How Long Can Milk Stay in the Car?

by Charlie
Bottle and glass of milk

It happens sometimes. You go to purchase your milk and then there’s an accident or traffic jam. Now, you are sitting in your car constantly checking your rearview mirror to look at your milk.

Or maybe you were so tired that you forgot to check the passenger’s side for the milk. Mistakes happen. But what can you do about the milk? Will you still be able to consume the milk safely? Let’s see what happens if you accidentally leave your milk in the car. 

How long can milk stay in the car? If the car stays under 40 degrees, milk will last as long as it would have if it was in the fridge. Milk will last 3-4 hours between 40-60 degrees, 2 hours between 60-90 degrees and only 30-60 minutes max over 90 degrees.

What Happens If You Leave Milk in a Car Overnight?

For whatever reason, you forgot your milk in the car. Maybe you had to put it in a different spot other than the trunk for space purposes. Or you put it in the passenger seat and completely spaced grabbing it. Either way, it’s been in the car all night.

Your milk that has been left in the car overnight should be okay if the temperature has been under 40 degrees. Think about your refrigerator. It’s usually set to around 38 degrees.

So leaving your milk in a car when the temperature has stayed under 40 degrees is no different than if it was sitting in your fridge all night.

But what about when it’s hot out? If it’s over 40 degrees and you left it in the car, don’t even try to drink it unless you want to take a trip to bathroom.

What Happens if You Leave Milk in a Hot Car?

To be honest this is always my worst fear. That even during the 7 minute drive home in the hot car on a summer’s day that the milk would be bad before I even got home.

You only have about an hour to get that milk out of your hot car if the temperature is over 90 degrees. You have about 2 hours if the temperature is less than 90 degrees but over 60 degrees.

So no messing around. If you have errands to run or other things to do, you need to make sure that getting your groceries is last on your list. Ideally, 20 minutes is the magic number for your milk to be in a hot car to not have to worry about it or have to do the smell test when you get home.

After the first hour things will start to curdle. The dangerous bacteria will start to grow. After that second hour it is curdling and that sour milk smell that makes you gag has settled in.  

If you live father than that from your grocery store, you should invest in a few insulated bags for your cold and freezer items. That way you can keep them cooler for a bit longer and not have to worry about the bacteria growth.

Can You Leave Milk in a Cold Car?

The best is when you have to go to the store during the winter and your car is nice and cold. You don’t have to rush home and worry about if you have time to swing through and get gas on your way.

Milk can sit in cold car under 40 degrees and not spoil. If it is still cold, but over 40 degrees, you only have 2 hours to get that milk in your fridge.

Grocery shopping in the winter is great because you don’t have to worry about what order you have to do errands. If you get your groceries first, they won’t all be melted by the time you get home.

Your milk will be fine in the car for a few hours if the temperature is cold enough. So if you need to make another stop or two along the way, that’s okay.

How Do You Know if Milk is Safe to Drink After Being Left in the Car?

So let’s say that you think you came in under the time frame but you aren’t sure what the temperature was in the car the whole time. Or you have no idea what time you left. How do you figure out if you can still drink the milk?

You will have to open the milk and check it out. Start by trying to give it a smell. You can pour it and see what it looks like when being poured. In addition, you can take a small drink and see what it tastes like.

If it smells off, that would be your first clue that it’s bad. If you can’t quite tell if the smell is funky, go ahead and pour a bit. If it looks chunky or doesn’t pour like it normally would, that should be a sign that maybe it went a bit sour.

If you still want to see if the milk is okay, try a sip. You’ll know soon enough if the milk is bad or not after a drink.

How to Stop your Milk from Going Bad

Before you even put the milk in your cart there are things you can do to try to make sure your milk gets home safely. These tips would also be applicable if you sometimes leave your eggs in the car.

1. Get your milk last

Have you ever walked through the store and seen people with their cold and frozen things while they are shopping in the clothing or other section? Well, they just did a no no. You should always get your milk last.

2. Use insulated bags

Getting a few of the insulated bags will go a long way. You can keep your cold stuff safe for the ride home.

3. Plan out your shopping

When running errands or mapping out your shopping trip, you’ll have to put groceries last in line. They will hold better in your car and you don’t have to worry so much in case you get stuck in traffic. Try to go when you know traffic is lighter as well.

So, please, for the love of your milk, and your grocery budget, make sure you pay attention to your shopping habits. Your gut will thank you.

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