9 surprising household items that expire
We all know when to get rid of that long forgotten food hidden in the depths of the fridge. Or when to chuck out that smelly old dishcloth. But when it comes to less-perishable household items such as pillows or smoke alarms, how long should they last? And how often should you replace them before they have a negative impact on your health and safety?
Here at HomeHub, we did our research to bring you the top nine household items lurking in the home that need to be replaced more often than you think.
Australian pillow manufacturers such as Tontine now stamp their pillows with a two-year replacement date and have experienced large sales increases as a result. But is this just a clever marketing tactic or should we take this use-by-date seriously?
From a hygiene point of view, it’s well known that pillows collect dead skin cells, dust mites, mold and fungi. And there are health risks associated with dust mite infestations, especially if you suffer from allergies. Pillow protectors prolong the hygiene lifespan of a pillow as long as you wash them regularly. And, according to the Better Sleep Council, the risk of head and neck problems caused by sleeping with an old pillow that no longer provides enough support is also a serious issue.
When to replace: Every one to two years depending on the quality of the pillow
According to Choice and the Sleep Health Foundation, mattresses should have a lifespan of around ten years. But this is just a guide and depends on how often it’s used. As a general rule, replace yours when you start to experience stiffness, aches and pains. A mattress topper is also a great way to add comfort if you’re not quite ready to buy a new one.
When to replace: Around 10 years
With the cooler months of the year on their way, it will soon be time to dig out those trusty slippers. But did you know slippers provide a great environment for spreading fungal infections? Make sure you wash or replace your slippers every six months to ensure optimal foot hygiene.
When to replace: Wash or replace your slippers every six months
Chopping boards can be a health hazard in the kitchen, but only if you use the same board to cut up low-risk and high-risk foods. The best way to maximise the longevity of your chopping boards, either plastic or wood, is to thoroughly clean your boards with hot water and detergent after every use. Look out for obvious cutting grooves after long term use as these can harbour nasty bacteria.
When to replace: When there are obvious signs of wear and tear
Wooden cooking utensils
Wooden cooking utensils are more porous than plastic or metal and can also harbour a wealth of germs and bacteria. Definitely replace your wooden spoons and spatulas after five years or before if you notice any cracks or rotten soft dark patches.
When to replace: Every five years if not before
Smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years so check the expiry date. In the meantime, Fire and Rescue NSW recommends testing your alarms every month, dusting every six months and replacing the batteries every 12 months.
When to replace: Every 10 years
Fire extinguishers can lose pressure over time and become ineffective whether or not they’ve been used. Check the expiry date on the label or with the manufacturer as most require a pressure test and refilling after five years. In terms of ongoing maintenance, check the pressure gauge monthly (the needle should be in the green zone) and check for wear and tear. If the nozzle is cracked, the pin is missing or the handle is wobbly, it’s time to replace it.
When to replace: Pressure test and refilling after five years, replace after 10 years
As a general rule, most medications, ointments and supplements come with expiry dates, which should be taken seriously. Unfortunately, we tend to keep our medical supplies in kitchen or bathroom cabinets where moisture and heat can reduce effectiveness. If in doubt, chuck it out (see below on the best way to do this), or check with your pharmacist. And never use antibiotics or medicines that are older than their ‘discard date’.
When to replace: Always check the expiry and discard dates
Finally, according to Prevention magazine, eye makeup products such as mascara, liquid liner and eye shadow should be binned after six months to prevent infection. This is because they’re repeatedly exposed to bacteria in the air and on your eyes, which can overpower the preservatives included in the products.
When to replace: Every six months to prevent infection
Think before you throw
Did you know that you can return unwanted medicines to local pharmacies involved in the Return Unwanted Medicines (RUM) Project? This free government initiative is designed to prevent the estimated 500 tonnes of medicines finding their way into our waterways and landfill every year.
Here are three common ways people discard unwanted medicines and why we need to change our habits:
- Flushing medicines down the toilet
Sewerage plants can’t treat all chemicals in waste water, resulting in contamination of waterways
- Pouring medicines down the sink
Household medicines contain highly soluble chemicals, which when entered into water systems can harm aquatic life
- Throwing medicines into the garbage bin
Household medicines disposed of this way end up in exposed landfill sites
For more information about the safe disposal of medicines, read this.