What Is the Shelf Life of Heating Oil?

Homes that use heating oil need usually maintain about a month-long supply at any given time. Storing more oil can be tricky. The shelf life of home heating oil depends on how it is stored and what preservatives it contains.

Variable Shelf Life

Rusted storage drums can make heating oil dangerous and inefficient.

Clean, properly stored home heating oil is good from 18 months to two years, depending on a few factors. Many oil companies add preservatives that can increase the oil's shelf life. Oil with these preservatives can be useful for up to two years.

Contamination and Spoilage

In many cases, heating oil that might have been useful becomes contaminated. Rust from steel storage drums, water seepage into the oil, or dust and dirt in the oil can make it dangerous to burn. Contamination is a combustion risk; even a small leak of heating oil requires a costly professional cleanup.


Some experts recommend using polyethylene, double-wall storage tanks instead of steel barrels to store fuel. If the oil supplier does not already use preservatives, additives are available that can extend the life of stored oil.

About the Author

Based in Chicago, Shannon Cate has been writing on family, parenting, politics and religions since 2000. Her work has appeared on Babble, BlogHer, Literary Mama, Gay Chicago Magazine and elsewhere. Cate holds a Doctor of Philosophy in American literature from the George Washington University.