I'm going to be transparent and let you know that I don't clean out my medicine cabinet until items are falling off the shelves. So, when that did happen the other day, I was forced to make some decisions based on expiration dates. But that also got me wondering whether some of those items were still usable beyond their stated life spans. I had three full bottles of sunscreen (no one needs that much sunscreen) that were sadly two months expired. I didn't want to toss them, so I did some Googling and pleasantly learned that I was able to keep them, at least for my upcoming trip. Here are eight items you might be curious about, too.
- Medicine: If you have a headache but notice your aspirin is expired, it's fine. Over 90 percent of drugs (excluding insulin, liquid antibiotics, and nitroglycerin) are still potent and safe to use even a decade after the stamped expiration date, as long as they're stored in a cool and dry place. Make sure to check with your doctor if you're not sure about something!
- Toothpaste: Many of us stock up on more toothpaste than we ever need and find that we're left with a couple tubes past the expiration date. Toss them! Expired toothpaste isn't harmful but your teeth may not be as protected compared to brushing with a fresh bottle. Most toothpaste is good for up to two years.
- Perfume: Some people still have the same bottle they received years ago, especially if they rotate between a few. While perfume doesn't have a hard expiration date, it does change in fragrance and color after a few years. While some age like fine wine, others can spoil, so determine the state of yours with a sniff test. If the scent smells strange, toss it.
- Topical ointments: Antibacterial ointments like Neosporin are safe to use up to a year after it expires. But we wouldn't push it much past that, especially if you're dealing with open cuts.
- Toothbrush: When was the last time you swapped out your toothbrush? The American Dental Association recommends changing it every three to four months.
- Hydrogen peroxide: An unopened bottle can last up to three years but as soon as it's opened, its only good for six months. To test it out, pour some hydrogen peroxide into your sink and see if it fizzes. If it does, it's still OK. The expired product isn't harmful but it won't be effective.
- Rubbing alcohol: Similarly, an unopened bottle of rubbing alcohol can last up to three years. But it does have a longer shelf life than hydrogen peroxide and can be used two years after opening.
- Sunscreen: Most sunscreens are good for up to three years from the purchase date. As long as it's stored in a cool and dry place, you can use it six months past the stamped expiration date, but toss it if it smells strange or changes in consistency. Because sun protection is crucial, it's always a safer bet to replace your bottle by the time it says to.
Since the majority of these items require being stored in a "cool and dry place" for optimal shelf life, you might want to take them out of your medicine cabinet. Heat and steam from your showers can reduce the effectiveness of the products and/or make them go bad quicker. Instead, opt for drawer storage that's away from heat and sun exposure.