How Long Does PLA Last? Does It Expire? - MonoFilament DIRECT (2023)

Need to know how long your PLA filament will last? In short, when you place PLA under normal room temperature, it can last for a very long time – say 12 to 18 years.

Depending on where and how you store it, 3D printed objects made from PLA can last from a month, to 2 years and up to many years. It can break down at different rates depending on its environment. In this post, we look at how long PLA lasts in different scenarios.

What is PLA Made Of?

Polylactide (PLA), being the most common 3D printer material, is produced from environmentally-friendly raw materials. It’s a cornstarch-based, biodegradable plastic that’s extruded from renewable materials. Aside from cornstarch, some PLA manufacturers use tapioca roots or sugarcane for manufacturing this material. PLA is the most common 3D printer material.

Does PLA Filament Go Bad?

Since PLA plastic is made of plant-based material, one may ask, does it expire? The good thing to know about is that PLA filament does not have an expiry date. But any filament can go bad based on where it’s placed or where it is stored.

For example, the more humid the place, or the more you expose it in direct sunlight, the quicker the plastic will degrade. This may mean the object can deform or bloat and lose its original shape.

Also consider the filament quality you initially buy and how it is packed. The reason why most filament manufacturers deliver filament rolls on vacuum sealed containers and with desiccants is to prevent it from absorbing the moisture.

So while PLA material doesn’t expire like food products, there are factors which may cause this plastic to lose its functionality earlier on.

Factors that Affect 3D Filament Life

What may affect the lifespan of your PLA 3D printer filament? Here they are:

1. Moisture

A lot of 3D printing failure and problems can result from humidity and moisture in the environment. Humidity can cause degradation and oxidation in plastic materials.

(Video) Is PLA for 3D printing really biodegradable? I've buried and drowned Benchy for 2 years to find out!

When exposed in humid places, your 3D printer filament can absorb moisture in just days and cause a number of problems.

This includes bloated filament diameter that causes extrusion problems and filament fragility. The result of a bloated filament heating up is that when it’s extruded, it boils with steam coming out.

2. Mechanical Stress from Unwinding the Spool

Another thing that affects your 3D printer filament life is the amount of mechanical stresses it receives from constant unwinding. Whenever you’re uncoiling a filament from its original position, it induces stresses on the line giving more chances of breaking.

For this factor, just make sure you unwind the spool carefully to prevent the filament from producing cracks.

3. Filament Quality

Depending on your PLA filament manufacturer, some products are more durable than the others. This mostly depends on the way the filament is composed, manufactured, coiled and quality inspected.

If you want to ensure a longer filament lifespan, buy high quality PLA filaments. There are a lot of PLA suppliers offering quality filaments at a budget price. The best way to find them is by reading through reddit and reviews.

How Long Do PLA Prints Last

Next, let’s see how fast (or how long) your PLA 3D prints last in different environments and situations.

How Long Does PLA Last After Opening?

A PLA filament spool that has been opened but stored in a sealed container with desiccants or properly dried can survive for approximately more than 15 years. This is if it’s kept at its recommended storage temperature of 10 to 40C and away from direct sunlight.

  • PLA that’s not sealed and exposed to direct sunlight may only survive in 1 year.
  • PLA exposed to direct sunlight at ambient temperature can survive for 1 week then it becomes brittle.
  • PLA filaments exposed to more than 60% humidity can be usable for less than a month but can produce bad prints.

How Long Does PLA Last After Printing?

How long does a PLA filament plastic endure after being 3D printed? If PLA prints are kept indoors and away from hot temperatures, it can virtually last its lifetime. A good estimation would be 15 years, based on circumstantial evidence. This means 3D printed PLA miniatures or gifts can last for a very long time and are highly durable.

(Video) Why Does My PLA Filament Keep Breaking?

How Long Does PLA Last In Water?

For those of you wondering if you can 3D print miniatures for your fish tank, PLA is okay to use as it’s aquarium-safe. It’s also non-soluble, which means water won’t melt PLA. However, PLA is not water-resistant, which means it absorbs water and decomposes over time.

PLA in water can generally last 47 to 90 days, which is pretty much faster to decompose than PET material. PLA objects in water can even break down faster with high temperatures.

In an experiment where PLA is submerged for 30 days, it had increased in volume and weight at 1% to 6%.

So if you place 3D printed PLA objects in your aquarium, it will absorb water, become bloated and increase in volume. Submerged in pure water, PLA can degrade slower than when the liquid contains microorganisms that eat away PLA compounds.

Hence, if the water is clean, the PLA can only become bloated, and can be fixed by heating it at low temperatures (<50C) or drying it with desiccants.

How Long Does PLA Last Outside?

