I live in Japan and milk is sold only in cartons here. I take milk to the fridge at work. I currently put it in a black plastic bottle with black cover but it stinks like it is off after only a few days. The milk is fine as far as I can tell. I doubt there is food safe plastic bottles here. I carry by bicycle and the bar fridge is small and at times very crowded as it shared so spillage is a great risk. What is the best solution? I use the milk for adding coffee and cocoa- I may have one drink or many drinks- depends on how sleepy I am that day. I buy 1 litre cartons as I am poor but I couldn't drink 1 litre at work in a week even. The main milk is always fine.

  • 5
    Just for clarification: you are cleaning your container after each use, at minimum emptying it out and washing it every second or third day? Or are you storing the milk longer?
    – Stephie
    Commented Nov 10, 2022 at 9:41
  • The grocery store might not sell small containers of milk, but do any of the convenience stores sell single serving bottles? (Although those might have a lid that’s torn off so you can’t re-seal it)
    – Joe
    Commented Nov 10, 2022 at 11:01
  • 3
    Please clarify the question. It seems to me that the solution is to just buy milk near work and store it in the fridge in the same container you bought it in, rather than buy milk near home, change the container, transport by bicycle and store it at work. I suspect that I misunderstood the question though.
    – user985366
    Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 5:16
  • @Joe I've never seen a single-serving bottle of milk in Japan, only single-serving cartons.
    – N. Virgo
    Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 11:29
  • 2
    What's wrong with just keeping it in the carton you bought it in? (Whether you bring it from home or buy it near work.)
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 16:18

3 Answers 3


The key thing is that you empty and wash the container regularly (ideally daily, but at least every few days). If there is a bad smell that is a sign that something is wrong; most likely some milk remained somewhere like a screw top or drops on the lid, which has gone off in some way.

Any bottle sold for drinking water should be food safe in terms of its material, so I would be very surprised if you cannot find anything. However, I would try to find a bottle which:

  • is easy to clean completely, so no complicated closing mechanism or built-in drinking straw.
  • will provide reasonable insulation while the bottle is out of the fridge, for example a thermos bottle (which uses vacuum in the walls to insulate the contents).

Anything suitable for carrying hot coffee is likely to work well for your needs, in case that's a useful way to search.

  • Good advice. Also, just the process of pouring from one container to another exposes it to air for a while. I wonder if there is something in the air where the transfer is occurring that could be contaminating it, if the bottle is being cleaned each time.
    – Joe
    Commented Nov 10, 2022 at 11:00
  • 6
    I'd be tempted to use a "disposable" drinking water bottle; it could be replaced fairly frequently (and washed every time it's emptied which should be every few days at the longest). But if that takes up too much fridge space, a tip from my parents is to use a small glass jar, with just 1 day's worth in it. I wouldn't buy an insulated bottle, but if the commute is long use an insulated sleeve or pouch. It can be hard to check insulated bottles are completely clean.
    – Chris H
    Commented Nov 10, 2022 at 12:07
  • 6
    Also, be sure to give the screw threads for and in the cap a good clean, probably with a brush. If the contents taste fine but it smells bad, there's a good chance that's where old milk is lingering and going off
    – Chris H
    Commented Nov 10, 2022 at 12:09
  • 3
    @user2617804 why do you want dark plastic? You sounds as if that's a requirement but milk is usually packaged in translucent containers in most countries, even under bright lights - light doesn't do any harm
    – Chris H
    Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 16:13
  • 1
    I changed to an American brand of outdoor water bottle. Commented Dec 5, 2022 at 8:06

Sterilized shelf stable milk in small cartons.



Order a bunch and bring the unopened cartons to work. Or ask the store where you shop to start stocking it.

  • I thought there was a tradition of drinking milk after onsen (hot spring baths), so I’d be surprised if there wasn’t milk available in smaller sized containers. But those might not be designed to re-seal, or flavored (fruit milk, coffee milk, etc)
    – Joe
    Commented Nov 10, 2022 at 23:04
  • 3
    Maybe not as common, but I'd be surprised if there wasn't any in the US. Isn't the one here from Walmart's US site one of them? It's in a carton and says "refrigerate after opening" on the side. It even says "Made in the USA".
    – JoL
    Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 7:03
  • 2
    You can get it in the UK, but it's not particularly popular. This is probably because it tastes nothing at all like milk. it is entirely its own flavour & many people, including me, think it's revolting ;))
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 8:54
  • That is going to spill in the fridge due to shaking. Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 12:35
  • 2
    In the US, Parmalat shelf-stable milk is available in most supermarkets (I'm on the East coast) and from Amazon. As @unlisted mentions above, it has a different taste than fresh milk, but it can stay on the shelf for quite a long time.
    – IconDaemon
    Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 14:20

Your question is not entirely clear, so I will answer for both possible options.

