How Long Does White Gas Last? Does White Gas Go Bad?

How Long Does White Gas Last?

If you’re anything like me you have have used white gas bottles lining your storage cabinets. It seems like I buy a new bottle every time I go camping and never use up any of the old ones. There must be 10 quarter-half filled bottles of white gas sitting in storage and I have no idea how old they are. I know gasoline degrades quickly, but what about white gas? How long does white gas last? Does it go bad?

White gas can last for a very long time when properly stored. Unlike gasoline white gas will be relatively stable for years. Coleman brand white gas has a recommended shelf life of 5-7 years if your bottles unopened, but it will last much longer than that if. You can expect at least a 15-20 year shelf life out of an unopened bottle of white gas. Then once the container has been opened you should use the fuel within 2-3 years.

I couldn’t believe how long white gas lasts when I first heard that. So I decided to test out a bottle of old white gas I found while rummaging through storage. I found an old can of Coleman White Gas Camping stove fuel that had to be at least 15 years old. So I decided to bring out my camping stove to see if it would lite. Sure enough, it lit up instantly without any noticeable drop in quality.

That got me wondering what happens when white gas goes bad? Does is it lose a little bit of its potency and you can still use it or should it be disposed of? Will using white gas that’s past its shelf life damage my camping stove? Is there any way to make white gas last longer? I answer all of those questions and more below.

How Long Does White Gas Stove Fuel Last? White Gas Shelf Life Explained

White gas lasts a ridiculously long time! Coleman recommends using their white gas camping fuel within 5-7 years, but that’s a low estimate. It may degrade a little bit past that point, but you should be able to use white gas for 15-20 years. I’ve even heard of people using 30 year old white gas in their camping stoves.

Remember that this is just a recommended use-by date. This is how long they’re willing to warranty the product against defects. Coleman claims to throw in fuel stabilizers to extend the life of the product, but every company does that. It doesn’t matter what brand you’re using. White gas should last a very long time.

I’ve tried using old white gas in my camping stoves without noticing a difference. The cans were rusty and I had no idea how old the fuel was, but they were from my Boy Scout days so at least 15 years old. Maybe the quality drops a little bit after a certain point, but it will still light up providing ample cooking temperatures. You might not have the same fuel efficiency and as clean of a burn, but 20 year old white gas is good enough for most people.

Air Speeds Up White Gas Degradation

Once you open up the fuel container oxygen speeds up the degradation process. Opening up your bottle of white gas starts up the countdown timer. White gas starts off extremely clean burning, but the fuel will slowly start to gunk up once you open up the bottle exposing it to air.

The actual fuel stays at a fairly consistent potency, but the stabilizers will start to separate. This isn’t a huge deal from a functional standpoint, but you’ll end up with larger debris floating in the gas. I doubt you will notice much of a difference if you use up the fuel within 3-4 years, but it will cause premature clogging in your equipment.

I recommend using up open bottles of white gas as fast as possible. Cycle through your bottles using open ones first and then move on to fresh bottles. Try to use up your half filled bottles by the end of each camping season. If that’s not possible you can always finish them up early the next year before buying new.

Extending The Shelf Life of White Gas

Stable Makes White Gas Last Longer

You can significantly extend the shelf life of white gas by using a fuel stabilizer. Just use any brand of fuel stabilizer that you can find at any auto parts or home improvement store. Stabil is a great choice! It’s cheap, you can find it anywhere, and you probably already have a bottle sitting in your garage.

Just a little bit of gasoline stabilizer will go a long way. White gas is usually sold by the gallon and the small bottle of Stabil can treat up to 40 gallons of fuel. Measuring such a small amount can be tricky, but you need about a half oz of Stabil for a gallon of white gas.

Mix Old White Gas With New

Once you’ve determined that white gas is past its prime you don’t need to get rid of it just yet. You can use the old gas to top off newer bottles. It will slightly degrade the mixture, but you shouldn’t notice any drop in performance.

Take your old bottle of white gas and mix it in with the fresh stuff. Mix the fuel at a 4:1 ratio with 4 parts new gas with one part of the old stuff. That will give you 99% of the performance of fresh fuel and you have to worry about clogging up your stove. Just make sure you shake up the can and use the fuel within the next year so you’re not dealing with the same situation.

You can also top off a can of regular gasoline or dump the leftover gas in your lawnmowers tank. Old white gas is still cleaner than fresh gasoline and it has a similar performance profile. So it will mix right in with your regular gasoline.

Old Fuel Might Clog Up Your Stove

Like I said above I’ve used white gas that’s well past its recommended shelf life with no noticeable quality loss. It actually works really well, but it quickly gunks up your stove. You’ll need to regularly maintain the stove and be ready for on the fly cleaning.

Realistically, I would never use old fuel on a long multi-day backpacking trip. It’s good enough for a short overnight trip or day hike, but I usually just buy a new bottle so I don’t have to worry about it (it’s like 5$ a gallon).

Taking apart your stove and cleaning it out is a serious hassle. It takes a lot of time to dissect and fully clean out the stove in the field. If you value your time just buy new fuel.

Disposing of Old White Gas Fuel

So you have a bunch of half filled containers of stove fuel, what can you do with it? It’s highly flammable, and toxic so you can’t just pour it down your sink or into the garden. So how do you dispose of old white gas camp fuel?

Personally, I always just pour what’s left into the gas tank in my lawnmower. I just mix it up with 5 gallons of fresh gas and it works great. Though this probably isn’t recommended it shouldn’t damage your engine. You could also use it as an accelerant for a campfire(just be careful).

Most experts recommend taking the old gas to your local hazardous waste disposal center. Disposal is free at my local landfill. They have a big tank of old gas/diesel that they pour it into.