Since PLA is not UV resistant, it will easily degrade or melt under heat and sunlight over time. However, even though PLA is biodegradable, it doesn’t mean it will make it easier for the landfill to process this plastic.

PLA filament has a yield strength of 60 MPa and can be used for light structural applications. But if you use it outdoors, even with indirect sunlight, it will still be affected by the outdoor conditions.

Hence, while it’s lifetime outdoors may not be as long as PLA indoors, it can still be used for certain outdoor applications. A safe estimate may range from a few months to 1 year.

(Video) Fix Brittle PLA In 30 Minutes

How Can You Tell if PLA Has Gone Bad?

When PLA has absorbed moisture, you can easily tell it has through several ways. These are through:

  • The snap test
  • When it’s printing and popping sounds are heard due to moisture
  • Poor 3D print quality & Weak prints

Filament Snap Test

If you want to check if your filament is good or if it has not absorbed water, you can do a snap test. Simply bend a piece of filament at 180 degrees and if it doesn’t snap but just bends, then it’s good to go.

Popping Noises During 3D Printing

Small bubbles of steam forms causing the extrusion of filament to sputter and thereby produce popping sounds. In extreme cases, PLA filament that has absorbed excessive moisture can cause printer jams. This means the extruder may not be able to prevail with the steam pressure.

Poor Quality Prints

Due to the above effects on your printer, the print quality may fail or the filament will produce weaker prints.

How to Store PLA Filament

So now that you know how moisture can significantly affect the lifespan of your PLA filament, you must store it in the right way.

There is a high possibility of filaments absorbing water, so store it in a sealed container with silica. In a nutshell, make sure it’s kept dried and away from direct heat and sunlight.

Remember to store and dry your filaments when not in use and avoid leaving it in its spool holder when you’re not printing. This is to make sure it doesn’t absorb moisture and degrade quicker.

Does Other 3D Filament Expire?

Now that we steer clear of PLA, what about other 3D printer filament materials? Does ABS or PETG expire?

(Video) Things you should know about PLA


ABS is another common 3D printing material. When exposed, ABS can fade over time and absorb moisture. ABS plastic is also hygroscopic like PLA but it’s tougher when maintained dry.

One thing to note is that ABS can fade when exposed with direct sunlight. When it does, it will create hairline spots while 3D printing. This in turn becomes a haven for bacteria that can separate the printing layers over time. The bacteria can also dull your finishing.

When this does happen, you can remedy the situation by coating your ABS prints with a gel coat. You may also wrap it with carbon fiber or laminate it. These solutions can save your ABS 3D prints and you can place them more safely in humid areas.

To protect your ABS spools from deteriorating, make sure they’re kept dry in a container with desiccants inside.


Being a copolyester, PETG is more durable than PLA and ABS which means it’s long lasting. But FDM printed materials made from this material can also expire. If exposed to moisture, PETG filament can degrade over time.

Once again, you can use a container to store leftover PETG spools with desiccant inside. An unused PETG spool can stay up to 1 to 2 years from its manufacturing date.

How Long Does 3D Printer Filament Last?

Other popular filaments like ABS and PETG can usually last longer than PLA. They degrade at different rates depending on moisture and storage conditions. When exposed to humid places, ABS filament can expire in a month. PETG may last 1 to 2 years.

How you also design your 3D print can determine how long it will last. The higher the percentage infill, the thicker it will be and hence, the better chances it can stand against environmental conditions.

Wrapping Up

As PLA is the most common 3D printing material, a lot of hobbyists and enthusiasts are curious on how long their 3D prints can last. In this article, we’ve shown you how long PLA prints last depending on a variety of situations (under water, outdoors, indoor). So the next time you consider making products with PLA, make sure you consider its shelf life and if it’s appropriate for your project.

(Video) MonoFilament Direct - PLA - 3D Filament Review


How long does PLA last for? ›

Thus, a 1-kg spool of PLA should last you about 14 to 25 weeks, which equates to 4 to 6 months! Keep an eye on shipping costs, and make sure to order filament so that it arrives about 4 months after your last spool purchase.

How long does it take for PLA to degrade? ›

In the wild, it takes at least 80 years for PLA to decompose, which means that in the sea and on land it contributes not only to conventional petroleum-based plastics but also to environmental pollution from plastics and above all microplastics.

What is the shelf life of Nylon filament? ›

Unopened spools of plastic filament have a minimum shelf life of two years from date of manufacture when stored in their original sealed packaging at temperatures between 55 - 90° F (13 - 33° C). Once unsealed, plastic spools should be stored in a Markforged drybox or similarly sized airtight container.

How do you know if PLA is still good? ›

When a PLA filament absorbs moisture, it swells up, increasing the risk of extruder jams. Moisture also causes PLA to produce prints with bubbles and gaps on the surface, therefore ruining your prints. You'll also notice that when PLA goes bad, it gets brittle and easily snaps off.

