Stephanie Nelson | 

32 Things You Should Toss Out (for Your Own Good!)

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Just because a product doesn’t have an expiration date, doesn’t mean it lasts forever. In fact, some items can be downright dangerous if you use them past their shelf life. We’re talking about household items that look seemingly innocent, and like they should last forever unless the shape they are in suggests otherwise.

So, how do you tell when it’s time to replace something without a packaged expiration date? We have a simple guide to help you update things around your house that, at best, might be gross, and, at worst, might be putting your family at risk. These are items like power strips and even bleach (weird, we know).

If you have trouble tossing items that don’t really feel risky, you’re not alone. No one wants to be wasteful. Hopefully our reasoning will allow yourself permission to dump the stuff that is past its expiration.

(Oh hey, while you’re rotating items and getting rid of expired stuff, learn how to build a coupon stockpile so you always have a fresh item on hand.)

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1. When should you replace power strips?

A woman holding up a power strip with a bunch of cords plugged into it.

Replace power strips when they feel hot to the touch. Not all power strips and surge protectors come with an expiration date on the packaging, but you’ll want to replace even high-quality power strips every year or two.

If they start to discolor or feel hot to the touch, replace them.

Faulty power strips are a leading cause of home fires, and they can fry your electronics if they’re not in top condition.

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2. When should you throw away your baby’s pacifiers?

A pacifier in a persons hand with a baby in the background

Toss your baby’s pacifiers after two to five weeks of use. For starters, we’re impressed with anyone who can actually keep track of the same pacifier for more than two weeks (seriously, where do those things hide?). However, the latex material in pacifiers breaks down quickly and tiny cracks can create a hiding place for germs. For this reason, it’s best to replace them after 2 – 5 weeks.

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3. When should you replace wooden spoons?

Wooden spoons in a container next to a stove

See cracks in your wooden spoons? Replace them, stat. When it comes to wood kitchen utensils and surfaces, people have a lot of different ideas. Some tout wood’s inherent antibacterial nature, which it does have, however that does not mean the material can kill bacteria, according to the organization Hygiene Food Safety. Wood is very porous, which means wooden spoons can hang on to germs and bacteria (like E. coli from raw meats).

Wooden spoons should be replaced after five years (or earlier if the wood is cracked or chipped, providing crevices where bacteria can thrive).


4. When should you throw out bleach?

A person holding a bottle of bleach next to a washing machine.

Use bleach for laundry only (not cleaning!) after the three-month mark. Believe it or not, the Environmental Protection Agency has set federal standards for bleach.

After three months, the disinfectant qualities of bleach start to fall below these standards, which means it loses its potency for cleaning but is still effective for household laundry use.

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5. When should you throw away protein powder?

A woman pouring protein powder into a blender.

Toss protein powder out no more than two months after its expiration date. Vitamins and supplements lose potency the older they get.

The expiration date on protein powders is generally one year after its manufacture date, but you can usually get a few more months out of them if they’re stored properly—away from light and heat.




6. When should you replace kitchen sponges?

A person holding two kitchen sponges over a garbage can

Replace kitchen sponges every two weeks—even if you’re disinfecting them! Bacteria, fungi, and mold multiply quickly in damp, warm environments, so kitchen sponges are particularly at risk, especially if you don’t let them dry out between uses.

You can disinfect sponges by boiling them, but as a general rule, they should be replaced every two weeks.

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7. When should you get a new toothbrush?

Person holding a toothbrush over a sink

Get a new toothbrush every two months or after an illness, whichever comes first. Toothbrush bristles become worn down and bacteria can build up over time.

Dentists suggest switching to a new toothbrush every two to three months.

Replace your toothbrush even sooner after catching a cold or flu and especially after strep throat. If you don’t, you could risk getting sick again.

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8. When should you get a new shower loofah?

Get a new shower loofah after two months of use. Like kitchen sponges, shower loofahs — both natural fiber and plastic ones — are a breeding ground for bacteria and mold.

