How Long Should a Vape Cartridge Last?

How long do vape cartridges last? It’s a common question we receive, and there are two primary scenarios:

  1. You’re about to buy (or have recently bought) a vape cartridge and want to know how much use you’ll get out of it before the vape juice runs out and you’ll need to buy another cart.

  2. You bought a vape cart or disposable vape pen a while back, stuck it in a drawer, and forgot it was there. Now, you’re wondering whether the cannabis oil is still good to use.

We’re here to answer both of these questions so that you’ve got all of the information you need to enjoy a positive vaping experience.

What Is Vaporization?

Vaporization is a relatively new approach to inhaling the active ingredients or cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. Like smoking, vaporizing cannabis allows the user to feel the effects of THC and/or CBD quickly, which can be a huge advantage for people who suffer from chronic pain.

In contrast to smoking, vaporization allows the user to inhale the cannabinoids through a vapor rather than a cloud of smoke (it’s all in the name, right?). As there is no combustion, vaporizing is much easier on the airways and lungs.

Why People Use Vape Pens

Vape pens are the most accessible way to vaporize cannabis because they don’t require any complex paraphernalia to operate, clean, or maintain. They also offer the most discreet way to use cannabis on the go, as they can easily be slipped into a pocket or handbag and look the same as an e-cigarette.

To create the vapor, vape pens contain a heating element (sometimes referred to as an atomizer) that is powered by a battery. The heat travels through the plant material, concentrate, or oil in the cartridge, creating vapor that the user inhales through a mouthpiece.

Rechargeable vs. Disposable Vape Pens

There are two main vape pen options on the market today: rechargeable and disposable. Rechargeable vape pens are so named because they use a rechargeable battery and you can remove and replace the vape cart as soon as it runs out.

Disposable vape pens are completely sealed so that none of the parts can be dismantled and the battery cannot be recharged. Once you have finished using a disposable vape pen (or your vape pen has expired), you may be able to return it to the dispensary for recycling.

How Long Will One Vape Cartridge Last?

Knowing how long one vape cartridge lasts will help you plan your budget and make the most economical purchase for your situation. To calculate the life of your cartridge, you’ll need to take into account:

  • The potency of the cannabis oils

  • The size of the cartridge

  • How many seconds you inhale on each puff

  • How many times you puff each day

If you’re shopping for vape cartridges in Bellevue, Kirkland, or anywhere in the Seattle area, you’ll commonly find sizes of 500 mg or 1000 mg. You might also see them labeled as 0.5 gram and 1 gram. 

A 1000 mg cartridge will last for approximately 300 seconds of total inhale time, which you can divide by the inhalation time to work out how many puffs it will last.

For example, if you are a light inhaler and take 3-second puffs, you will get 100 puffs in total from the cartridge. If you only use it once a day, for example in the morning or at night before bed, one cartridge would last you for more than three months. 

In contrast, if you use cannabis for pain relief, you might inhale for 6 seconds, five times per day. In that case, a 1-gram cartridge would last for a total of 10 days.

Aside from the number of puffs and length of each puff, the temperature you use to vape will also affect the life of your cartridge. Higher temperatures will tend to result in a more potent vapor and will also use up your cartridges faster.

Maximize the Shelf Life of Your Cannabis Vape Cartridges

The good news about vape cartridges is that they are much more shelf-stable than cannabis flower. They don’t have buds that can dry out, trichomes that can fall off, or terpenes that can evaporate into the air.

However, like all plant-derived products, vape oil must be stored correctly or it can lose potency over time. Vape cartridges also have an expiration date after which you should really consider taking the cartridge back for recycling.

Why Proper Storage Is Important

Over a period of several months or years, THC molecules slowly degrade into CBN—another cannabinoid. While CBN isn’t likely to hurt you, it certainly won’t give you a high and is much more likely to send you to sleep.

When stored correctly, your vape cartridge should still have the desired effects after six months or even a year. However, if exposed to high temperatures or direct light, the THC will degrade faster and will no longer have the same potency as before.

Proper Storage of Vape Cartridges

The best place to store your vape cartridges is in a cool, dry, and dark place like a drawer, cupboard, or refrigerator with a moisture-absorbing packet of silica gel. Never place a vape cartridge on a window sill.

The cartridge should be placed upright and the battery removed to prevent the battery from heating the oil (even slightly), as this will gradually degrade your oil. 

If You Must Carry a Vape Cartridge in Your Pocket

If you carry your vape pen in your pocket or in the car, the heat will transfer to the oil and potentially cause premature degradation. If you must carry the cartridge in your pocket, consider keeping the oil in a separate container (in a cool, dark place) and use a syringe to transfer only the amount that you will use each day.

How to Know if the Oil Has Gone Bad in Your Vape Cartridge

If you’ve just rediscovered a cannabis vape cartridge that was buried at the back of the drawer and wonder if it’s okay to use, the following tests will help you work out the status of your oil:

Inspect the Oil

Most vape cartridges have a clear viewing window that allows you to inspect your vape juice visually. The oil should be an amber color (not brown or black) and have the same viscosity it had when you purchased it. If the oil has crystals growing in it or has changed color, you can be sure the oil has gone bad.

Smell the Oil

Next, open the cartridge and smell the oil. Does it smell the same as it did when you purchased it? If the aroma has faded, it’s likely that the potency has, too. However, if the aroma is the same as it was when you bought it, it’s likely that your cartridge is still good to use.

Vape the Oil

The ultimate test of your cartridge is to use it. If the oil looks and smells good, you can connect the battery to the heating element and try vaping. The flavor will be a good indicator of whether the oil is still good, as a change in potency would typically be accompanied by a dulling of the flavor.

If the taste is bad, the potency has faded, and/or you find yourself coughing more than usual, the cartridge is no longer good to use. It’s time to replace. 

If the Battery Is Depleted

As single-use items, disposable vapes can’t be used if the battery has died. So it’s a good idea to use any disposable vapes first as they can’t be dismantled or recharged. If the battery on a reusable vape pen has gone flat, simply recharge it or swap it out for a new rechargeable battery and resume vaping as normal.

Make Your Vape Cartridges Last 

Now that we’ve answered the question: “How long do vape cartridges last,” you should be better prepared to plan your purchases accordingly and store your cartridges in a way that promotes the maximum shelf life. 

For the casual user, it’s usually best to buy one cartridge at a time to avoid cannabinoid degradation. However, with proper care, most cartridges should be good for at least six months to a year without losing any potency or flavor and can still bring as much enjoyment or relief as they did on the very first day.