Skip to Content

How To Properly Store 7 Different Types Of Milk & How Long Can Milk Sit Out?

Quick Answer: How Do You Properly Store Milk?

Depending on the type of milk you have in your possession will determine where and for how long can milk sit out. Soya, almond and oat milk can also be stored in the fridge for up to 7-10 days after being opened. Prior to being used, they can last up to 1-2 months in your pantry. The instructions for storing milk are easy, but there are some things you need to keep in mind.

There’s nothing worse than being in a hurry in the morning, going to the fridge to grab the milk for your Rice Krispies and you are greeted by a highly unpleasant smell. 

If you’ve ever had this unfortunate encounter with sour milk, you will know what we’re talking about. 

When milk expires, it omits a pungent odor that is hard to miss. Most people have fallen victim to spoiled dairy (forgetting about certain food items and allowing them to extend past their prime happens to the best of us).

Which got us thinking: why not provide our fellow readers with simple milk storage practices so more milk can go into our coffees and less milk to the garbage.

Storing milk is actually quite easy as there is a fundamental rule for all types of milk: once opened, regardless of what kind of milk it is, it needs to be kept in the fridge. 

Now, although post-opening practices are universal, the requirements prior to opening your milk can vary.

UHT milk, for example, is a type of milk commonly found in Europe and can be stored in your pantry for up to 9 months without spoiling.

Similarly, non-dairy milk, such as soya and oat, can also be kept at room temperature for an extended period of time. 

Fresh milk, of course, is a whole other story that we’ll dive into next in the following section of the article. 

For more info, check out these tips and instructions on how to properly store all types of milk and how long they will last once opened. 

Because life is already stressful enough without having to worry about spoiled food. 

how long can milk sit out

How Do You Properly Store Pasteurized Milk?

When it comes to different types of milk, you have to be especially careful when it’s fresh as it can most easily expire. 

Of course, there are different types of fresh milk that come with their own set of rules.

To find out more, check out this table

Type Of MilkStorage Instructions 
Regular Fresh Milk Fresh milk should be immediately stored in the fridge after purchasing it. 
Fresh milk should be kept on a shelf at the back of the fridge rather than on the door, as it is warmer in these areas
Fresh milk is best kept at a temperature of 4 degrees Celsius (40 degrees Fahrenheit) Store away from other food items that have a strong odor, as the milk may adopt some of these flavors
As long as the milk remains unopened, it can be stored in the fridge for 5-7 days
Once it has been opened, it should be consumed within 3 days 
NOTE: fresh milk should not be consumed after it has spent more than 2 hours at room temperature The amount of time decreases to 1 hour during the hotter months (when temperatures hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit) 
Whole MilkAs whole milk is a type of fresh milk, it should also be stored in the fridge immediately. 
All of the same rules apply to whole milk, however, whole milk tends to only have a shelf life of 5 days 
Reduced Fat/Skim Milk Reduced fat and skim milk should also be stored in the fridge immediately. 
All of the same rules apply to these two types of milk, however, they will last 7 days if unopened 
Lactose-Free Milk/Non-Fat MilkLactose-free and non-fat milk should also be stored in the coldest part of the fridge. 
All of the same rules apply to these two types of milk, however, they will last up to 10 days if unopened 

RELATED: How To Safely Heat Up Milk In The Microwave

How Do You Store Non-Dairy Milk (Soya, Oat, Almond, Rice, Coconut)?

In 2022, more and more people are turning to non-dairy alternatives, so it’s also good to know how to store these types of milk. 

In contrast to fresh milk, milk such as soya, oat and almond have a significantly longer shelf life due to the absence of dairy in their ingredient palette. 

Plus, they come in a variety of delicious flavors, so it’s hard to resist them!

If you haven’t tried non-dairy coconut milk yet, it’s a must!

Here’s how to store them

How Do You Store Non-Dairy Milk (Soya, Oat, Almond, Rice, Coconut)
Type Of MilkStorage Instructions 
Soya, Rice, Oat, Almond, Coconut Milk All of these non-dairy types of milk can be stored in the pantry for up to 1-2 months prior to being opened. 
Once they have been opened, they need to be refrigerated 
They will maintain their quality for up to 7-10 days post-opening. 
NOTE: while many of these dairy alternatives can be found on the shelf at the grocery store at room temperature, if purchased from the refrigerated area, they should also be stored in the fridge when you get home (even before opening).

RELATED: Can Sweetened Condensed Milk Go Bad?

How Do You Store UHT Milk?

I will never forget the time when I first moved to Europe and went looking for milk in the refrigerated grocery store only to find out they store it on the shelves. 

I remember thinking, how is that possible?

In North America, the most common form of milk is pasteurized milk. If you go overseas, you will notice that a different variation is consumed, known as “UHT Milk.” 

UHT milk stands for “ultra heat treatment” and refers to how this type of milk is processed at a higher temperature (135 degrees Celsius). This process enables this milk to be stored at room temperature as opposed to in the fridge. 

