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Cleaning The Kitchen Cupboard - Can This Be Saved?

Vegetable Oil

  • 1 to 6 months opened; 6 to 12 months unopened
  • Times vary according to type of oil, method of processing, etc. Some companies recommend up to 1 year opened and 2 years unopened for certain of their oils. For oils with a shorter storage time, some companies recommend refrigerating the oil after opening. See "Kitchen Cupboard Management 101" at the end of this article for suggestions on how to contact the company for more information. NOTE: If the container has sat unopened for the total storage time, it no longer may be fresh the entire "opened" storage time.
  • Storage Tip #1: Store in a tightly closed container in a cool, dark place.
  • Storage Tip #2: Some of the oils that may have a shorter storage life include walnut, sesame, hazelnut and almond oils.
  • Storage Tip #3: Oil that has been stored too long will go rancid and develop an undesirable taste and odor. If you haven't used an oil for a while, smell it before using it in a recipe.
  • Storage Tip #4: You can prolong the life of oils by storing them in the refrigerator. Some, such as olive oil, may become cloudy in the refrigerator but usually clear after sitting at room temperature to warm up.


  • 2 years unopened, 1 year opened
  • Storage Tip #1: Keep vinegar tightly covered. White vinegar will maintain unchanged longer than other types of vinegar, according to the Vinegar Institute ( The storage life of vinegar is "almost indefinite" because of its acidic nature, according to the Vinegar Institute.
  • Storage Tip #2: The length of storage time recommended by different companies varies, plus may be different for various types of vinegar. For a more specific time range, write, call (many have a toll-free number) or check if this information is on the company's Web site.

Spices and Herbs

  • 1 year for herbs or ground spices
  • 2 years for whole spices
  • Storage Tip #1: Air, light, moisture and heat speed flavor and color loss of herbs and spices. Store in a tightly covered container in a dark place away from sunlight, such as inside a cupboard or drawer. For open spice rack storage, choose a site away from light, heat and moisture. Keep moisture out of containers by:
    • Avoiding storage above or near the stove, dishwasher, microwave, refrigerator, sink or a heating vent.
    • Always using a dry spoon to remove spices or herbs.
    • Never sprinkling directly from the container into a steaming pot.
  • Storage Tip #2: Refrigerate paprika, chili powder and red pepper for best color retention, especially in summer or hotter climates. Be aware herbs and spices can get wet if condensation forms when a cold container from your refrigerator or freezer is left open in a humid kitchen .

Give Spices and Herbs the "Sniff" Test: Depending on storage and quality of the spice or herb, some may last longer than others.

As a check to see if a GROUND SPICE is potent, smell it. If its aroma is immediate, strong and spicy, it should still add flavor to your foods. For a WHOLE spice, such as a clove or cinnamon stick -- break, crush or scrape the spice before you smell it. DO NOT smell PEPPER or CHILI POWDER as they can irritate your nose.

For HERBS, crush a small amount in your hand and smell it. If the aroma is still fresh and pleasant, it can still flavor foods. If there's no smell or an off smell, toss it.

Get in the habit of smelling your spices and herbs periodically. You'll learn what fresh smells like so you can begin to detect if they are getting old.

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Last Modified: 11/28/11.