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.
So, how do you tell when it’s time to replace something? Here’s a simple guide to help you update things around your house that at best might be gross, at worst, might be putting your family at risk.
(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.)
1. 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.
2. Toss your baby’s pacifiers after two to five weeks of use.
The latex material in pacifiers breaks down quickly and tiny cracks can create a hiding place for germs.
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3. See cracks in your wooden spoons? Replace them, stat.
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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. Store flour correctly and it’ll taste good for up to a year.
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. 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. 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. Don’t eat sprouted potatoes!
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.
For your safety, throw old, sprouted potatoes into the trash.
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20. 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. 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. Get two years out of a tube of lipstick, then toss it out.
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. 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. 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. Invest in a new mattress if it’s been ten years or longer.
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. Replace bras as soon as they lose their shape (not when the wire pokes through!).
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. 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. 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. 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. 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. Replace smoke detectors after ten years.
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 manufacture date.
32. Get a new fire extinguisher every fifteen years to be sure it works when you need it.
The 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.