What is the life cycle of PLA? ›

The pathway is divided into five stages, including (1) feedstock collection and its conversion, (2) processing, (3) use, and (4) EoL.

Does PLA go out of date? ›

The good thing to know about is that PLA filament does not have an expiry date. But any filament can go bad based on where it's placed or where it is stored. For example, the more humid the place, or the more you expose it in direct sunlight, the quicker the plastic will degrade.

What conditions does PLA need to degrade? ›

To biodegrade, PLA requires a laundry list of conditions to effectively break down. Specifically - oxygen, a temperature of 140+ degrees, and a 2/3 cocktail of organic substrate. Collectively, these are absent in any scenario outside of industrial composting facilities.

Does water weaken PLA? ›

You will not damage the model with water using that material. PLA is biodegradable, and a bit easier to work with. Neither ABS or PLA will degrade much in water. PLA is biodegradable, but it is what is known as chemically biodegradable, meaning it does not biodegrade very fast.

What happens to old PLA? ›

Moisture creeps into the filament when PLA is exposed for a long time to a humid environment. This is audible like popping bubbles when heated in the hotend and does worsen the print quality. The moisture causes a noticeable property as it breaks the long molecular chains of the thermoplastic material.

Can filament be too old? ›

Printing with old filament can have a variety of consequences, depending on the age, type, and condition of the filament. Generally, longer term storage of filament can cause the plastic to become brittle and eventually degrade, resulting in a poorer quality print.

At what temperature does nylon degrade? ›

Glass transition temperature (Tg) and thermal decomposition onset temperature (T1) of nylon 10I/10T (15 wt. % 10T) were 118.9 and 438.0 °C, respectively.

Can PLA grow mold? ›

Can mold grow on plastic? The short answer is an astounding yes!

How do you revive old PLA? ›

Leaving PLA in a dry environment for a week or two should adequately re-dry it, or it can be gently heated to about 120F / 50C for a couple hours.

How do you keep PLA fresh? ›

If you're using PLA filament, silica gel packs must become your best friend. They might even come included when you buy some new filament, so you're going to want to hold onto those.

Does PLA degrade naturally? ›

It is important to understand PLA is not a biodegradable material in just any environment, it is a compostable material only in industrial environments and shows very little mineralization(not biodegradation) in the majority of environments.

Does PLA degrade in soil? ›

Poly(lactic acid) (PLA) is a linear aliphatic thermoplastic derived from 100% renewable resources such as sugar, corn, potatoes, cane, beet, etc. PLA is potentially degraded in soil, compost or in human body.

What is PLA made of? ›

Polylactic acid or polylactide (PLA) is a polyester derived from renewable biomass, typically from fermented plant starch, such as corn, cassava, sugarcane or sugar beet pulp.

Does PLA deform over time? ›

Especially with PLA, though, I would recommend oversizing mechanical parts by a bit because some grades of PLA like to develop stress cracks over time, just like laser-cut acrylic does, and it will also deform under continuous pressure like under a tight screw head and basically very slowly flow out of the way.

Does PLA become brittle? ›

All of these issues that contribute to brittle PLA filament come down to 3D printing's number one enemy: humidity. As soon as you open your filament spool, the first thing on your mind should be protecting the material from any damage.

What causes PLA to clog? ›

Jams and clogs are often from a combination of excessive heat and non-optimal material flow. This effect is worsened by poorly cooled all-metal hot ends, high torque extruder gears, small nozzles/layers, slow printing speeds, too thin first layer, and excessive retraction.

Which of the following is the disadvantage of using PLA? ›

What are the Disadvantages of Polylactic Acid? PLA has a relatively low glass transition temperature (typically between 111 and 145 °F). This makes it fairly unsuitable for high temperature applications. Even things like a hot car in the summer could cause parts to soften and deform.

Can PLA withstand boiling water? ›

But such a commercial cup collapses when boiling water is poured into it. “Cups made from normally crystallized PLA can hold boiling water but are terribly brittle and opaque,” Wang explained.

Does PLA melt in hot water? ›

Tests with different temperatures show that PLA suffers significant changes even at lower temperatures like 70 °C, and higher temperatures (110-170 °C) cause warping and even complete melting. So, in the end, annealing 3D printed PLA is a compromise between better material properties and dimensional or shape accuracy.

Can you waterproof PLA? ›

PLA is one of the cheapest and most common FFF printing materials. PLA can be used to create waterproof parts, but it does have some disadvantages. As mentioned above PLA can be prone to absorbing water and swelling. PLA is also biodegradable.

What do you do with wasted PLA? ›

The two main ways to recycle PLA are to hand it over to a recycling plant that knows how to handle it or to grind it up and extrude it into new filament.

