E-liquid Guide: Ingredients, Shelf Life, Nic Strengths and More

    Finally make sense of vape juice and all your burning questions

    E-Juice Guide

    What is vape juice?

    Vape juice is the liquid used in electronic cigarettes that gets turned into vapor. It’s also referred to as:

    • E-liquid
    • E-juice (or ejuice)
    • Vaping liquid
    • E-cig juice

    All vaping, no matter the size or look of the vape device, requires the presence of e-liquid to make vapor. Vape juice comes in a plethora of flavors, different viscosities, and wide array of nicotine strengths.

    What’s in vape juice: ingredients

    E-liquid is made out of some essential and some optional ingredients. These ingredients can be categorized into base liquids (PG/VG), flavorings and sweeteners, and nicotine.

    PG and VG:

    The base of vape juice contains propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin, otherwise known as PG and VG. Some juices come in 100% VG, but this is not very common — just as 100% PG is also uncommon. VG and PG also form the ratio you will usually find on an e-liquid bottle, like 70/30 or 50/50 with VG typically being first.

    Flavorings:

    Flavor concentrates are water-soluble and usually made by companies that manufacture food flavorings and/or fragrances. They range from tobaccos to fruits to chocolate glazed donuts – and everything in between. Many of the commercial e-juices will also contain sweeteners, with the most common of these being sucralose.

    Nicotine:

    Nicotine is optional and always the choice of the user. It’s included in e-liquid in various concentrations, ranging from less than 1% up to 5%. If the user does not want to use nicotine, non-nicotine e-liquid is sold in most e-juice lines.

    E-liquid comes in a variety of nicotine strengths. Here are the most common ones:

    • 3 mg/mL or 0.3% = super low
    • 6 mg/mL or 0.6% = low
    • 12 mg/mL or 1.2% = low to medium
    • 18-24 mg/mL or 1.8% – 2.4% = medium to high
    • 36 mg/mL or 3.6% and above = super high

    With so many nicotine levels available, it is very easy to find the e-liquid that will help you satisfy your cravings. You may also find that you want different strengths for different setups, or even for different times of the day. What works for someone else might not work for you and vice versa. And that’s the beauty of it: you can make vaping a tailor-made experience!

    How much are you consuming?

    First let’s find out how much e-liquid you are consuming per day. The easiest way to calculate ejuice consumption is by multiplying the number of tankfuls you go through in a day with the capacity of your tank. If you can’t find your tank’s capacity on the packaging, try searching for it online. Chances are you will find it listed in various websites.

    The next information you will need in order to calculate your consumption, is the nicotine content of your e-liquid. This will be written on your e-liquid bottle, in most cases in mg/mL. Then just multiply this number with the milliliters you are consuming throughout the day.

    Let’s say you are vaping 4 mL of a 6 mg/mL e-liquid per day:

    4 mL x 6 mg/mL = 24 mg of nicotine per day.

    And while this calculation might seem like an important one, the truth of it is that you don’t really need it. Your own body is the best judge for nicotine consumption as it will let you know when it has had enough of it.

    Does vape juice go bad and expire?

    Technically yes, e-liquid can go bad. But it’s not the same as food going bad. Vape juice is very shelf-stable. It might even change color and turn brown with time, but this doesn’t mean that it has expired. Generally speaking, e-liquid lasts as long as its first ingredient to “expire.” As a rule of thumb, that will be up to two years from its date of manufacture.

    E-liquid does not like heat, sunlight, and oxygen – how long it lasts will depend on how successful you are in avoiding them. Don’t run to store all your bottles in the fridge though! Storing your e-liquid firmly closed in a dry and cool cupboard is the best way you can ensure that your favorite juice will last as long as possible.

    Some e-liquid bottles will have an expiration date on them, some won’t. But based on the FDA’s rules on consumable products, the only infant formula is required to have an expiration date. “Best by” and “expires on” dates are up to the discretion of the manufacturer.

