and Betadine Surgical Scrub have expiration periods of three years under conditions of normal use. LINK

    Betadine wipes can dry out over the years even if the packets remain sealed. I went through my first aid kits a while back. I noticed my betadine wipes were expired. Before I tossed them, I opened a couple up and they were dry Good thing I went through the kits before I needed them.

    I replaced the wipes with bottles. FWIW I also keep a list of the contents of each kit in the kit. The list includes the expiration dates of any items that have them.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 1999
    Miami, FL, USA


    Good Link, thanks!

  6. #6
    I had posted this same question at the same time in the "REMOTE, AUSTERE, WILDERNESS & THIRD WORLD MEDICINE" forum, where Reasonable Rascal provided this additional information:

    A very valid question. The antimicrobial properties are derived from the iodine component. As such it is the amount of free iodine available (the label on the bottle should tell you how much that is) that determines the orginal properties.

    Povidone-Iodine (PI) has a tendency to seperate out over time. Once seperated the distribution of the active agent - Iodine - is no longer uniform. You run the risk of using either a very watered down version (near the top of the bottle) or an overly concentrated version (the dark layer near the bottom). Neither is desirable.

    Iodine is chemically highly reactive as I recall from long-ago chemistry days. Once opened it will be want of forming undesirable bonds with other compounds such as water vapor, etc. We want it in the orginal blended form as manufactured into PI. Like most chemicals heat and light are the enemies. Keeping the container tightly sealed and dark will slow the inevitable chemical changes and desolutioning (is that a proper word?).

    The foil packets that the swabs come in are not as desireable for long term storage as one might think. The solution does dry out over time leaving you with dry swabs. The bottled solutions last much longer by a factor of several years. The same goes for Benzoin swabs and others - they dry out owing to the porousness of the wrapper. Foil is only a minor componant of same, paper and plastic being the primary layers.

    Basically check your solution for signs of layering or seperation. Once it does it is difficult to get back into an even concentration. Do not count on the swabs lasting as long as the bottled solution. Check them by pinching them to see if they feel "wet" inside, or even opening a couple of random samples.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2001
    Colorado, USA
    I bought a pint of Betadine at Walgreens earlier this year, and the exp date stamped on the bottom is 05/05, so I have 2 more years. 3 years sounds about right if it has been sitting on the shelf for a while.

    What do you use for storing it for camping, hiking, etc? I can't see carrying a jug of this with me....

    Also, is the generic just as good? The ingredient list was slightly different.

  8. #8
    What do you use for storing it for camping, hiking, etc? I can't see carrying a jug of this with me....
    I bought a box of 100 individually-wrapped swabs at a medical supply store for $10, and I keep some of those in the first aid kit that's always with me. I keep the bottle at home in my bigger kit, but personally I would consider making a larger kit and include the bottle for camping.

    Also, is the generic just as good? The ingredient list was slightly different.
    I should think so. The important ingredient is the active ingredient, povidone iodine. Beyond that you're paying for the brand name.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    For camping I prefer the swabs, the individual wipes, or the little bottles, think they're 4oz or so. Have thme all, and used them all at various times.

  10. #10
    Some people, like me are allergic to betadine. I carry chlorhexidine instead. It is available at most farm supply stores.

    Be sure to ask for allergies if you fix up someone else, even for a cut on the finger. Watch for a shocky reaction, too. I found out I was allergic while fixing up my finger. I nearly passed out from shock.


  11. #11


    What about Polar Pure

    Some people recommend using it for first aid purposes. LINK

    Polar Pure would be a nice kit item if it will double as water treatment and disinfectant.

  12. #12
    Being iodine based, I think Polar Pure would cause reactions in those who react to betadine. Anyway, there are people who are allergic to iodine too. Down the hatch is one thing, in a wound is another.

    Realistically, there is a limited set of situations in which chemically disinfecting a wound will carry significant benefits. We have probably all had cuts that developed nasty infections, and don't want that if we can avoid it. Would I dump Betadine in my own cut and risk 30 minutes of light-headedness to prevent a nasty infection? Sure, but only with a very dilute dose.

    But if we are talking major wounds, you can do more damage with the chemicals than one can reasonably expect from infection. You can kill someone by pouring one of several disinfectants in a major wound, even if they are not allergic.

    You have to think about evacuation time too. Unless there is a multi-day trip involved, I personally would argue against much chemical intervention - maybe just clean the wound with water treated as for drinking. The best thing for the patient is usually getting them to a doctor who can put in stitches and prescribe antibiotics (you can kill people with those too).

    There have even been people develop severe allergic, i.e., life threatening, reactions to chlorhex impregnated catheters. You just have to be really careful when you are using chemicals that can enter the blood. More first aid is not always better.

    Last edited by beezaur; 06-27-2003 at 02:48 AM.

  13. #13

    Disinfecting wounds

    There is a lot of hype about the idea of disinfecting wounds. Many "make do" or "might help" approaches in fact retard healing and may increase infection risk. Alcohol (in any form) is a good example.

    As I read the current thinking on wilderness medicine, the recommendation is to (if possible)irrigate well with clean (drinkable) water (perhaps Polar Pure is useful there). Then bandage with clean (or better..sterile) bandages like 4x4s. Don't even suture or try to close wounds beyond this.If you have provodine-iodine solution (not scrub..solution), fine. But don't worry so much about it.

    There's a difference between clean field expedient treatment of wounds, and aseptic surgical treatment.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    disinfectants such as rubbing alcohol, peroxide, betadine and others are not really meant for internal use. As Naro said, a larger wound should be irrigated, my choice is for sterile water or a good sterile saline solution I would be iffy on useing polar pure treated water unless you had to, again, because the iodine is not meant for internal treatment.

    The purpose for things such as betadine is to disinfect around the wound to keep any infections agents from the surrounding skin from getting into the wound and causing an infection. Even if you claim that you're clean, humans have a breed of staph virus that resides on their skin, plus there are all kinds of things you can pick up in the outdoors.

    So large wounds, irrigate with clean/sterile water, then use your betadine, rubbing alcohol(or some people even use bleach), to disinfect/clean around the wound.

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