How to Store Dried Milk Powder For The Long Term

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 powder 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 the 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 that 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.

Read our guide to the best powdered milk brands.

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 that 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.

Read how to use oxygen absorbers for food storage.

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.

Can I Make Dried Milk?

Yes, it can be made in several different ways and we cover them in this post – how to make powdered milk.

Also, see our milk powder to water ratios.

Your Vital Information, Organized and Ready!

Get our Emergency Binder.

Instant Download. No Ads.

emergency binder

Comprehensive, easy-to-use Emergency Binder

Effortlessly populate your binder: type your information into our easy-to-use PDF, save a digital copy for easy access, and print a copy for physical backup.

It couldn’t be easier. There’s no confusion or headaches. Just clarity and peace of mind.

Learn More

Leave a comment

  1. I sealed all my non fat dry milk in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. I did not use the desiccant! I did this a year ago. Will it still be good ? I didn’t know I needed both!!

  2. Can full fat powdered milk be left in the original plastic packaging if it’s kept refrigerated or in freezer? How long would it stay good this way?

    • Powdered milk will basically last forever in the freezer. Depending on the packaging, it might pick up some bad smells from the freezer, but it will be safe to eat and won’t go rancid. As for the fridge, there are too many variables there to give a precise answer. Fridges actually get pretty humid. And temperature fluctuations happen every time you open/close the door. I rarely use a little bit of dried milk powder in my everyday life. When I open a package, I keep it in a jar with a good lid in the BACK of the fridge where the temperature stays the coolest. Mine lasts at least 6 months this way. But no guarantees!

  3. Would these methods apply to long term storage of baby formula? How long would it extend the shelf life? I’m due in March 2022, but with the current economic climate and shipping issues, I’d like to start prepping now. Thank you for any help!

    • Baby formula is trickier because it has added vitamins. While these methods *in theory* would keep those vitamins stable and viable longer, there’s no guarantee.

      The good news is that most baby formula has a shelf life of 1 year from date of manufacture. If you find a fresh batch and buy it now, it will be good until your baby is at least 6 months old — which is when most can go on solids anyway.

    • I can’t give you a definite answer. Heat will cause fats to go rancid fairly quickly, even if they are stored without oxygen. Keep it cool and it should last for years.

  4. There is no long term shelf life listed for powdered whole milk stored in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. I need this information, not the information for low-fat milk.

  5. I bought powdered whole milk, a lot of it. How can I store this and for how long??? I bought 5 mil Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers and 5 gallon food grade buckets to put individually wrapped powder in. HELP! I spent a small fortune on this milk and I don’t want it to ruin.

    • Following. I also bought a large amount and would like best way to store in smaller amounts. I read that you should put a desiccants and the bottom then the powder and oxygen absorber at the top however I just need to know what size desiccants for how large of a package. I have gallon mylar bags on planning on putting 9 cups of powder into they are 10 by 14 bags

    • Don’t stress. 🙂 Use option 6: mylar bags + oxygen absorbers. Put a desiccant at the bottom of the bag for extra protection against moisture, if you wish. (Read: Once the milk is in the Mylar, it should last a very, very long time. Just don’t keep it in your attic or garage. These places get really hot and heat will eventually cause the milk to spoil, regardless of how well you packaged it!

      • Hello. First time hearing about this kind of thing. So I live in the Caribbean. It’s hot as hell year round, the only cool is A/C. We import everything here on my island so if things it the fan we r up the creek without a paddle on food other than fish and what currently grows (but expensive to buy).
        I have been reading all about the mylar bags and absorbers now desiccants but I don’t understand all that you are saying. For example if I am putting rice or flour or something that requires desiccants and absorbers do they go in with the actual flower or rice or milk or after you seal the bags you put them in the container that you are storing the mylar bags in?
        I just want to be clear that I’m not poisoning my family by putting these things in the actual product and not outside the product.

        I also saw a site that sold this mylar product as a tubing because the other sites people said when they bought the bags already made they were folded and had holes in them. Do you know if this tubing is the same thing and you just cut it and seal it top and bottom with the iron to make your own bags? If not how do you find the mylar bags already made with perforated tears on a roll tubing?
        Thank you for your help.

  6. Is there a list of how long all foods will stay good using O2 absorbers and/or dessicants (listed with which to use) stored in a gallon glass jar?

  7. 1. How long will powdered whole milk last in a mylar bag with an oxygen absorber?

    2. I have some brown rice in seal-a-meal bags. How long will they last if I put them in a mylar bag with an oxygen absorber?

    Thank you for your help.

  8. where do I find the right kind of food grade desiccant? How do I use it in mylar bags for the long term storage? how much of it to use in what size bag and for what all types of food need it and how much per what size bag.. All I saw was called rechargeable,” and supposed to check it for color change of it, every 2-3 months? that wont work for mylar bags sealed with air absorbers in very long term food storage ??

    • If the packaging is sealed and air-tight, then you don’t have to check the desiccants ever (because no more moisture can enter the bag). You can buy all sorts of desiccants online. Some people even make their own using rice. We will cover desiccants in a future article!


Leave a Comment