Fire Extinguishers and 9 Other Items in Your House That Expire
It’s not just milk that goes bad — so do batteries, medicine and other household items
Sure, milk and meat can go bad. But did you know other items in your house have an unofficial use-buy date, too?. Nothing lasts forever, but if you don’t toss or replace these 10 items in time, there could be heck to pay.
Get ready to give yours a once-over.
1. Fire extinguishersPhoto: DutchScenery/Shutterstock
Is your fire extinguisher too old to quickly snuff out a fire? If you have a dry chemical fire extinguisher (aka an ABC extinguisher), replace it every five to 10 years, according to UL. Also, shake that type of extinguisher once a month so the chemicals don’t clump. No matter what type of extinguisher you have, check the gauge on the top once a month: Green is full, red is empty.
Related: How to Use a Fire Extinguisher
2. MedicationPhoto: Burlingham/Shutterstock
If that bottle in the back of your medicine cabinet looks old, check the expiration date. While some OTC meds, such as certain pain relievers, simply lose some of their effectiveness over time, other meds, particularly prescription meds, may become unsafe to take after they’ve expired. The chemical composition may change over time, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). And when full potency really matters, such as with asthma medication, you don’t want to take a drug that’s lost some of its punch. Be sure to get rid of expired medications safely.
3. BatteriesPhoto: restyler/Shutterstock
If you stocked up during a battery sale, don’t worry. Cylindrical alkaline batteries have a shelf life of about five to 10 years, according to Energizer. Cylindrical lithium batteries can last 10 to 15 years, and carbon zinc batteries three to five years. But storing batteries in a hot room can shorten shelf life. Not sure if your battery is still good? Use a battery tester, Energizer recommends.
4. Motor OilPhoto: Stephen Mcsweeny/Shutterstock
Don’t stash your extra motor oil in the garage. Motor oil has a shelf life of five years, but only when stored unopened in its original container at normal household temperatures, according to oil manufacturer Mobil. Temperature extremes and moisture can cause the oil to degrade more quickly. Signs that your oil should be tossed: separation or changes in color, odor or texture.
5. Smoke alarmsPhoto: auremar/Shutterstock
A smoke alarm can save your life if a fire breaks out in your home, but these important safety devices don’t last forever. Smoke alarms have a shelf life of 10 years, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. If you’re not sure how old yours are, check for a sticker on the back that shows the date of manufacture, a UL requirement since 1999. If don’t see a date, get a new alarm. Make sure to dispose of Ionization smoke alarms safely. And change the batteries twice a year, UL recommends.
6. BleachPhoto: sunsetman/Shutterstock
You rely on bleach for everything from cleaning your cutting board to sanitizing your child’s toys. But did you know that old bottle sitting under your kitchen sink may have lost its germ-killing power? Bleach has a shelf life of about a year, including the three to five months it takes to get from the factory to the store to your home, according to Clorox. So, to be on the safe side, replace a bottle of bleach after seven months.
7. PaintPhoto: IkeHayden/Shutterstock
You bought too much paint, and you want to keep that extra gallon for future paint jobs. First, make sure you don’t stash the can in the shed or garage, where freezing temperatures could ruin it, Consumer Reports recommends. If stored indoors, unopened paint can last 10 years or longer. If the can was partially used and you resealed it, stir the paint well when you open the can and make sure it doesn’t have an odd smell, which could be a sign that the preservatives have gone bad. Check with your city to find out how to dispose of old paint.
8. CosmeticsPhoto: Odua Images/Shutterstock
Makeup can be pricy, so it’s tempting to use every bit of that eye shadow, foundation or lipstick. Cosmetics don’t always have expiration dates listed on the packaging, but using old makeup put you at risk for an infection, the FDA warns. In general, eye makeup should be tossed after two to four months of use, while other makeup may be safe to keep a little longer. Makeup stored in a hot or moist place may go bad more quickly.
9. SunscreenPhoto: Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock
When you slather on that sunscreen you bought a few summers ago, is it really protecting you from UV rays that can damage your skin and cause cancer? Maybe not. Sunscreens stay potent for up to three years, according to the Mayo Clinic and the Skin Cancer Foundation. Check your bottle for an expiration date and, if in doubt, toss it out. If there’s no expiration date listed on your new sunscreen, jot the purchase date on the bottle in permanent marker.
10. Car seatsPhoto: BlueSkyImage/Shutterstock
That state-of-the-art car seat you bought for your firstborn might not be so safe by the time baby number two or three is ready to go for a ride. Car seats expire after six to eight years on average. A car seat also needs to be replaced after a moderate or severe crash, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Use your judgment after a minor crash, that group recommends. If you’re tossing a car seat that’s no longer safe, destroy it first by cutting the straps so no one else can use it.