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E-Liquid Discoloration: What Does That Mean for Your Vaping Experience?

Discoloration E-Juices E-Liquids Vapes Vaping

Have you ever noticed how e-liquids change color while in a bottle or after loading into the cartomizer?  Discoloration does not occur due to issues with the quality of the e-liquid but is determined by its ingredients and vaping habits.  The amounts of flavoring present in the juice affects an e-liquid’s color. 

How Do E-Liquids Change Color Inside a Bottle Before Use?

Nicotine is a naturally highly reactive chemical causing your e-liquid to change color by reacting with other ingredients or by exposure to light, heat, and air. Since e-juice contains nicotine, they tend to discolor over time in spite of your storage conditions. 

Remember oxidation as a natural reaction does not affect your e-liquids taste or vaping experience.  Many vapers discard perfectly good e-liquids believing that the discoloration makes it unsafe to vape.  Old nicotine containing e-liquids can change color to almost black, but this is merely a natural cosmetic change that should not worry you in any way. 

Why Does E-liquid Oxidation Occurs Faster in a Cartomizer or Tank When Nicotine is Exposed to High Heat Levels?

Basically, the higher the amount of nicotine in your e-juice, the more severe the visible signs of oxidation, though juice discoloration does not affect its vaporization factor or taste.  An analogy of e-liquid discoloration is peeled oranges, apples, or potatoes.  With time, they gradually become darker but retain the same taste.  When your e-liquid discolors, it is more “natural,” as it does not contain chemicals that precipitate oxidation. 

What About Vegetable Glycerin?

Oxidation is, however, not the only reason that makes your e-juice discolor.  As higher percentage vegetable glycerin-based juices are sweeter than propylene-based juices; extreme heat in the atomizer coil makes them caramelize faster.  Caramels, commonly known as “gunk” in vaping circles, can stain your e-liquid with increasing visibility as the juice level in the tank decreases.  In severe cases, pure VG-based e-juices start as clear, amber colored blends and progressively change into dark-brown goo by the time you reach the bottom of your cart or tank.  Adding more e-liquid worsens the condition, contributing to the gradual buildup of gunk in the coil and residues left in the reservoir.

Caramelization Ultimately Affects the E-liquid’s Color and Taste 

Cleaning both your tank and atomizer before refilling can help to eliminate burnt taste in your vape to a great deal.  Evidently, cleaning can only accomplish so much, meaning that eventually you will have to replace your atomizer’s coil and wick or get a new one if using a disposable.  Remember that the buildup of gunk is related closely to your e-juice's viscosity and sweetness. For instance, thick and sweet juices caramelize faster than standard PG based e-liquids.

Best Practices

Here are some practices to help effectively alleviate or prevent e-liquid discoloration: 

  • Try different e-juices until you find the one that does not change color while in your device.  
  • Avoid leaving e-juices for too long in the tank.
  • Frequently draining your tank
  • Consistent tank cleaning.  
  • Consider your e-juice storage location to regulate exposure bottles to heat, light, and air.  

If after doing this, you still experience problems in discoloration, accept it, and recognize that it’s not a significant problem.

Bottom Line

Whether caramelization, oxidation, or your e-juice's flavoring causes discoloration, changes in the color of the e-liquid are not a reason for concern.  It’s a natural and ordinary occurrence.  If it hasn’t happened to you already, probably you have not been using nicotine-based vapes or clear PG based non-sweetened juices.

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