Over the past decade or so, rice water has exploded in popularity within the natural hair community. Many naturals have tried and fallen in love with the results they get with the nutrient-dense mixture, from increased hair growth to enhanced softness and manageability.
Making the rice water is relatively easy, especially if you’ve got a good set of instructions in front of you. But what’s not as well known about rice water is whether it expires.
Does rice water expire? Can you use old rice water? Before you whip up a big batch of rice water and stick the leftovers in the fridge, read this article. We’re going to take a look at how long rice water lasts and give you tips on how to store it safely for reuse.
Table of Contents
- 1 Does Rice Water Expire?
- 2 This Is How Long Rice Water Takes to Expire
- 3 What Happens If You Use Expired Rice Water?
- 4 Signs Rice Water Has Gone Bad
- 5 How to Make Rice Water Last Longer
Does Rice Water Expire?
Rice water doesn’t contain any preservatives, so it has an extremely short shelf life. Within a few hours, mold and bacteria start to grow in the mixture, so if you want to make your rice water ahead of time, you’ll have to take precautionary measures to keep it fresh.
This Is How Long Rice Water Takes to Expire
How long your rice water lasts depends on how you store it. In this section, we’ll walk you through how long rice water takes to expire under different storage conditions.
In the Refrigerator
Fermented rice water, the type that you’ll use for hair care, has beneficial yeasts and bacteria growing in it. It can last up to two or three weeks in the fridge, depending on the level of fermentation you prefer.
As the rice water ferments, it’ll produce natural alcohols that keep bacterial and fungal growth in check. If you prefer rice water that’s not fermented, feel free to store it in the fridge for up to 5 to 7 days.
At Room Temperature
Storing your rice water at room temperature creates the perfect environment for microbial growth. When left at room temperature, your rice water will start to ferment within the first 24 hours. Both plain and fermented rice water last only one or two days when kept out.
In the Freezer
Freezing your rice water halts microbial growth and keeps your rice water fresh for up to a few years! It might not be as effective after a few months, but it will still be safe enough to use.
Want to freeze a big batch of rice water?
Break up your rice water into smaller portions, so you only have to thaw out what you need. You can use an ice cube tray and transfer the cubes into an airtight container once they’ve solidified.
Note: Whether you use fermented or plain rice water is entirely up to you, although fermented rice water may be more beneficial for your strands. Either way, you’ll have to either freeze your rice water or store it in the fridge once it starts to ferment. That halts the fermentation process and prevents your rice water from turning rancid.
What Happens If You Use Expired Rice Water?
Using expired rice water exposes you to harmful mold and bacteria. You can get a scalp infection that leads to severe skin irritation or hair loss. Another possible consequence of using expired rice water is protein overload.
The longer your rice water sits, the more concentrated the proteins will be. Hair that is exposed to too much protein can become:
Signs Rice Water Has Gone Bad
Rice water doesn’t last forever, so you’ll have to keep an eye out for signs that it’s gone bad. Here are some signs that your rice water has expired and needs to be thrown away.
The Rice Water Smells Off
An unpleasant smell is one of the first signs that your rice water has gone rancid. Fresh rice water has a light, pleasant scent that smells like the rice you used to make.
On the other hand, fermented rice will likely smell sour due to the presence of beneficial yeast and bacteria. When your rice water starts to spoil, it’ll develop a completely different smell (“fermented water”).
The scent varies depending on the type of bacteria or fungus that colonizes it, but expired rice water will smell like it’s rotting or give off a chemical odor, similar to ammonia or acetone.
The Texture Has Changed
A change in texture is another sign that your rice water has started to grow unwanted bacteria or mold. Fresh rice water has a water-like consistency. If you notice your rice water has become sludgy, slimy, or sticky, discard it and make a new batch.
Texture changes can be hard to see, but it’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to your health.
The Rice Water Has Changed Color
Fresh rice water is a pale, light-colored liquid. Some cloudy sediments might collect at the bottom as the starches settle. If your rice water suddenly takes on a darker color, it’s a sign that chemical changes have taken place. Discard your rice water right away and whip up a new batch.
You See Mold Starting to Grow
Mold is one of the most easily recognizable signs that your rice water has spoiled. Rice water is naturally cloudy, but all of the sediments you see should be white.
On the other hand, mold growth will be black or brightly colored. Throw your rice water away as soon as you see bacterial or fungal growth of any kind.
Keep in mind that if you make fermented rice water, you might start to see yeast growing on the surface. Unlike mold, yeast is a natural by-product of fermentation.
While mold is black or brightly colored, yeast is white. Yeast also has a thread-like texture, while mold starts to grow with spots.
Your Hair Feels Dry and Brittle
Have you already used your rice water? If you notice that your post-treatment hair feels different from how it usually does, throw away the remainder of that batch and make a fresh one.
Hair that feels dry and brittle after a protein treatment is a sign of protein overload, so wait for your hair to recover before applying more freshly made rice water.
How to Make Rice Water Last Longer
Now that you know how long rice water lasts, you might be left wondering if there’s anything you can do to help preserve it.
No one wants to whip up a fresh batch every time they want to use rice water, so here are some tips to help it last longer:
- Add in a few drops of your favorite antimicrobial essential oils like:
- Store your rice water in an air-tight container.
- Keep your treatment away from sunlight.
- Make your rice water with distilled or purified water.
- Make sure everything that touches your rice water has been cleaned or sterilized ahead of time.
- Consider making fermented rice water instead of plain rice water. In addition to lasting longer, fermented rice water:
- Has more antioxidants and vitamins
- Better matches your hair’s natural pH
- Can penetrate your strands more easily
- Rinse your rice thoroughly before you make your rice water.
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Rice water is an excellent addition to your hair and skin care routine due to its nourishing and strengthening properties. The high protein content can help your hair grow stronger, longer, and much fuller than before.
Just make sure you aren’t doing more harm than good, and avoid using rice water once it has expired. We hope this article has helped explain that although rice water spoils quickly, taking the proper precautions and correctly storing it will help extend its life.
Kenneth Byrd holds a BS in Accounting and Management Information Systems and an MBA from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He is a serial hair blogger that has been writing about hair care since 2008, when he co-founded Curl Centric and Natural Hair Box. Curl Centric is a website operated by a husband and wife team that encourages healthy hair care.