If You Have These Everyday Items At Home, Throw Them In The Trash Right Now

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While very few items last forever, not everything poses an inherent danger after it expires. These everyday items, however, could have serious consequences if left unchecked – from spreading harmful bacteria to even endangering lives. If you’ve got any of them lying around your home, then, you’ll want to make sure to dispose of them as swiftly as possible.

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20. Pancake mix

If you’ve been buying pancake mix in bulk, you might want to check it carefully before cooking up your next batch. That’s because it could actually be toxic – at least in the right circumstances. Indeed, pancake mix can attract mold, which can be deadly to people with allergies to the spores. And it doesn’t even need to have expired.

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If your pancake mix has any internal packaging, such as a foil pouch or wax paper that doesn’t contain bleach, then it’s not likely to be exposed to mold. But if it’s contained solely within a cardboard box, it could be at risk of attracting those fatal spores. In fact, that can happen regardless of the product’s age. And even if you don’t have a mold allergy, the taste will likely be ruined.

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19. Old potatoes

If you’ve ever bought, and then forgotten about, potatoes, you’ll know that they don’t keep forever. Indeed, when you do eventually rediscover those ageing spuds, they’ll likely have started sprouting, and even turned green. While you could still eat them, provided they’re still firm, they might not be very tasty. And the sprouts will definitely need to go, because they contain toxins that can cause digestive issues.

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In extreme situations, though, old potatoes can even be poisonous. In 2013 an eight-year-old girl in Russia was orphaned after fumes coming from ageing spuds killed her whole family. They had been stored in a cellar for the winter, but had rotted away, As a result, they emitted a deadly gas that claimed the lives of the girl’s parents, grandmother and brother.

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18. Off-brand cell phone chargers

If your cell phone charger breaks or you misplace it, you may want to avoid buying an off-brand replacement. Even if it’s cheaper in the short term, the hospital bills could easily outweigh those savings. Indeed, in July 2019, a team of doctors published a report detailing the case of a woman who had suffered second-degree burns from her knock-off iPhone charger.

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According to the report, other users had also reported instances of chargers causing fires, or giving them electric shocks. And a study apparently found that more than 50 percent of generic iPhone chargers didn’t pass insulation tests. Which, in turn, makes them more prone to causing shocks. In short, it’s probably worth investing in an official charger.

Image: U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Brett Clashman

17. Expired medications

While most medicine doesn’t become instantly toxic the second its expiration date passes, it may well be less potent. That’s because the date is really only the manufacturer’s guarantee of how long the drug will stay fully effective. Beyond that, though, it’s anyone’s guess. So if your medicine needs to be totally effective, you’re better off going with an in-date replacement.

Image: U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Divine Cox

That’s not to say, however, that all medications are either successful or harmless beyond their expiration dates. In fact, drugs including tetracycline, insulin, liquid antibiotics and nitroglycerin should be disposed of as soon as they expire. Just make sure to do so responsibly, following FDA guidelines, as most meds need to be dropped off at a specific site.

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16. Expired makeup and beauty products

Can’t bring yourself to part with some seldom-used, but much-loved, mascara or lippy? Then you may be doing yourself more harm than good. Over time, it seems, beauty products can become contaminated. So rather than removing bacteria from your face, they’re actually piling more on. In fact, the International Journal of Cosmetic Science published a study in 2013 that found more than two thirds of expired eye makeup was tainted.

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Figuring out when to ditch your makeup and beauty products can be tough, though, because most of them don’t carry an expiration date. Fortunately, many do have a “Period After Opening (PAO)” symbol, a number preceding a capital “M.” And that indicates how many months after opening it should be discarded. If you don’t see one, check for discoloration, odors, or changes in texture.

Image: Anderson Mancini

15. Old toothbrushes

It’s easy to develop bad habits around brushing your teeth, because it’s something that most of us do on autopilot. For instance, the American Dental Association (ADA) advises people to brush for two full minutes, twice a day. The average time that people actually brush for, however, is closer to 45 seconds. And when it comes to your toothbrush itself, you might be making a similar mistake.

