Shelf lives are not well understood in the electronics industry. Despite the existence of the recommended shelf lives for some units from standards or manufacturers’ documents, many electronic parts are stored well beyond their recommended shelf lives for different reasons. In many cases, ‘expired’ parts are found to work fine after many years of extended storage, which gives extra motivation for parties along the supply chain, typically part of user companies, to extend the storage of their parts and to evaluate the ‘actual shelf lives’ of their components. The combination of motivations to extend shelf life, inadequacies in recommended shelf lives and the lack of knowledge and guidelines to shelf-life determination often results in arbitrary storage periods and conditions of electronic components in the industry. In this article, common pitfalls of recommended shelf lives are identified. Then, a physics of failure (PoF) approach to evaluate shelf lives overcoming such pitfalls is proposed. The philosophy we introduce in this approach applies to most storage-induced effects for electronic parts and the approach is described with an electrolytic capacitor in this article.