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Although pepper spray is mainly used by law enforcement personnel, many civilians are starting to use them as well. Buying such spray is legal across all 50 states, although possession-specific laws may vary from state to state. And if you’re thinking of buying one or if you already did, you’re probably wondering – how long does pepper spray last?
Your typical small canister of pepper spray generally lasts from 2 to 4 years, while some products may last as much as 5 years.
However, the exact expiration date may vary so always check the exact date on the canister.
Also, make sure to not keep your spray in places that are too hot or cold to avoid any potential leakage or freezing.
Another important aspect is to keep the pepper spray away from children and to test it periodically.
Doing so every 3 to 6 months will ensure that your self-defense tool is in optimal condition.
And even if there’s still time before it expires, changing your spray with a new one every 1 to 1.5 years might be a good idea, just for good measure.
Now let’s take a more in-depth look at what these self-defense weapons are, what to expect from their effectiveness etc.!
What Exactly Is A Pepper Spray?
Pepper spray a.k.a. OC (Oleoresin Capsicum) is a spray made of chilli pepper extract that’s meant to incapacitate the target.
This can include an attacker or even an animal such as a bear, depending on the situation.
It’s generally used by the police and law enforcement, but these sprays are widely used as self-defense weapons as well.
There are 5 main types of pepper spray products available these days:
Regardless of the type, it’s worth mentioning that this weapon is not meant to kill your target.
The sole purpose of the pepper spray is to merely stop the attacker in his tracks and buy you time so that you may escape.
The pepper spray isn’t considered a deadly weapon, although a North Carolina study reported 2 deaths in 63 cases!
The main effect of using a pepper spray on someone is temporary blindness, general irritation in the affected areas and possibly shortness of breath.
And while pepper spray products are regarded as less-than-lethal, death might occur, albeit in very rare cases.
One particular study conducted by the US Department of Justice examined the safety and effects of pepper spray (1).
The data from North Carolina police reports showed that 2 suspects (from 63 cases) died as a result of the use of OC spray.
However, you have to keep in mind that both patients had asthma!
Under What Circumstances Is It Ok To Use A Pepper Spray?
It’s okay to use an OC spray in self-defense scenarios or during an arrest.
But since you most likely you won’t be arresting anyone, your safest bet is to use it to protect yourself from harm.
Using a pepper spray on someone without a reason (i.e. they’re not attacking you) might be treated as an assault and you might face legal consequences!
After all, these non-lethal weapons were designed to incapacitate i.e. temporarily disable an attacker.
You’re not supposed to spray people just because someone said a bad word.
There has to be a good reason to use it.
How Long Do Effects Of Pepper Spray Last?
Up to 1 hour, according to a report on crowd control technologies by the European Parlament (2).
The report states that pepper spray’s effects are quite severe and may result in the following things:
- Temporary blindness – 15 to 30 min.
- Burning sensation (on the affected area) – 45 to 60 min.
- Difficulty breathing – 3 to 15 min.
After that, it’s expected for the affected person to recover since the aforementioned effects are temporary.
Still, that doesn’t mean that he or she might not experience complications.
Individuals who have asthma or people who take drugs might be at risk due to the nature of how these OC sprays work.
How Long Does Pepper Spray Last In The Air?
Up to 30 minutes in smaller rooms with poor ventilation and a few minutes maximum if it’s used outside.
Basically, the effects of the OC spray will also be present in the air of the room or place where it was sprayed in as well.
The amount of time it takes for the spray to dissipate from the air largely depends on how well ventilated the place that it’s sprayed in is i.e. indoors vs outdoors.
But what if you used it outside in an open environment?
Then the effects might last only a couple of minutes.
Perhaps even less if it’s windy outside.
Just be careful if it’s breezy because the spray might come your way if you’re not careful!
How Many Times Can You Use A Pepper Spray?
Depends on the particular brand, but as a general rule of thumb, your average pepper spray canister has about 20 shots on average.
Anyhow, some may have 16 to 18, while others over 30 shots.
It all boils down to the specific spray that you’ve bought.
And if you’ve had yours for a while and used it a few times but you’re unsure how many shots you have left, there’s an easy way to get an estimation.
Simply shake the canister a few times.
If it feels too light and there’s no sound of the liquid inside moving around as you shake the canister, then it’s probably almost empty.
What Is The Best Pepper Spray Treatment?
Tearless baby shampoo or alternatively soap.
But “no tears” baby shampoo is still your best bet if you got pepper-sprayed.
Because this shampoo is capable of removing the oil from the spray.
Water is definitely NOT a great treatment option. The oily liquid that the pepper spray is made of is far from soluble in water!
But unless you always carry a baby shampoo with you, you have to keep several things in mind.
Here’s what to do if you get pepper-sprayed in your face, whether by accident or not:
- Don’t touch your eyes (or the affected area)
- Start blinking rapidly so that your eyes produce more tears
- Find a tearless baby shampoo, soap or water as a last resort
- Do your best to rinse the pepper spray oils away
Still, no matter what you do – if you get sprayed you’ll feel a good amount of pain.
My advice is to just stay away from trouble so that no one has a reason to use pepper spray on you.
Does Pepper Spray Expire?
Yes, a pepper spray can very well expire.
Once it does, it loses its potency.
Now, the last thing you want in a life-threatening situation is for your pepper spray to have lost its effectiveness.
Now, note that in the video above the guy uses a pepper spray from the 90s and apparently it still has some sting to it.
But do you think that it’s as effective today as it was 20 years ago? No way.
Modern pepper spray products have a shelf life ranging from roughly 3-5 years.
Basically, the effectiveness of the spray will deteriorate as time goes by.
That’s why you need to always check the expiration date on the canister.
If it’s close to its expiration date or even worse if it has expired – better buy another one.
So, a pepper spray may last as long as 5 years and its effects on the sprayed person might last for up to 1 full hour.
However, no matter the expiration date – always test your pepper spray every few months.
This way you’ll ensure it’s working properly.
If you haven’t used your spray in a while and it’s already one year old or so, just buy a new one.
They’re not expensive and this is your safety that we’re talking about here.
A pepper spray with a diminished potency may mean that perhaps it won’t stop a potential attacker.
Now, have you personally used an “old” pepper spray i.e. beyond the expiration date?
And if not – do you have one collecting dust in your purse or backpack?
Let us know by dropping a comment below!
Simo, an outdoor specialist and avid survival enthusiast, brings over 3 years of experience in navigating and thriving in the great outdoors. With an unwavering passion for nature, Simo has honed their skills in various aspects of outdoor exploration, including camping, hiking, and wilderness survival. Their extensive knowledge and hands-on experience enable them to tackle challenges head-on while imparting valuable insights to fellow adventurers. His dedication to promoting outdoor safety and environmental stewardship make them a trusted resource for anyone seeking to embark on unforgettable outdoor experiences.