How Long Does Sterno Last (GUIDE)

If you are a seasoned prepper or survivalist, you are probably familiar with Sterno. Alternatively, you may have heard of Sterno but are not entirely sure what it is. Sterno is a fuel made from denatured alcohol, used to heat foods in the absence of another heat source. I’ve used Sterno on camping excursions but decided to find out a bit more about the product. My research led me to some interesting information!  

So, how long does Sterno last? This is a two-fold question: how long will the flame last, once lit, and how long can you keep a can of Sterno before it expires? A seven-ounce can of Sterno will last about two-and-a-half hours, while a three-ounce can will last approximately one hour.

Once opened, the Sterno can be used for, say, half an hour, closed up until the flame goes out, then re-lit, and re-used. As far as expiration, if sealed properly and not dried out, Sterno should last for many years.

Although Sterno may seem like a fairly straightforward product, in fact, there are a number of interesting facts about the product. Depending on the manner in which you use Sterno—or intend to use it—you may find at least some of these facts quite useful.

Sterno Canned Heat, Gel Chafing Fuel 6 Cans(7 OZ Each)
  • Each can burns for up to 2-hours and consistently delivers the promised burn time
  • Resists spilling if accidently Tipped
  • Ignites Immediately with the touch of fire and burns steadily
  • Smart can tells you when it is too hot to handle
  • Packaging may vary

Last update on 2019-11-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

How Long Does Sterno Last, and Does it Expire?

To expand on the issue of how long is too long to keep Sterno, there really is no expiration date on the product. This means that how long Sterno will last is highly dependent on how it is stored, and how well it is sealed.

I store my Sterno cans in metal ammo boxes in a cool, dry location in our basement. While researching the subject, several people advised melting wax, then carefully pouring it around the Sterno lid to ensure a tight seal. While I haven’t tried this yet, it seems that Sterno cans that are sealed in this manner (and stored correctly) could easily have a shelf life of 12-15 years.  

The Environmental Health and Safety Policy Manual for Boston University advises that Sterno be stored as follows for the longest life:

  • Store Sterno canisters in a cool, dry place—preferably at 40ºF;
  • Always ensure adequate ventilation in areas where Sterno is stored or used;
  • Never store Sterno canisters close to any other ignition source;
  • Ensure canisters of Sterno are tightly sealed before storing, and
  • Store Sterno canisters away from food and utensils.

It is worth noting that the Sterno company suggests replacing Sterno canisters after two years for best results; most of us will have no trouble storing them for much longer than that, assuming proper storage.

Also, while you can open a Sterno can and only use part of it, you must properly re-close for it to remain viable. Depending on how long you plan to leave it before re-lighting, you might consider re-sealing the lid with wax.

Related Article: How Long Does a BIC Lighter Last

Benefits of Having Sterno Stored Up in SHTF Situations

In the event the unexpected should happen, I want to be sure my family can have a hot meal, at least occasionally. There are many different methods of accomplishing this; however, each has its pros and cons.

Something I just recently considered is that in a SHTF situation, you won’t want to be cooking food in a manner that allows others to smell it. In other words, you might not want to be cooking a meal on an outside grill or outside cookfire because the smells wafting about could be an invitation for someone to come take your food. A sun oven or solar cooker, while less likely to invite the neighbors for a meal, could still emit the smell of cooking food.

If there is no electricity, your normal cookstove may not be an option. This could mean that Sterno canisters are among the better options available.

Heating food with Sterno might not be the most efficient choice but it can be done indoors—caterers do it all the time. Yes, it would take a while to boil water with a can of Sterno, but heating food is certainly doable, and, in a truly dire situation, Sterno could be used as a source of warmth for you and your family.  

Top Rated Sternos

Last update on 2019-11-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API