While rummaging through storage I found an old can of Coleman White Gas Camping stove fuel. Honestly, I had no idea how old it was. The package was still sealed, but it was from back when I was in college so it must have been old.
So I decided to bring out my MSR Whisperlite camp stove to see if it would lite. Sure enough, it lit up instantly, which got me thinking. How long does white gas last? After asking around and doing a little research I found an answer.
How Long Does White Gas Stove Fuel Last?
Unlike gasoline white gas will be relatively stable for years. Coleman brand white gas has a recommended shelf life of 5-7 years if unopened. Once the package has been opened it should be used within a few months.
Remember that this is just a recommended use-by date. This is how long they’re willing to warranty the product against defects. White gas is a relatively clean fuel with added stabilizers to make it last a long time. I’ve used old half-filled rusty cans that were at least 10 years old(maybe older).
Use Up The Fuel Fast Once Opened
Once you open up the fuel container the timer starts ticking. Once a container of white gas is exposed to air it starts to degrade. It starts to gunk up as the additives seperate from the fuel.
You should try to use the fuel within a few months. After about 6 months it’s time to get rid of it.
Extending The Shelf Life of White Gas
Adding a fuel stabilizer will significantly extend the shelf life white gas. Just a little bit of gasoline stabilizer will go a long way. It will extend the shelf life of your opened fuel canister by a couple of years.
Once you’ve determined that white gas is past its prime you don’t need to get rid of it just yet. Just mix it with a 4:1 ratio of new gas or add it to a can of regular old gasoline. Most liquid camp stoves use multi-fuel setups that can run on 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.