What better way to go into spring cleaning than with anything old and icky cleared out and swapped for fresh and new? We continue our look at how often to replace overlooked items with a tour of the room just brimming over with things that really ought to be long-gone. Yep, we're talking about the bathroom.
When to toss them: 3 months to 2 years
When we find that perfect mascara we may be loathe to let it go. But let it go we must, along with other cosmetics, the FDA warns. Citing a veritable cornucopia of ick factors — bacteria, mold, and yeast —they note that manufacturers usually recommend discarding mascara two to four months after purchase. In fact all eye-area cosmetics have shelf lives shorter that that of other makeup. Tempted to overlook their advice? They'd remind you that eye infections from makeup gone bad can be serious.
Cosmetic manufacturers aren't required to put use-by dates on products but Good Housekeeping shares some best practices. They say three months for liquid eyeliners, six months for cream eye shadows; and two years for pencil eyeliners and powder eye shadows. Liquid face makeup should go after six months, but you can hang onto dry powders for two years. They give two years to lipstick and gloss and at least that for lipliner.
As for skin care, plan on six months, or a year for products in pump bottles. Their tip: Keep your beauty regimen out of the bathroom where heat can speed up the bacterial and fungal growth. A linen closet is a better place to stash that cosmetic bag.
When to toss them: 2 to 3 months
Are you washing your brushes regularly? Good. The bad news is they still won't last forever. Elle magazine experts say you should be buying new brushes every three months if they start to shed, smell or are discolored. As for that foam blending sponge, In Style says that needs to be replaced at least every three months, if not two — and that's if you're keeping it clean.
When to toss them: 3 to 4 months
You know these guys don't last forever. What's their life span? The American Dental Association says you should replace your toothbrush every three to four months. For nightmare material, read their treatise on bacterial growth.
When to toss them: 6 months to a year
Yep, these need to be replaced too. Even with regular cleaning (are you doing that?) to keep from weighing your hair down with accumulated gunk, hairbrushes still have a limited life — about six months to a year, according to Women's Health magazine. How will you know when it's time to say goodbye? Bristles separating is the warning sign, they say, but when the bed starts to crack and your hair catches it's time to give it the brush-off.
When to toss them: Every 5 to 7 shaves
Here's the million dollar question: How long can you use that disposable razor languishing in your bathroom? The American Academy of Dermatology recommends replacing it after every five to seven shaves to avoid irritation — and if you're keeping it in the shower, get it out of there, stat. Razors should be kept dry in order to avoid bacteria growth, they warn. If a handful of shaves doesn't cut it for you, you're not alone. A whole movement has sprung up around getting the most use out of these throwaways, with some proponents going to great lengths (drying, oiling, running the blade along jeans) to get months — if not years — out of a single plastic razor.
When to toss it: After a bout with the stomach flu
What has the dirtiest job in the house? It would be hard to think of something working harder than the toilet scrubber. So not only does it need its own TLC, it's got an expiration date. Home site Hunker says as long as you're disinfecting it regularly, you can keep it until the bristles start to go bad, so keep an eye on that. One caveat, though, says biology professor Elizabeth Scott, Ph.D, co-director of Simmons Center for Hygiene and Health in Home and Community. If someone in the home has had a gastrointestinal illness, the scrubber used to clean after them has got to go because “now you're dealing with infectious materials.” If you don't want to throw it away, we've got one word for you: bleach.
When to toss them: It depends
Prescription and over the counter drugs are pretty straightforward, right? Bottles come with an expiration date right on them since the FDA began that requirement in 1979. Does that mean you should (safely!) dispose of anything after that date? Well the FDA says so, but according to research, not necessarily.
The expiration, says a Harvard Health Publishing article interpreting a column in Psychopharmacology Today on the topic, is “the date at which the manufacturer can still guarantee the full potency and safety of the drug … [it] doesn't really indicate a point at which the medication is no longer effective or has become unsafe to use.”
In an FDA study requested by the military, the article goes on to say, they found that “90% of more than 100 drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter, were perfectly good to use even 15 years after the expiration date.” But if manufacturers had to do testing for longer periods of time, the article explains, “it would slow their ability to bring you new and improved formulations.”
So don't be automatically assume you need to replace that several year old family size bottle of pain relief, but when in doubt, check with your pharmacist.