Does Flour Go Bad? The Answer Will Surprise You!

Do you have a bag of flour in your pantry? We bet you do!

After all, this is one of the pantry staples that we love to buy in bulk. After all, it seems like flour can last forever. So it can stay in your pantry for years and not go bad, right?

That’s what you thought, but that might be far from the truth. So does flour go bad?

Long story short: Yes, flour can go bad. It can become rancid over time, especially if it’s not stored properly.

So how do you store flour? Read this article to find out!

When you do, you’ll also discover the answers to the following questions:

  • Does flour go bad?
  • How long does flour last?
  • How to tell if the flour has gone bad (and what will happen if you use spoiled flour)
  • How to properly store flour?
  • Bonus: What are the other ways to use flour?

Do you want to know more things about flour? Well then, let’s get started!

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Does Flour Go Bad?

Yes. Same with most food items, flour also does go bad.

Surprise: It’s not the starch in the flour that causes it to go bad. Instead, it’s the protein in wheat that causes it to spoil.

When the proteins are exposed to air, the number of gluten they can form gets limited. The lack of gluten will make it harder for the flour to produce starchy and stretchy structures, leading to crumbly baked goods. Additionally, the poor flour quality may also prevent breads and cakes from rising high.

Another reason why flour can go bad would be its natural fat content. When fats are exposed to air and moisture, they get oxidized, and their quality will degrade over time. This causes the flour to become rancid.    

How Long Does Flour Last?

Two factors can affect the flour’s shelf-life—storage method and type of flour.

Let’s talk about the storage method first. Flour is actually shelf-stable. This means that you can store it at room temperature without any issues. However, refrigerating and freezing it can help increase its shelf life.

When it comes to different types of flour, here are the rules of thumb to keep in mind:

  • The more refined the flour is, the longer its shelf life is.
  • The higher the oil content of the flour, the shorter its shelf life is.

With this in mind, here’s a shelf life table of the different types of the most commonly used flours today:

Type of FlourRoom TemperatureRefrigerated
White Flour (All-purpose Flour)12 months (unopened) 6 to 8 months (opened)12 months
Whole Wheat Flour3 to 6 months6 to 8 months
Self-rising Flour4 to 6 months1 year
Bread Flour6 months1 year
Gluten-Free Flours (Banana, Nut, Oat, Rice, and Buckwheat)3 months6 to 12 months
Fun Fact: When stored in the freezer, you can extend its shelf life by a few more months.

How to Tell if Flour Has Already Gone Bad? Here are the Signs

Remember that the shelf life we’ve shared with you is just guidelines. As long as the flour is stored correctly, you can enjoy it for longer than expected.

You should avoid using flour only when it starts to show signs that it has already gone bad. These are as follows:

1. Stale, Musty, or Sour Odor

The easiest and best way to determine if the flour has already gone bad is to smell it. Initially, flour practically doesn’t have any odors. So if your flour already smells musty, sour, or stale, it has already gone rancid.

While it’s still safe for consumption, its rancidity may cause your baked goods to smell and taste differently.

2. Clumps

Aside from air, the biggest enemy of flour would be moisture. Once the flour comes in contact with water, its texture will definitely change. If your flour already has lumps and clumps, better to throw it away.

3. Mold Growth

In addition to clumps, moisture can also cause mold to grow in the flour. If your flour has fuzzy growth at its surface, you should discard it right away.

4. Small Insects or Bugs

If the flour has been stored in your pantry for a long time, your primary concern should be the presence of small insects or bugs. However, you should also look out for flour beetles, more commonly known as weevils.

While these insects are not harmful to our body, they will cause the flour to become discolored. It will also give the flour an off smell.

Here are some of the steps you should take to detect the presence of weevils:

  • Transfer your flour to clear glass.
  • Press the flour firmly until you achieve a flat surface below the rim of the glass.
  • Place the glass in a warm and well-lighted area. Leave it there for hours.
  • If the smooth surface of the flour gets broken, bugs already live in it.

To get rid of the weevils, you can simply sift your flour.

Pro Tip: You can also freeze the flour to kill the weevils.

What Happens When You use Expired Flour?

You might be thinking: won’t I get sick when I consume flour infested with insects? We understand.

Consuming flour with insects does sound kind of gross. However, the insects won’t make you sick. The worst that could happen is they would impart a strange taste and smell to your dishes. This goes the same with rancid flour.

However, moldy flour is a different story. Most molds are not harmful, but certain types can produce harmful chemicals called mycotoxins, which can cause a wide range of side effects like vomiting and diarrhea. (*)

Because of this, you should err on the side of caution and throw out the flour the moment you notice any signs of spoilage or rancidity.

How to Properly Store Flour? Check Out These Tips!

The best way to prevent spoilage or rancidity is proper storage. With that said, here are some of the best tips on how to store flour properly:

1. Keep flour in an airtight container.

The biggest mistake you can ever make when storing your flour is leaving it inside its original packaging. You see, air can quickly enter an opened box, causing your flour to become rancid faster.

The key to keeping air out is to transfer the flour from its original box to an airtight container.

2. Store flour in dry and cool places.

To prevent the flour from getting wet or exposed to heat, store it in a dark, dry, and cool place like your kitchen cabinet or pantry. Ensure that the cabinet is far from heat sources like the oven and stove. It shouldn’t be near your kitchen window too.

3. Or better yet, store flour in your freezer or refrigerator.

If you want to extend your flour’s shelf life, storing them at cold temperatures is the way to go. Putting them in the freezer or refrigerator can prolong their shelf life by a few months.

However, the biggest issue with refrigerating or freezing flour is its exposure to moisture. To address this, we recommend placing flour in a resealable freezer bag to protect it from moisture.

4. What are the Other Ways to Use Flour in the House?

If you wish to ensure that your flour will remain at its freshest taste, the best thing you can do is finish the bag within its expiry or best before date. The good news is there are lots of things you can use flour for.

In addition to cooking and baking, flour can also be used for:

5. Repelling ants

Just sprinkle a line of flour in the room or a particular area. Since ants don’t like a powdery feel, they will try to avoid it as much as possible.

6. Keeping stainless steel shiny

Add a dash of flour to your cleaning cloth, and then wipe your stainless steel surfaces to achieve a shiny look.

7. Substituting dry shampoo

If you don’t have a dry shampoo on hand, you can use flour to absorb oils in your scalp to enjoy fresher and grease-free hair without taking a bath.

8. Making a face mask

You can use flour as a base for face mask. You just need to mix 2 teaspoons of flour with turmeric and yogurt to prepare this. Apply to your face and rinse after a few minutes.

Wrapping It Up

Flour is one of the most versatile items you can have in your home. But, unfortunately, it’s also the most neglected ingredient of them all.

Does flour go bad? It can and will, especially if you don’t store it properly. Luckily, storing it is pretty easy. The only thing you need to do is keep it away from heat, moisture, and air. And if you want to preserve its freshness, refrigerate or freeze it following all the tips we’ve shared with you.

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