Dried milk is made using a process that removes nearly all of the water from the product. The low moisture means shelf life is extended considerably. However, if not stored properly, dried milk can go bad in as little as 30 days.
Here’s what you need to know about storing dried milk for the long-term.
Does Dried Milk Go Bad?
Compared to other dry staples, dried milk is particularly susceptible to spoilage. Oxidation will cause fats in the milk to break down, leaving a rancid taste.
Nutrients, especially vitamins A and D, will degrade from exposure to air, light, and heat. The dry powder will also absorb moisture from the air.
If the humidity gets high, don’t be surprised if your powdered milk storage gets moldy. The dry milk will also absorb odors of whatever is nearby, so it can get an off-putting dusty scent.
Shelf Life of Powdered Milk
The storage conditions of powdered milk make a huge difference to its shelf life. When stored in cardboard or paper packaging in a warm, moist place, the shelf life might be just a few months.
If temperatures get over 104F, dried milk will spoil in just 30 days. However, with the right storage methods, dried milk can last 15+ years. (1)
Note: Non-fat dried milk will last much longer than full-fat milk. The reason is because fats and oils are very susceptible to heat and oxidation. They will start to go rancid and the milk will get a nasty, sour smell and taste. Full-fat milk is generally not suitable for long-term storage.
To Maximize Dried Milk Shelf Life:
- Store in a cool, dark place
- Keep in an air-tight container
- Use oxygen absorbers to remove oxygen from the container
- Use desiccants to control moisture
- Only choose non-fat dried milk
How to Store Dried Milk
For long-term storage, the best way to store dried milk is to put it in sealed Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers and desiccants. Dried low-fat milk can last 15+ year when stored this way.
Below is an overview of ways to store milk and what shelf life you can expect.
Option 1: In Original Plastic or Paper Packaging (Not Recommended)
Some dried milk comes in plastic or paper pouches. The shelf life when kept in this packaging varies drastically. One study found that dried milk spoiled in just 1 month at high temperatures. If kept in a cool, dark, and dry place though, dried milk could last more than a year – but I wouldn’t risk it. Use a more reliable storage method instead.
Option 2: Refrigerator or Freezer
Lowering the temperature can drastically increase the shelf life of dried milk. At temperatures of 90°F, dried milk will start to develop bad tastes in just 6 months. At 104°F, the milk will go rancid in just 30 days. By contrast, dried milk kept at 50°F or below can still be good for 4+ years. (2, 3)
Option 3: Metal Pouches (Not Mylar)
Many brands of powdered milk package their products in metal pouches. These pouches are much better at keeping the milk fresh than plastic or paper pouches. They block light and can also help keep moisture from getting to the milk. The minimum shelf life on these products is usually 1-2 years. (4)
However, those metal pouches still contain oxygen and the seams often leak. You’ll still need to be very careful about keeping the milk in a cool, dark, and dry location. Ideally you should use the milk within a few months. Otherwise, repackage the dried milk into a more reliable storage container, such as Mylar bags.
Option 4: #10 Cans
Several brands which make powdered milk for emergency prep sell their products in #10 cans. Dried milk can last for well over 5 years when packaged in these cans. However, one study found that not all brands of #10 dried milk cans were equal.
The study looked at the amount of oxygen left in the #10 cans. Some brands didn’t use any method to remove oxygen from the cans, so it’s no surprise that these products were subject to oxidation; the milk had absolutely no vitamin A remaining and low levels of other nutrients.
Other brands used either nitrogen flushing or oxygen absorbers to remove oxygen from the cans. The ones packaged with nitrogen flushing were more successful and tended to have higher amounts of nutrients. However, 6 out of the 10 brands tested had absolutely no vitamin A remaining in the milk – despite claims saying they were fortified and sources of this nutrient.
It just goes to show that brand matters when buying powdered milk. Choose a reputable brand that discloses the methods they use for packaging their products. If kept in a cool location, expect canned dry milk to last up to 5 years.
See here for our review of the best emergency food brands.
*Once you open the can, you’ll need to use the milk powder within 3-6 months.
Option 5: Canning Jars with Oxygen Absorbers
A simple way to store smaller amounts of dried milk is to put it in a jar. Some people put a desiccant in the jar to help control moisture levels. Oxygen will still be present in the jar though, which will eventually cause the milk to go bad in anywhere from 3-12 months.
To prolong shelf life, get oxygen absorber packets. These are little packets containing iron which absorb oxygen from the air. If you put one in a canning jar (which is capable of getting an air-tight seal), it will remove almost all oxygen from the container.
You’ll know the OA is working because the lid will look sucked down. The jar will still have to be kept in a cool, dark place but the lack of oxygen means the dried milk can last 5+ years.
Option 6: Mylar Bags with Oxygen Absorbers
Mylar bags are metallic looking pouches. When sealed, they are completely impervious to air and moisture. They are considered the best long-term storage method for dry staples including powdered milk.
To store dried milk in Mylar bags, you’ll need to add a desiccant to the bottom of the bag and oxygen absorbers to the top of the bag before sealing. The desiccant controls moisture and the oxygen absorber removes oxygen. If kept in a cool place, non-fat dried milk can last 15+ years this way. Some companies even put the shelf life at 25+ years.
Read more about storing food in Mylar bags.