How to tell if flour is bad

How To Tell If Flour Has Gone Bad?

How to tell if flour is bad
Updated on
January 24, 2023
Gareth Busby
Gareth Busby

It’s not hard to determine if the flour has gone bad. In fact, you can do it by doing a simple smell test. If the flour smells musty, sour, or just plain bad, it’s time to throw it out. Like with anything else in your kitchen (and life), check the “best-before” label, but depending on how well it is stored, flour can last longer or less.

The factors below are also good indicators of if your flour is still good or not:

Signs that flour has gone bad


Unbleached flour may turn a greyish or tan colour. In contrast, bleached flour will start to lose its white sheen and also go tan. Usually, this happens if the flour is exposed to heat or light while it’s being stored.


As mentioned above, mould is a common problem in flour. White patches on the surface of your flour mean that it has been contaminated. This has happened because of too much moisture and exposure to bacteria. Throw it out immediately.

Rancid smell

A foul smell to your flour indicates that it’s gone bad. This can happen if the container isn’t tightly sealed or if it has been stored in a hot, moist environment. This is common in whole wheat flour.


If you taste-test flour before using it, make sure to spit out whatever you put into your mouth! Flour is unlikely to taste bad if it has gone off, but it can make you sick if contaminated by other organisms.

Further reading: Is it safe to eat raw flour?

Feels wet

It’s easy to tell if your flour has gone rancid or not. Just take a handful of flour and squeeze it in your fist. If there is any moisture that comes out, you have a problem. Remove it from storage and use it immediately.

How to keep flour fresh for longer

To keep flour fresh, store it in a sealed container in a cool, dry place. If storing flour for a long time, you can also use the freezer or vacuum-sealed bags to extend its life further. See how-to store flour short, mid, and long-term to learn more.

Unlike bread dough, chilling flour doesn’t extend its life. The deterioration of flour is due to oxidation, contamination or mould setting in. The fridge won’t extend the life of wheat flour, but you can use the refrigerator to store bread dough.

Creative uses of flour that has gone bad

If your flour has gone bad, you might think of getting rid of it immediately. But you can still use them with a little bit of creativity. Try using expired flour for the following:

  • A barrier for ants! Ants won’t cross an area where there is flour, so work to find their entry point and put some flour down.
  • Dusting your garden and plants with flour to keep insects from eating them
  • Paper mache glue mix with water and flour to create a moldable paste.
  • Make playdough out of bad flour. Add water and food colouring to the flour and bake them at a low temperature for 30 mins.

So, don’t throw your bad flour just yet. You can be resourceful, and it can still serve some purpose!

Further reading: Can you eat raw dough?

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Gareth Busby

Hi, I’m Gareth Busby, a baking coach, head baker and bread-baking fanatic! My aim is to use science, techniques and 15 years of baking experience to help you become a better baker.

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