Natural loofahs start to grow bacteria after just a couple weeks of use, while plastic mesh loofahs last up to two months.


9. When should you replace lotion?

A woman squeezing lotion from a bottle

Replace lotions and moisturizers one year from first use. Moisturizers in a tube should last for at least two years after opening, but will eventually dry out and lose their effectiveness.

Lotions in a jar that you use your fingers to apply, like body butter, can easily become a host for bacteria. Make sure your hands are clean when you use jarred lotions, and be sure to toss the tub after one year.

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10. How long does bar soap, bath gel, and body wash last?

A person holding a bar of soap and a bottle of body wash

Plan to get three years of use out of bar soaps, bath gels, and body wash. It seems counter-intuitive, but old soaps might not get you as clean as you want to be.

Experts agree that we shouldn’t store soaps, bath gels, and body wash longer than three years.

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11. When should you throw out shampoo, conditioner, and hair styling products?

Toss opened shampoo, conditioner, and hair styling products after one year. You can hang on to unopened shampoos, conditioners, and other hair styling products for up to three years.

Once opened, though, these products will only be effective for one to two years.

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12. When does sunscreen go bad?

Trust sunscreen to protect you only until its expiration date. Not all sunscreens have an expiration date printed on the bottle.

If yours doesn’t, make a note of the purchase date directly on the bottle, and throw it out after three years.

After that, sunblock starts to lose its potency.

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13. When should you throw out your toothpaste?

A person opening a tube of toothpaste

Replace your toothpaste after two years. Expiration dates for toothpaste vary by manufacturer and brand.

In general, though, toothpaste is good for about two years from the manufacture date.

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14. When do acne products go bad?

A person using Clean and Clear acne cleanser

Count on your anti-acne products for three months, then replace. Once they’re opened, anti-acne products containing benzoyl peroxide are good for just three months.

Similar products with retinol, glycolic acid, and Vitamin C can also deteriorate quickly.

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15. How long does hydrogen peroxide last?

A woman pulling a bottle of hydrogen peroxide from a linen closet shelf

Toss hydrogen peroxide after three months. Most of us keep a bottle of hydrogen peroxide in our medicine cabinets for years.

But once you open a bottle, hydrogen peroxide chemically turns into regular water in only two to three months.

An unopened bottle can last for a year but should be discarded after that. When hydrogen peroxide loses its fizz, it’s lost its potency.



16. How long does flour last?

A person scooping flour out of a clear plastic container

When stored correctly — in an airtight container — flour can last six months to a year.

After that, you’ll notice a clear difference in taste.

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17. How long does iodized salt last?

A canister of iodized salt held over a trash can

Throw out iodized salt if it’s lived in your pantry longer than five years. Salt in its purest form will last forever, but once iodine is added in order to make iodized salt, it’ll last about five years.


18. When should you replace olive oil?

A woman holding a bottle of olive oil next to a stove and frying pan

Replace olive oil after two years. Two years after its manufacture date, the color or taste of olive oil may change slightly, but it’s still safe to use.

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19. How do you tell when potatoes are bad?

If you store your potatoes in a cool, dark place, they should be usable for two to three months.

But potatoes contain small amounts of a toxic chemical called solanine that can be dangerous, even fatal if consumed.

When potatoes are fresh, the toxin is minimal, but if potatoes have sprouted or have been exposed to the elements for long periods, the solanine becomes concentrated.

Technically, if you remove all of the sprouts these potatoes are OK to eat. However, for your safety, throw old, sprouted potatoes into the trash.

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20. When should you throw out disposable razors?

A woman holding a two razors next to a shower

Replace disposable razors after four shaves. Bacteria can build up on razors, and blades can become dull over time, causing razor burn.

To avoid this, replace your razors once a week or after three to four shaves.

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21. When does mascara go bad?

