Skip to content

Household Items You Should Never Use After They Expire

Throw out these spoiled goods before they spoil your health.
Woman in pantry with groceries, wooden rack for storing food in the kitchen.

You check your milk's label before pouring it into your cereal and your lunch meat always gets the sniff test before building the ultimate sandwich. But there are other items in your home you may never think about that also have expiration dates. When you use ineffective or outdated products, it can negatively impact your health and environment. Not sure what to look for to ensure you're getting the most out of the items you buy? Check out these 20 items you shouldn't use after they expire so you know your cabinets are full of fresh and effective products. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

1

Your Toothbrush

Old dirty and unhygienic toothbrush
Shutterstock

Your toothbrush is a vital component to your oral hygiene but if it's expired, it may be ineffective at keeping your teeth clean. "When you don't change your brush in the recommended amount of time, the bristles can become frayed. Frayed bristles are less effective in removing plaque and food debris around the teeth," according to Inna Chern, DDS, from New York General Dentistry. 

What to do: "Replace toothbrushes every three to four months or more often if the bristles are visibly matted or frayed," suggests the American Dental Association (ADA).

2

Your Running Shoes

Female feet in sneakers
Shutterstock

As you run, walk, or exercise, the shoes you wear absorb shock, provide cushion, and promote stability. If you don't replace your running shoes when they expire, they lose their cushion and increase the stress on your bones, muscles, and joints. This can lead to overuse injuries and annoying aches and pains after exercising. 

What to do: Replace your running shoes every 200 to 300 miles or as soon as you notice wear and tear or cushion breakdown. "You can maybe still get 400 to 500 miles on an older pair of shoes, but your injury risk will definitely go up because the materials are already breaking down," according to Kyle Stump from Fleet Feet in Delray Beach, Florida.

3

Your Shower Towel

Dirty clothes basket with towels waiting for laundry with washing machine in background.
Shutterstock

When you step out of the shower, you want that clean feeling to last forever, but if you're doing it wrong, you could cause more harm than good. If your shower towel has taken on a mildew-like smell or lost its absorbency, chances are, you'll start to feel gross again right after drying off. 

What to do: Home health experts suggest replacing your shower towels when they lose their "fluffiness," start to smell, stop absorbing, or at least once every two years. "Because towels are used daily and washed frequently, they tend to fray and tear after a couple of years. They typically lose their absorbency around the two-year mark, which is a good indicator that it's time to replace them," says Leanne Stapf from The Cleaning Authority.

4

Medication

woman with medicine jars at home
Shutterstock

If allergies or a headache only strike once every few years, you may have medication bottles in your medicine cabinet that have been there for a long time. While it may not be dangerous to your health to take expired medications, the ingredients usually aren't as effective. The chemical components in expired medication may have started to break down already, decreasing their strength. 

What to do: "Certain expired medications are at risk of bacterial growth and sub-potent antibiotics can fail to treat infections, leading to more serious illnesses and antibiotic resistance," The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns. Check expiration dates on all medications and safely dispose of your outdated bottles.

5

Spices

clean out spices
Shutterstock

Most spices, such as cinnamon or chilli powder, don't have expiration dates listed on the bottles. While most spices don't necessarily expire, they can begin to lose their flavor and potency after a few years, especially if they're no longer stored in an airtight container. 

What to do: If you want to get the most flavor out of your cooking, Anar Allidina, a registered dietician, suggests replacing spices after six months to a year. Keep in mind, ground spices lose flavor faster than spices that are dried whole.

6

Vitamins

Shutterstock

Most vitamin bottles have "use by" dates, which suggest when the substance may begin to break down and lose its potency. It's not dangerous to take a vitamin after its expiration but you may not be getting all the nutritional elements promised on the label.

What to do: Your vitamins may remain potent for up to two years after the "use by" date, according to Dr. Shanna Levine from Goals Healthcare. To increase shelf life, store your vitamins away from extreme temperatures, out of the sunlight, and protected from humidity. 

7

Your Hairbrush

Old wooden hairbrush
Shutterstock

Your hairbrush is probably made from plastic or wood, so you may assume it'll last forever. But after a while, it begins to collect your dead hair and styling products, leading to buildup. This makes it hard for your brush to pass through your hair and do its job and may put your hair at risk for damage. "The product debris can irritate the scalp, which can lead to redness, itch, and scale," says Tsippora Shainhouse, M.D., from SkinSafe Dermatology and Skin Care. 