What happens to PLA in sunlight? ›

Both PLA and ABS survive fine outside for years, but ultimately, plastic is damaged by UV and that's just something you have to understand when designing outdoor products. Paint is an easy fix. PLA is more reflective than ABS, so it absorbs less sunlight. But ABS is more heat-resistant.

Why is my old PLA not sticking? ›

If your build plate isn't clean enough or has debris, your PLA may not stick to the bed correctly. So make sure that you clean your build plate before each print. You can use isopropyl alcohol or another cleaning solution to remove any dirt from the surface of the build plate.

What is the most durable filament? ›

Polycarbonate. According to multiple manufacturers and reviewers, polycarbonate (PC) is considered the strongest consumer filament out there. PC can yield extremely high-strength parts when printed correctly with an all-metal hot end and an enclosure.

How do you store filaments when not in use? ›

Keeping filament in an airtight container is a must to prevent the absorption of humidity from the air, and using vacuum-sealed containers or ones with desiccant is even better.

What happens to nylon over time? ›

The mechanical properties of nylon are likely to change over time, due to moisture uptake. In general, as moisture content rises, significant increases occur in the impact strength and other energy absorbing characteristics of the material. The glass transition temperature reduces, dropping by 20°C or more.

Does nylon get brittle over time? ›

When dry, nylon is stiff and brittle, and when moist it is pliable and tough. We like to say that moisture is what gives nylon cable ties their toughness. Most nylon cable tie brittleness problems come about from exposure to dry conditions and as a result the moisture in the tie is fully desorbed.

Does UV degrade nylon? ›

Similarly, nylon is susceptible to degradation when exposed to UV radiation for prolonged periods, as UV light creates free radicals that impact nylon's properties. When exposed to sunlight for a prolonged period, nylon parts will weaken and fade in color. Nylon is sensitive to UV wavelengths of 290 – 315 nanometers.

Does PLA become brittle after printing? ›

PLA and ABS prints aren't usually subject to +100 °C after printing. When PLA absorbs moisture it becomes brittle. PLA filament will break when trying to print. Your PLA print may be thick enough so that brittle doesn't cause a problem.

Does PLA fade in sunlight? ›

The sun breaks down PLA. But, some people have had PLA working good for them. I have heard of a PLA that is stronger and more resistant to the sun's rays.

What is the problem with PLA? ›

The biggest problem with PLA is the very specific conditions needed in order for it to be properly composted. Instead of being recycled with regular plastic materials, PLA needs to be sorted separately and brought to a 'closed composting environment' as otherwise it contaminates the recycling stream.

What is the disadvantage of PLA? ›

The most important limitation for the application of PLA in food packaging is its low gas-barrier properties. The properties of PLA, such as, thermal stability and impact resistance, are lower when compared to other conventional polymers used for thermoplastic applications.

Can a hair dryer soften PLA? ›

And while it might seem like a hairdryer would be a good alternative to a heat gun, a hair dryer isn't designed to be hot enough to melt plastic. Most models don't even reach PLA's glass transition temperature of 60 °C, so you'll be waiting a long time to see any change!

What happens to PLA if it gets wet? ›

This is not an issue if it's only exposed to perfectly clean water, but if you were to leave a PLA printed part submerged for an extended period in a body of water that contains microorganisms, like a pond, there is a chance that your part could start to degrade.

What is stronger than PLA? ›

PETG has higher impact strength than PLA, reducing the risk of fracture. PETG has higher hardness than PLA, making it more able to resist abrasion.

Does PLA degrade in oil? ›

Aliphatic hydrocarbons like a mineral oil should be fine -- straight-chain hydrocarbon molecules don't attack PLA. Aromatic hydrocarbons like benzene or toluene will attack PLA. (Gasoline often contains aromatics like toluene.)

How do you stop PLA warping? ›

Applying adhesive glues to the build plate before printing is probably the easiest (and one of the best) methods of warping prevention. The type of adhesive largely depends on the material, but common adhesives include hairspray, a PVA glue stick, blue painter's tape, polymer adhesives, or proprietary build plate tape.

Can you leave PLA in a hot car? ›

But every material has different characteristics, and although incredibly useful, PLA isn't resistant to higher temperatures. Just leaving a PLA print in a hot car will cause it to soften and deform, and if you're in a place that gets hot enough, the 3D print may just collapse on itself or shrink in bizarre ways.

Does PLA decompose in water? ›

Neither ABS or PLA will degrade much in water. PLA is biodegradable, but it is what is known as chemically biodegradable, meaning it does not biodegrade very fast. ABS, PLA, and Nylon all are hydroscopic, but that does not mean they will absorb a bunch of water and then start degrading.


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