It seems strange, but it’s actually super practical!

For more info on how to store it, check out this table

Type Of MilkStorage Instructions 
UHT MilkUHT milk can be stored in the pantry or on a shelf in your kitchen until it is opened.
Generally, UHT milk can be stored this way for approximately 6-9 months (but check the expiry date provided to be sure)
Once it has been opened, it can potentially be contaminated with bacteria, so it needs to be stored in the fridge (like this, it needs to be consumed within 7 days)
For the best results, store UHT milk at the back of the fridge rather than on the door, as it is warmer in these areas
UHT milk should be kept at 34-38 degrees Fahrenheit 
Store away from other food items that have a strong odor as the milk may adopt some of these flavors

RELATED: How To Tell If Oat Milk Has Curdled + How To Make It Last!

How Do You Store Breast Milk?

If you have young ones at home, it’s also good to know how to properly store breast milk so that there aren’t any chances of someone becoming ill. 

Breast milk also needs to be refrigerated, but it can stay at room temperature for a bit longer than pasteurized milk

Here’s what you need to know

Type Of MilkStorage Instructions 
Breast Milk  Freshly pumped milk can be stored in different ways, depending on when you would like to use it:
Breast milk can sit out for up to 4 hours at room temperature (as long as it is 77 degrees Fahrenheit or colder)
For longer periods than 4 hours, fresh breast milk should be kept at the back of the fridge (where the temperature is coldest) for up to 4 days
Breast milk should be stored in either a sterilized container or in a breast milk bag
Breast milk can also be stored in the freezer for up to 6 months 
NOTE: it’s essential that wherever the breast milk is stored, the space needs to be clean. The chances of bacteria spreading from other foods to the milk could pose serious threats to your baby. 
NOTE: breast milk should never be restored in the fridge or freezer after it has already been once
NOTE: it is perfectly safe to give your baby cold milk 

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Know When Your Milk Has Gone Bad?

There’s nothing worse than milk that’s gone bad. Unlike other food items, detecting spoiled milk is usually quite easy as it will emit a strong, unpleasant odor. There are also various other indicators, depending on the type of milk

Pasteurized Milk: when fresh milk goes bad, it develops a bacteria that produces lactic acid. This is the component that creates that “sour” smell that we are all familiar with. 

In addition to odor, the texture may begin to be lumpy and the color may also turn to a more yellow hue. If you see any of these signs, you should not drink the milk. 

Soy/Oat/Rice/Almond Milk: like fresh milk, these non-dairy alternatives will show you that they are past their prime, most prominently by their scent. If any of them smell sour or rancid, they are bad.

Additionally, if you pour a glass of one of these types of milk and the contents are separating, that is also a good indication (except for almond milk, as this occurs naturally when it’s still good).

Mold is also a sure sign your milk has gone bad. If you see any mold growth, discard the milk immediately. 

UHT Milk: knowing when your UHT milk has spoiled is similar to the previous alternatives. When your UHT milk has gone bad, it will smell rancid.

If you taste it, it will also have an off-putting flavor (remember, UHT milk does taste slightly different from pasteurized milk due to the higher temperatures it is processed at). 

Breast Milk: when it comes to breast milk, it can be more tricky to identify when it has gone bad as the flavor is already unpleasant to most adults.

The best way to describe spoiled breast milk is soapy, fishy, or rancid. Like fresh milk, the odor can also be “sour.”

If these odors are present in any way, the milk should be thrown out as it could be harmful to your baby. 

How Do You Know When Your Milk Has Gone Bad

Does Milk Get Spoiled If It Is Not Refrigerated? 

Yes, all milk, whether it is dairy or not, will go bad if it is not refrigerated. What differs is the pre-opening storage. 

UHT and non-dairy kinds of milk such as soya, almond and oat milk can all be left in the pantry for months and only move to a colder climate once they have been opened. 

Because of the bacteria that can develop when milk is warm, storing the milk in the back of the fridge, where the space is coolest, is critical. 

You should also never consume any milk that has been sitting at room temperature for more than 2 hours. This decreases to 1 hour when the weather is hotter. 

Is Pasteurized Milk Or UHT Milk Better?  

Because both pasteurized milk and UHT milk have advantages and disadvantages, neither is really better than the other. 

For example, from a nutritional standpoint, pasteurized milk is better as a lot of the nutrients get lost in UHT milk due to the high temperatures it is processed at. 

However, when it comes to storage and the impact on the climate, UHT is a lot more practical as it can be kept at room temperature for several months prior to being open.

Pasteurized milk, on the other hand, must be refrigerated and only has a shelf life of a few days. 

Jess Smith


Friday 9th of June 2023

I may need your help. I tried many ways but couldn't solve it, but after reading your article, I think you have a way to help me. I'm looking forward for your reply. Thanks.