How Long Can You Freeze Milk For? A Guide to Milk Storage.

Milk is a highly perishable food product that spoils shortly after being opened. As such, it is important to properly store milk in order to keep it fresh and ensure its safety for consumption. One common method of storing milk is to freeze it, but how long can you freeze milk for before it goes bad? In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of milk storage and answer some common questions about how long milk can be kept in the freezer.

Factors Affecting Milk Shelf Life

The shelf life of milk can be affected by a number of factors, including the temperature at which it is stored, the type of milk, and the level of pasteurization. Here are some important things to keep in mind:


The temperature at which milk is stored is critical to keeping it fresh. Milk should always be kept at a temperature below 40°F (4°C). This temperature range helps to inhibit the growth of bacteria, which can spoil the milk. Freezing milk is an effective way to extend its shelf life, but it is important to note that frozen milk should always be thawed in the refrigerator and not at room temperature.

Type of Milk

The type of milk can also affect how long it lasts. Whole milk tends to spoil more quickly than lower-fat varieties, such as 2% or skim milk. Milk that is labeled as ultra-pasteurized tends to have a longer shelf life than regular pasteurized milk. This is because ultra-pasteurization involves heating the milk to a higher temperature for a shorter period of time, which extends the milk’s life.

Pasteurization Level

Most milk sold in the United States is pasteurized, which involves heating the milk to a high temperature in order to kill harmful bacteria. However, there are different levels of pasteurization, which can affect the milk’s life span. For example, high-temperature short-time (HTST) pasteurization is a common method that heats the milk to around 161°F (71.7°C) for 15-20 seconds. This is the standard level of pasteurization for most milk sold in the United States. Ultra-pasteurization, on the other hand, involves heating the milk to around 280°F (138°C) for a few seconds, which can extend the milk’s life span. Milk that has been ultra-pasteurized can last for several weeks in the refrigerator.

How Long Can You Freeze Milk For?

Now for the main question: how long can you freeze milk for before it spoils? The answer depends on a number of factors, including the type of milk and the temperature of your freezer.

Regular Milk

If you freeze regular pasteurized milk, it will typically last for about 3-6 months in the freezer. However, it is important to note that the quality of the milk may deteriorate over time, even if it remains safe to drink. Freezing can cause the milk to separate and become grainy or watery. When thawing frozen milk, it’s best to do so slowly in the refrigerator to prevent separation.

Ultra-Pasteurized Milk

Ultra-pasteurized milk, as mentioned earlier, has a longer shelf life than regular pasteurized milk. When frozen, ultra-pasteurized milk can last for upwards of six months. However, once again, the quality of the milk may deteriorate over time.


The temperature of your freezer can also affect how long milk lasts in the freezer. A freezer that is set at or below 0°F (-18°C) is best for storing frozen milk. At this temperature, milk should still be safe to drink after six months or more in the freezer. However, if your freezer is not cold enough, the milk may spoil more quickly.

Other Milk Storage Tips

Here are a few additional tips for storing milk:

Don’t Overfill the Container

If you are freezing milk, be sure not to overfill the container. Milk will expand when frozen, so leave some room at the top of the container to accommodate this. Otherwise, the container could burst and create a mess in your freezer.

Label and Date the Container

It’s always a good idea to label and date the container when storing milk in the freezer. This will help you keep track of how long the milk has been frozen and ensure that you use the oldest milk first.

Store Milk in Smaller Containers

Storing milk in smaller containers can make it easier to thaw and use. If you only need a small amount of milk for a recipe, you won’t have to thaw out an entire gallon.


Freezing is a great way to extend the shelf life of milk, but it’s important to keep in mind that the quality of the milk may deteriorate over time. By following the tips outlined above, you can ensure that your frozen milk stays safe to drink and tastes as good as possible.

Common Questions and Answers

  • Q: How do I know if milk has gone bad?
    • A: Spoiled milk typically has a sour smell and taste, as well as a thicker, curdled texture. If you suspect that your milk has gone bad, it’s best to discard it.
  • Q: Can I refreeze milk that has been thawed?
    • A: It is not recommended to refreeze milk that has been thawed. Thawed milk should be used within a few days.
  • Q: Can I freeze milk in the original container?
    • A: It is possible to freeze milk in its original container, but it’s not recommended. The container may burst or the milk may not freeze evenly. It’s better to transfer the milk to a freezer-safe container before freezing.
  • Q: Can I freeze milk that is past its expiration date?
    • A: If milk has already passed its expiration date, it is not recommended to freeze it. The milk may already be spoiled, and freezing will not make it safe to drink.


  • Ray, A., & Singh, P. (2018). Milk Safety and Preservation: A Review. In Milk and Dairy Products (pp. 95-118). Springer, Cham.
  • United States Department of Agriculture. (2021, August 2). Freezing and Food Safety.
  • Pixabay. (n.d.). Milk.

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