I am looking at the documentation for the expire field in the cache tables and the documentation in CacheBackendInterface.php says:

@param int $expire
One of the following values:

  • CacheBackendInterface::CACHE_PERMANENT: Indicates that the item should not be removed unless it is deleted explicitly.
  • A Unix timestamp: Indicates that the item will be considered invalid after this time, i.e. it will not be returned by get() unless $allow_invalid has been set to TRUE. When the item has expired, it may be permanently deleted by the garbage collector at any time.

When I look in a cache table, for example cache_render, I see that many entries have NULL in the expire column and I noticed it only get clear on a complete cache clear, such as after running drush cr.

What does a null value set for the expire column in a cache table mean?

  • 3
    I don't see entries having NULL in cache_render and I don't see a problem if there were any. Cache entries are not deleted if they become invalid. Cron deletes them after a while, and any cache entry having an expire value less than the current time and not CACHE_PERMANENT are deleted.
    – 4uk4
    Commented Mar 16, 2019 at 9:13
  • @4k4 thank you. I need to do more digging to see where the null entries are coming from. I suspect a contrib module. I found this after noticing blocks were not updating after editing them until I cleared the cache, more specifically cache render.
    – awm
    Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 15:21
  • This would be a different issue. A cache item gets cleared after editing if it has the correct cache tag.
    – 4uk4
    Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 16:25

1 Answer 1


Any value for the expire column that is different from CacheBackendInterface::CACHE_PERMANENT (-1) is considered a timestamp, indicating when the cache entry could be deleted. In the case of NULL, the value means the cache entry could be deleted in any moment.
As @4k4 said in his comment, data in cache tables are deleted when cron tasks run, and that doesn't necessarily means immediately.

The only issue with NULL is whether a module is using a not initialized variable which is expected to contain the expiration time. In that case, the cached value is kept in cache less than required.

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