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Your COVID Test Expiration Could Be Wrong: How to Find Correct Expiration Dates

The expiration dates on boxes of several COVID-19 tests are outdated. Learn how long your at-home tests actually last.

COVID-19 at home rapid test kit
The FDA has extended the shelf life for some COVID-19 tests.
Sarah Tew/CNET
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO and CDC websites.

The bad news? The federal government will stop taking orders for free COVID-19 tests on Friday, Sept. 2. The good news? Those at-home text might last longer than you think, well past the expiration dates listed on their boxes.

Of the 22 at-home COVID-19 tests listed on the FDA website, 12 of them have had their shelf lives extended since they were released, including tests by iHealth, one of the more common at-home test providers.

We'll explain what the expiration dates on at-home COVID-19 test boxes mean, and which expiration dates have been extended by the US Food and Drug Administration. 

If you find that the expiration date for your tests has been extended, we recommend writing the new expiration date on the box. Keeping up with your at-home test kits is especially important as the omicron BA.5 subvariant continues driving COVID-19 cases. For more, here's how effective at-home COVID-19 tests are at detecting BA.5.

What do COVID-19 test expiration dates mean?

The expiration date listed on your box of COVID-19 tests is the final day the test is expected to perform effectively. Generally, the FDA authorizes at-home test kits with a shelf life of about four to six months, but that shelf life could be extended if the manufacturer finds more data that shows the tests are still accurate past the expiration date.

Should I use a COVID test kit after its expiration?

No. The FDA doesn't recommend using expired at-home COVID-19 tests. Here's why: The COVID-19 test parts could degrade or break down over time, leading to inaccurate or invalid test results. 

Again, it's possible the expiration dates for at-home COVID-19 test kits could be extended as more data is collected, but for now, you shouldn't use a test that's expired. But, if your box of test kits shows a past expiration date, check this FDA list of extended expiration dates to see if it's OK to use yours (more below).

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How do I know if the shelf life of my COVID tests has been extended?

If the manufacturer finds that the shelf life is longer than the expected four to six months, it can request that the FDA authorize an extended expiration date. Once that happens, the manufacturer may notify customers of the new expiration dates. However, if you didn't buy the tests via the manufacturer, you likely won't receive any notifications.

For the latest information on the expiration dates for your COVID-19 test kits, be sure to check the FDA's At-Home OTC COVID-19 Diagnostic Tests webpage.

On that page, the FDA page lists COVID-19 tests alphabetically, or you can use a search box to find your test directly. In the far right column of a table, the FDA lists the shelf life for each test and whether it's been extended. If the expiration date has been extended, an additional link will provide info on exact expiration dates for specific test lots.

The links below include lot numbers and expiration dates for the 12 brands of at-home COVID-19 tests that have had their shelf lives extended by the FDA. You can find the lot number for your at-home COVID test on its box, usually on a sticker with its expiration date.

We'll continue to update this list if the FDA extends the shelf life of any other COVID-19 rapid antigen test. 

For more on COVID-19 testing, here's how to pay for home COVID tests with your FSA or HSA.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.