Does Rice Water Expire? Can You Use Old Rice Water?

A beautiful Latino female with naturally frizzy hair has beautiful curls after using an uncooked rice water rinse.

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 rice water (sometimes called water rice or hair rice) 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 the water 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 rice water safely for reuse. 

Does Rice Water Expire?

Rice water can last for up to one week when stored properly in a clean, airtight container in the refrigerator. 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 the water ahead of time, you’ll have to take precautionary measures to keep it fresh.

However, it is essential to check the water for any signs of spoilage, such as an off smell, mold, or cloudiness, before using it. If you notice any of these indications, it is best to discard the rice water and prepare a fresh batch. To extend the shelf life of rice water, some individuals add a few drops of natural preservatives, like tea tree oil or grapefruit seed extract.

A cute young mixed-race female keeps her rice water for hair growth for up to a week by using key preservatives.

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 go bad 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 (i.e., up to a week). 

Young lady with perfect skin and bouncy curls after using skin toner and styling her hair with rice water ice cubes.

At Room Temperature

Storing rice water at room temperature creates the perfect environment for microbial growth. When left at room temperature, the 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 the 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 the water or store it in the fridge once it starts to ferment. That halts the fermentation process and prevents your water from turning rancid. 

A Latino woman enjoying the nourishing hair benefits of using prepared rice water on her weak hair strands.

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: 

  • Dull
  • Lifeless
  • Dry
  • Brittle 

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. 

Young female with curly hair and cute laugh lines enjoying a nice sunny day at home.

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 water will likely smell sour due to the presence of beneficial yeast and bacteria. When the water starts to spoil, it’ll develop a completely different smell (“fermented water”).

When the water fermented, it developed a scent that 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 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. 

Pretty South American lady researching the hair health properties of using a half cup of washed rice water daily.

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 the 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 the 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. 

Mixed-raced South American female enjoying the natural sunscreen properties of using a Sunlight spray bottle.

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:
  • Rinse your rice thoroughly before you make your rice water. 

Does Fermented Rice Water Expire?

Fermented rice water does have a shelf life, and if it is not stored properly, it can go bad. Fermentation is a process that allows the growth of beneficial bacteria and yeasts in the water. But if the fermentation process continues for too long, it may result in a sour smell or discoloration, indicating that it has gone bad.

Is Expired Rice Water Good for Hair?

Expired rice water is not suitable for hair and can cause damage. Using expired water on hair may contain harmful bacteria that can cause scalp irritation, infection, or hair loss. Expired rice water can make the hair feel dull, dry, and brittle. Look out for indications that it’s gone bad such as mold growth or a sour smell.

How Do You Preserve Rice Water for Hair?

To preserve rice water for hair, store it in a clean, airtight container in the refrigerator. Refrigeration helps to slow down the growth of bacteria that may spoil the water. Use a clean container and antimicrobial essential oils to combat unwanted bacteria in the rice water during preparation. Using filtered water also reduces the risk of contamination.

Can I Freeze Rice Water to Extend Its Shelf Life?

Freezing rice water can extend its shelf life, but use a freezer-safe container and thaw the water properly before use. Freezing the water is an excellent way to preserve it for future use. When freezing rice water, it is essential to leave some space at the top of the container because the water expands as it freezes.

African American female washed her hair with a boiled rice water treatment made with brown rice grains.

What Are the Signs That Rice Water Has Gone Bad?

Signs that rice water has gone bad include an unpleasant smell, discoloration, or mold growth. If there is discoloration or mold growth, it may also indicate that bacteria have started to grow in the rice water. If you notice these indications that water has gone bad, it should not be used on your hair or within your beauty routine (e.g., skin).

Can You Use Old Rice Water?

Rice water can go bad, and you shouldn’t use old water because it can lead to scalp irritation, infection, or hair loss. If the water is still within its shelf life and has been stored correctly, it can be used on hair. However, don’t apply rice water to your hair if there are any indications that the water has gone bad.

How Can I Make Rice Water Last Longer and Prevent Spoilage?

To make rice water last longer and prevent spoilage, add a natural preservative, such as peppermint or rosemary oil. These essential oils have antimicrobial properties, which help to inhibit the growth of bacteria that may spoil the water. Another way to make water last longer is to store it in the refrigerator or freezer.

Related Articles

Rice water is an excellent addition to your hair, body, 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 passed its expiry date. 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.

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