    Organic and natural vape juice

    Yes, e-liquid can be organic. But while companies can claim that they are using organic materials, this does not make their e-liquids certified organic.

    Products such as food, beverage, medications and vitamins can only be deemed “certified organic” if they adhere to the following standards (source: USDA.gov)

    • Produced without excluded methods, (like, genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, or sewage sludge).
    • Produced using allowed substances. (Check out the USDA’s National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances for more insight.)
    • Overseen by a USDA National Organic Program-authorized certifying agent, following all USDA organic regulations.

    In e-liquid terms, this means that:

    • Vegetable glycerin (VG) can be organic as its name suggests, but only when it is 100% pure.
    • Nicotine can also be organic, but the vast majority of it is extracted in laboratories using methods that render the final product non-organic.
    • Propylene glycol (PG) as well as most flavorings, are synthetically generated substances and thus non-organic by definition. It gets a bit murky though when using the term “natural” since the term can refer to synthetic flavorings made in a lab (like seeing “natural flavors” in candy and other consumable products).

    If you wish to have a 100% organic e-liquid, then you will have to settle for 100% VG juice and, in most cases, 0 mg/mL nicotine content.

    So how can one be sure that what they vape on is certified organic?

    First, check the label of your e-liquid for USDA certifications, as you would when shopping for food. Vape juice that complies with the USDA rules will carry the appropriate label. Always buy organic e-liquid from reputable vendors and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

    E-liquid pricing: what should it cost?

    Vape juice pricing is all over the map. You might have to pay upwards of $20 for 30 mL of premium juice but the same money may get you 120 mL of a non-premium e-liquid. While most of the times you do get what you pay for, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t some overpriced vape juices around, or that low priced juices can’t be of good quality.

    E-liquid usually comes in four bottle sizes: 10 mL, 30 mL, 60 mL and 120 mL. Other sizes exist but are not that common.

    In general, a 10 mL bottle should cost you between $5 and $10. Everything under that is considered low priced and everything over it is relatively high priced. You can save some money if you go for larger quantities. A 30 mL bottle of vape juice will usually sell between $10 and $20, while a 60 mL bottle will set you back between $15 and $30.

    Vape juice FAQ

    What happens if you accidentally swallow vape juice?

    Swallowing a bit of nicotine-free vape juice is not going to cause any adverse side-effects. Outside of nicotine, the rest of the ingredients of e-liquid are food-grade materials and GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) approved by the FDA.

    If your vape juice has nicotine in it, that’s different! It depends on the concentration and the amount you swallowed. A couple drops of super low nic juice will be less than the amount of nicotine swallowed while chewing nicotine gum, but if you somehow manage to swallow a lot of higher strength, call poison control.

    Does vape juice stain fabrics?

    In most cases, no. Most stains from e-liquid will go away after a wash. You can also apply some dish-washing liquid on the stain and rub it with a fine cloth to be extra safe. That said, some e-liquid may contain artificial coloring which could stain your clothes. These will usually have brighter colors and are easy to recognize.

    How to clean up e-juice spill?

    If it’s just a little bit, wiping it with some kitchen paper will suffice. If you spill a whole bottle, and especially if you have kids or pets around (especially cats), go the extra mile and use some of your surface cleaner. Nicotine does penetrate the skin, so wear gloves while cleaning up.

    How should vape juice be stored?

    Preferably firmly closed in a cool and dry cupboard, away from direct sunlight. If your bottles are dark tinted, this should mitigate any issues.

    Is vape juice oil?

    Νο, e-liquid is NOT oil. Some vape juice may contain trace amounts of natural oils that come from fruit, tobacco or other extracts, but these are rarities and are not in a large enough quantity to change the miscibility of vape juice in water. Although vape juice may appear to be oil like, it’s not an oil. The oils proper for vaping have to do with cannabis and not vape juice.