What to do: Keep an eye out for damage to your brush, such as separated bristles, as a sign it needs to be replaced. Even if it's kept its integrity, experts recommend replacing your hairbrush every six months to a year.

8

Your Pillows

Large bed with pillows and blankets
Shutterstock

The average American spends 36 years in bed. Sleep is so important for your body that a lack of it can be disorienting—and even fatal. One of your closest allies during all these years is your pillow. But night after night, your pillow absorbs your dead skin and body oils. Even if you follow the proper protocol and wash them every six months, these allergens may still stick around, causing the pillow to be weighed down or begin to smell. They can also become the perfect breeding ground for dust mites, which can then spread to your linens and mattress.

What to do: Experts recommend replacing your pillows every few years, or when they begin to lose shape. To determine if it's time for a pillow replacement, "check to see if any foam or batting in the pillow is lumpy and, if it's a feather pillow, ask yourself if you constantly have to fluff it up to support your head or if it still does it on its own," says experts at The Sleep Foundation.

RELATED: 5 Things You Should Never Do When You First Wake Up

9

Your Kitchen Sponge

hand squeezing soap from blue sponge
Shutterstock

Your kitchen sponge is constantly exposed to dish soap and water, so it must automatically be clean, right? Wrong. The sponge in your kitchen has the tough job of getting rid of food particles and dirt. While it's washed frequently, it may stay damp and remaining particles may be present. Most sponges carry a variety of bacteria, including salmonella, according to a study published in Scientific Reports.

What to do: If your sponge begins to crumble and break or it smells, replace it. Even if you don't notice anything wrong with your sponge, experts who conducted the study recommend replacing your kitchen sponge every week.

10

Your Mattress

Young happy couple with cute little boy lies on bed in mattress store
Shutterstock

If you don't feel like you're getting a great night's sleep, you may want to consider how long you've had your mattress. A saggy mattress is ineffective at keeping your body in a comfortable sleeping position and it may cause back pain or poor sleep. 

What to do: You should replace your mattress when it's six to eight years old, if you notice it's sagging, or if it begins to squeak or make other noises, according to experts at The Sleep Foundation. If you find yourself constantly waking up stiff or if your allergies get bad at night, it may also be a sign it's time to invest in a new mattress.

11

Sunscreen

Woman hands pouring sunscreen on hand and holding blank sunscreen UV protective lotion bottle packaging cosmetic template for your design and leave space for adding your content
Shutterstock

When you lather yourself in sunscreen, you expect it to protect you from the sun's rays so you can avoid painful sunburn. If your sunscreen is expired, it may not be able to help block your skin from these harmful rays. So, how do you know when your sunscreen has become ineffective? 

What to do: "Sunscreens are required by the Food and Drug Administration to remain at their original strengths for at least three years," according to the Mayo Clinic. Many sunscreens also include an expiration date on the bottle. Throw it out after the expiration date or three years after you bought it.

12

Eye Makeup

Portrait of attractive african american woman in housecoat wrapped in white towel applying mascara against mirror at home
Shutterstock

After it expires, makeup can begin to change texture and may be greasy or separated. This is a sure sign to toss your products but it's even more important to pay attention to the integrity of your eye makeup. Mascara, eye shadow, and eyeliners get really close to your eyes and if they're ridden with bacteria, using these expired products can cause irritation or infection. 

What to do: Mascara should be tossed out after two to three months and you should throw away your eyeliner after about six months. Unless it smells funny or has lost its texture, powdered eye shadows can generally last about three years before going bad, according to health experts interviewed by The Kansas City Star.

13

Sunglasses

Sunglasses in the rain on old wooden back
Shutterstock

If you have a favorite pair of sunglasses you've worn for years, it may be time to shop for a new pair. Your sunglasses are made to block harmful UV rays from the sun that can damage your eyes. However, after being exposed to the brutal sunlight for years, the components that protect your eyes may be compromised, making your sunglasses ineffective at blocking these rays. 

What to do: Sunglasses manufacturers don't provide clear guidelines on when you should replace your sunglasses, according to a study published in Biomedical Engineering Online. "Based on informed estimates, it is quite reasonable to assume that the UV protection of sunglasses should be required to last at least two years," the study suggests. Replace your sunglasses every few years or if you notice the lenses are scratched or compromised in any way.

