You may have stumbled upon a can of stove fuel from seasons past in your gear closet and wondered, does this go bad?
No, they won't go bad if you're talking about sealed butane-mix canisters. If you're talking about a jug of white gas, however, it's a different situation. White gas should be used within a few months of being opened.
White gas, like the gasoline you put in your automobile, is mostly made up of a variety of hydrocarbons—compounds made up of the atoms carbon and hydrogen. Because these hydrocarbons are so combustible, they're perfect for fueling your stove. Moreover, many of them rapidly react with oxygen when exposed to air, leaving behind stale, thicker fuel that might block your stove's lines and burners. So, while an unopened can of gasoline can be stored for years, once the seal is broken, its shelf life is drastically reduced.
On more than one occasion, I've used the extremely old dregs of rusty cans left in my garage before. It works, but it clogs up your stove considerably more quickly, causing more frequent cleaning and upkeep.
Tip: If you want to sustain the longevity of our stove and save the headache of cleaning it, get rid of the old bottle and invest in a new one which would only cost about $5-6 bucks.
However, it raises the question of what to do with the canister. It's highly flammable and dangerous, and you don't want to pour it down your drains, into your bed of pansies, or outside. Bring it to a gas station or your local department of public works, both of which should have tanks into which you can empty your can.
It’s much easier to get rid of old, almost empty canisters such as ones you take on backpacking trips. Simply recycle them: A majority of these fuel canisters are made of steel and can be recycled alongside your soda cans. Before recycling, burn off any remaining fuel and puncture the empty canisters. In environmentally conscious cities, you can just dump empty punctured canisters into your recycling bin; however, check with your local Public Works Department and ask about the rules.