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How To Tell If A Lemon Is Bad

When life gives you lemons… make lemonade! Just like the saying goes, use up those lemons before they go bad.

Lemons can last a while depending on how you store them but knowing how to tell if a lemon is bad is good to know so that you do not get sick.

You want to look for blemishes on the outside, white mold, mushy or shriveled are all indicators of a bad lemon.

bunch of lemons

Knowing how to tell if a lemon is bad is easy. If lemons have brown spots on them or feel mushy then they are bad. Or if they are oozing or growing white mold on them your lemons have gone bad.

Ways to tell if lemons are bad

There are so many different ways to use lemons. They are so versatile that they can be used in savory dishes, sweet treats, beverages, and more.

If you went out and bought a whole bag of them you might be wondering how you will know when they have gone bad or spoiled.

Here are a few easy telltale signs that will tell you if they are indeed spoiled or not.

Limes are very similar fruits, check out how to tell if limes are bad as well. After you know the lemon is good you can go ahead and cut the lemon.

1. How the lemon looks

Look over your lemons when you buy them and before you use them. You want to make sure that they don’t have brown mushy spots, white mold on the rind or shriveled looking.

A fresh lemon should have a smooth shiny rind with a nice bright yellow color. Small blemishes are ok as long as they haven’t cut into the rind.

2. How it feels

If you notice that your lemon is mushy or has soft brown spots on it then you should throw them away. Typically lemons are heavier than they look for their size and have a smooth rind.

You want your lemons to be firm, not soft when you are checking if your lemons are bad or not. This is a good way of checking lemons when you are buying them.

Check out how to tell if fruit is bad to help you identify other fruits as well.

3. How the lemon smells

Before you cut into a lemon there shouldn’t be much of a smell if your lemons are fresh. If you smell a moldy or fermented smell then that is a great indicator that your lemons have gone bad.

Once you cut into them if you smell a more vinegary smell then you should throw them away.

Lemons are great for so many recipes. The lemon zest really packs a punch adding a big flavor. Learn how to zest a lemon.

How long lemons can last before they go bad

TypeRoom TemperatureRefrigerator
Fresh lemons1 month2 months
Cut lemons1-3 hours2-3 days
Fresh lemon juice1-3 hours2-3 days
Bottled lemon juice1 hour4-6 months

How to store lemons

Storing lemons properly can greatly extend their freshness and usability. For whole lemons, refrigeration is the best approach.

Place them in a plastic bag, squeeze out the air, and seal the bag, which can keep lemons fresh for about a month.

For cut lemons, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap or place them in a sealed container before refrigerating, where they can last about a week.

If you have a surplus, lemons can also be frozen for later use. Check out our step by step guide on how to freeze lemons.

Frequently asked questions about how to tell if lemons are bad

No, it’s not safe to eat a lemon that has mold on it. Mold can produce mycotoxins that can cause foodborne illnesses. If you spot mold on any part of the lemon, it’s safest to discard the entire fruit to prevent potential health risks.

Brown spots on a lemon are not necessarily a sign that the fruit is bad. They could be caused by a variety of factors, including age or skin damage. However, if the spots are fuzzy or are accompanied by a sour smell and squishy texture, the lemon may be bad.

To prolong the shelf life of lemons, store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. The bag helps to prevent moisture loss, which can make the lemons last longer. Keeping them in the fridge can help them retain their freshness for up to six weeks.


Learning to identify when lemons have gone bad is key to ensuring your food safety, and storage, and maximizing the enjoyment of this versatile citrus fruit.

Keep an eye out for visual cues like discoloration or mold, and trust your senses of touch and smell. By doing so, you can enjoy the fresh, tangy flavor of lemons without any worries.

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