If you are trying to keep the milk for multiple days in the fridge

It will become unsafe after 3-5 days, there is no way around that. If you switch to UHT milk, it will still be unsafe 3-5 days after opening the container, but it won't taste bad, so some people prefer to do it that way.

So the solution here would be to reduce the amount you are bringing to your work.

If you are bringing new milk daily, but the bottle stinks

You are probably cleaning the bottle improperly, as the dbmag9's answer and some comments mentioned. Here, you have several options, ordered by my personal preference:

  1. Stop using a (typical) bottle.
  • As ChrisH said, you can start using a jar, just test first if it leaks when you shake it vigorously. You can specifically search for buying a "leakproof jar" if you find that all random jars you have happen to be leaky.
  • Other alternatives would be Weck bottles with a wide mouth and a flat lid held by metal brackets (I don't think they come in single-day-sizes though),
  • or a gasketed clip-lid container, there are baby-food-sized ones that hold 200 ml (downside: they aren't convenient for pouring).
  • Or get creative and use a baby milk bottle - nowadays, you can get bottles with a sealing cap to exchange the nipple during transport.
  • Many people nowadays use an insulated travel mug with a leakproof lid.

Whichever container you choose, aim for a transparent one, so you can see if it has been washed properly or if it still has a milky layer sticking to it.

  1. Start washing your bottle properly. Many people try to get away with filling the bottle and sloshing it a bit. That never works, especially for fatty contents like milk. You need a spongy brush on a long thin stem, it is sold especially for bottle cleaning (don't use the bristle ones for milk, they are for stuck-on pieces as in fruit juice bottles). You have to stick the brush in and make sure you scrub intensively the whole inner surface with soapy water, and then clean the threads of both bottle and cap. Afterwards, do 3-5 rinses by half-filling it with clean water and sloshing it thoroughly. If you want to use a dishwasher, note that it only works with a wide-mouthed bottle (50 mm or more) and not too tall. Make sure that it stays vertically during the cycle, it is best to stick it on a spike and have other tall-ish items surrounding it.
  2. As mentioned in comments, single-use bottles can also be used. My environmentalist hairs stand on end when I hear it :( but it would work. It would also be the most expensive solution.
  3. If you only use tiny amounts of milk daily (e.g. to add to coffee or tea) consider buying single-serving milk or creamer instead, like the ones you get in coffee shops. In Europe, they are available in large supermarkets, and I assume that in Japan, you can at least find them online. Alternatively, there is also powdered creamer available.
  • 2
    Baby bottles are perfect - they seal well and are designed to be not just cleaned (formula is worse than milk) but also sanitized. And usually come in different sizes.
    – Stephie
    Commented Nov 10, 2022 at 16:19
  • @Stephie that's exactly why I suggested them - it is possible to find other bottles of a comparable size, but baby bottles were designed to work exceptionally well with milk. It may still not be optimal, if it becomes the grounds for mobbing ("did our baby bring his bottle to work again"), or hurts the OP's reputation at work (I believe that Japanese companies have an extremely low bar for what counts as an inexcusable eccentricity, but I don't know what's their view of food containers specifically).
    – rumtscho
    Commented Nov 10, 2022 at 16:30
  • 5
    USDA says milk can be kept (refrigerated) for a week (7 days) after it's opened: ask.usda.gov/s/article/… If the OP is having milk go off only a couple of days after being opened then something else is wrong besides it just being milk. (Source: I live in the US, we only buy groceries once a week so the milk has to last at least a week!) Commented Nov 10, 2022 at 22:38
  • 3
    @user3067860 Almost certainly that information is for dairy products sold in the USA. Possibly, but not necessarily for other places where other manufacturing methods are used.
    – Pablo H
    Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 14:11
  • 3
    "It will become unsafe after 3-5 days" what sort of milk or fridge do you have? Milk stays good for way longer (source: a bottle of milk in my fridge opened 10 days ago)
    – njzk2
    Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 19:57

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.