14

Slippers

Slippers on women's legs cat face
Shutterstock

The slipper you lounge in every night may be a breeding ground for bacteria. If you can't regularly wash your slippers and you wear them outside at all, you could be tracking in "an average of 421,000 units of bacteria on the outside of the shoe and 2,887 on the inside," according to a study conducted by Dr. Charles Gerba and The Rockport Company.

What to do: To prevent a buildup of bacteria on your slippers and to ensure your feet stay comfortable and safe, footwear experts recommend replacing them every year. If your slippers start to smell, look visibly dirty, lose their cushion, or are damaged, you should also consider replacing them before the six-month expiration date.

15

Cutting Boards

cutting board
Shutterstock

Your cutting boards see all different types of foods, so washing, scrubbing, and sanitizing after use is essential. However, at some point, your cutting boards may have been exposed to one too many a sharp knife and could lose their integrity. At this point, it's hard to get food remnants out of the deep grooves that have developed, increasing the chance that bacteria and particles are stuck in the board and could contaminate your food.

What to do: "When your cutting board has accumulated a lot of deep grooves from repeated use, you probably need to replace it," according to an article published by NC State University.

16

Soy Sauce

soy sauce bottle
Shutterstock

Soy sauce is chock full of sodium, which keeps bacteria growth and contamination at bay. Your soy sauce should last a while but it can begin to lose its flavor after several years. Keep an eye (and a nose) on your soy sauce and if it smells different or changes texture, it may be time to replace it. 

What to do: Keep it in the refrigerator to lengthen its life. "Once opened, the soy sauce will start to lose its freshness and the flavor will begin to change. By refrigerating the sauce, the flavor and quality will remain at their peak for a longer period," according to experts at Kikkoman USA.

RELATED: The Unhealthiest Supplements You Shouldn't Take

17

Wooden Kitchen Utensils

wooden salad utensils on white background

Wooden kitchen utensils are popular because they're more gentle on your pans and are known to have antibacterial qualities. Just like other utensils, if they're used frequently, they may begin to show signs of wear and tear. If you take care of your utensils carefully, you can prolong their life. 

What to do: To keep them in good shape, hand wash these utensils, rub them with mineral oil, and use fine sandpaper to remove stains, according to experts at New Hampshire Bowl and Board. Even if you take care of your wooden utensils, the experts warn, "Wooden spoons can eventually split as they dry out or are exposed to extreme temperature changes." When these items split, crack, or dry out, it's time to replace them.

18

Bike Helmet

woman putting biking helmet on outside during bicycle ride
Shutterstock

Your bike helmet may not be able to fully protect your head in the event of a crash if it's expired. The integrity of the cushion and protective elements inside your helmet can be negatively impacted over time, decreasing its effectiveness. 

What to do: Replace your helmet if it's been involved in a crash already or it's been damaged in another way, according to experts at the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute. You should also replace your helmet if it doesn't fit properly, the technology is old, or it's been about five years since you originally purchased it.

19

Bug Spray

Tourist spraying insect repellent on her legs and boots
Shutterstock

Most bug sprays don't have expiration dates printed on their packaging. While they won't become hazardous to your health after some time, these products can become less effective at keeping insects away so it's important to figure out if your bug spray has expired before using it. 

What to do: "DEET-based or picaridin-based repellents don't have an expiration date. If the repellent contains IR3535 (which is commonly added to skincare products), then there is an expiration date that is usually between 18 and 36 months after it is packaged," according to experts at Pest Control FAQ's.

20

Batteries

hands holding alkaline batteries
Shutterstock

Over time, batteries can lose their effectiveness. If they're stored at extreme hot or cold temperatures, battery acid may also leak out, ruining the batteries and making a dangerous mess in your junk drawer. 

What to do: Your batteries should be stamped with a "Best If Used By" date. "The best consumer experience and battery performance occurs with battery usage before the Best If Used By Date," according to experts at Energizer. If the date has passed, your batteries may still function but don't expect them to last too much longer or offer optimal performance. As for yourself: To get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Kelly Hernandez
Kelly Hernandez is a health and wellness writer and certified personal trainer. Read more