Swap out your mascara every three months to avoid pinkeye. An open tube of mascara can start to show traces of bacteria (causing pinkeye and other infections) in a matter of just three months.

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22. How long does lipstick last?

A woman putting on red lipstick

A tube of lipstick that’s been opened will last about two years.

After that, you’ll notice the smell and texture of the lipstick will begin to change.

It’s still safe to use, but it may not wear as well as it did when it was new.

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23. How long does perfume last?

A woman holding a bottle of mens cologne next to a bottle of purfume

Get rid of perfume after two years, unless you don’t mind changes to its scent. While there’s no set-in-stone expiration date for perfumes, they do break down chemically over time, which means the smell will change.

Feel free to wear a perfume as long as you like the smell of it, but here’s the general rule: Perfumes and eau de parfum containing essential oils last three years when stored unopened, and two years after opening.

An unopened bottle of eau de toilette will last four years, and an open bottle will last two years.


24. When should you replace bed pillows?

A woman holding a pillow with no pillow case over a bed.

Sleep better when you replace bed pillows after three years. Over time, our pillows become home to dust mites and can hold on to other things like dead skin and dust particles.

After years of use, pillows tend to lose their loft, too, and a flatter pillow can lead to neck pain and a poor night’s sleep.

Replace your pillow every three years.

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25. When should you replace your mattress?

A person pulling back the sheets and mattress pad from a mattress

If you wake up most mornings feeling stiff or experience aches, pains, or any numbness, it may be time for a new mattress.

Even a mattress that doesn’t show signs of wear and tear, sagging, or other damage could be due for an update if you’ve had it for seven years or more.

If your mattress is more than ten years old, it’s time to replace!

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26. When is it time to throw out your bra?

A woman holding up a blue bra

Some of us hold on to our bras until the underwire starts poking into our ribs.

But the moment your bra loses its shape or elasticity or isn’t fitting properly anymore, it’s time for a new supportive friend.

If you hand wash and line dry your bras, they should last two years. If you machine wash them, you’ll want to replace your bras every year.

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27. When does mosquito repellant go bad?

A woman holding a bottle of off insect repellent

Get fresh mosquito repellant every two years. The active ingredients in mosquito repellents begin to decay and lose their strength after two years from the manufacture date.

Update your camping supply regularly.

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28. How long do running shoes last?

A woman tying the laces on a running shoe

Get new running shoes after two years of use to avoid injuries. Once your running shoes have hit the 250-300 mile mark (generally after about one year of use), it’s time to replace them.

After that, the cushioning begins to break down, and injury to joints becomes more likely.

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29. How long do car seats last?

Replace car seats after six years of use, or after a car accident. Child car seats have an expiration date printed on the bottom or side of the seat (commonly six to ten years after date of manufacture).

Car seats are made from plastic, foam, and fabric, which degrade over time — especially with the constant temperature changes inside cars.

Replace your child’s car seat before the expiration date passes, or earlier (like immediately after) if it has been in use during a car accident.

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30. When should you replace your bicycle helmet?

A person holding a green and black helmet

Get a new bicycle helmet every three years, or after a biking accident. Just like car seats, bike helmets become less effective after several years of use, or after any kind of accident.

Replace your helmet every three to five years, or sooner if it’s been damaged.

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31. When do smoke detectors go bad?

Most smoke detectors will have an expiration date or a manufacture date on them.

Even if you replace their batteries yearly, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors can stop working properly after several years.

As a rule, replace them after ten years from manufacturer date.


32. When should you get a new fire extinguisher?

A person taking a fire extinguisher out from under a kitchen sink

Get a new fire extinguisher every fifteen years to be sure it works when you need it. tThe chemicals in fire extinguishers will lose their potency eventually.

Extinguishers also lose air pressure over time.

Most will work well for five to 15 years if there are no cracks in the hose or weak seals on the neck. If you find any of these issues, have your extinguisher serviced as soon as possible.


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