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Indeed, the ADA recommends that you replace your toothbrush regularly – at least every three to four months, although that time-frame can be condensed. The main thing to watch out for is frayed bristles, as worn ones are less effective. So, if your brush head looks a little worse for wear, then it’s time to switch it out.

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14. Old technology

If you’re the type to hang on to old electronics “just in case,” it’s probably time to reassess that line of thought. That’s because Lithium-ion batteries in old laptops, cell phones and other devices have been known to explode. And as a result, they have caused injuries and even fires, thanks to a process labeled “thermal runaway.” Essentially, the power packs can overheat tremendously, and then ignite or explode when exposed to oxygen.

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Fortunately, advancements in battery technology are leading to safer devices, and even in older models fire is a remote risk. But the fact that it can happen at all is enough to warrant getting rid – as early adopters of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 will remember. The tech giant behind the smartphone recalled a million units in 2016, following reports of exploding Lithium-ion batteries.

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13. Old athletic shoes

Footwear doesn’t last forever, particularly if you’re have an athletic lifestyle. But when running shoes begin to wear away, the consequences for your feet can be serious. That’s because the mid-soles can no longer do their job of absorbing shocks, leading to injuries – and potentially even altering the alignment of your feet.

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As a result, the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine (AAPSM) suggests that shoes should be replaced whenever your mid-soles show “signs of unevenness when placed on [a] flat surface.” Generally, that equates to walking or running 300-500 miles in your sneakers. However, the AAPSM also points out that athletic shoes can degrade even without use. Which means that it’s best to replace them after a year regardless of wear and tear.

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12. Old non-stick pans

In 2015, Environmental Health Perspectives, an online journal, published the “Madrid Statement,” backed internationally by over 200 scientists. The report advised that “poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances,” or PFASes, can be toxic to humans. And if you own any non-stick cookware, then you’ve already come into contact with those compounds.

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However, subsequent tests found that while the chemicals are indeed dangerous, you’ll find it tough to ingest dangerous amounts from cooking. That said, you’re still better off ditching any non-stick cookware that’s heavily scratched, or that has overheated, because the compounds will be more volatile. Additionally, older pans are likely to have more toxic versions of the chemicals than newer ones.

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11. Space heaters

These days, there’s really no argument for continuing to use space heaters. But the biggest by far is that there are so many potential downsides to them. For example, cheaper models don’t have safety features, most can’t handle power surges and they’re neither efficient nor smart. And if you use multiple units for larger spaces, your electricity bill will go through the roof.

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Even if you only use a single space heater, though, it can be enough to spell disaster. According to the National Fire Protection Association, stationary and portable space heaters are involved in an eye-watering 86 percent of deaths from fires involving home heating. If you’re looking for ways to keep warm, then you’re better off with a central system.

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10. Wire hangers

Most of us have resorted to hanging our clothes on the feeble wire hangers that come from the dry cleaners. But, it seems, that’s a habit worth breaking – even if that means having to invest in sturdier alternatives. You see, those clothes-holders could, in fact, do serious damage to your precious garments in the long run.

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Yes, there’s a reason wooden hangers are shaped like our shoulders – they ensure clothes look box-fresh by helping them maintain their natural shape. Wire versions, it seems, do the exact opposite. And if you use them constantly, you can expect to find your favorite pieces stretched, misshapen and hanging at awkward angles. Ditch them as soon as you can – your wardrobe will thank you.

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9. Plastic grocery bags

If you haven’t made the transition to reusable grocery totes yet, there’s no time like the present. After all, the environmental benefits are countless, not least because the U.S. alone goes through 1.8 billion single-use shopping bags every seven days. And each one of those can take up to 1,000 years to decompose.

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And all that plastic floating around poses a real problem for marine life. Indeed, it’s thought that more than 100,000 ocean creatures and a million or so sea birds die from ingesting plastic each year. Switching to reusable bags, then, will not only be a boon for nature but for you, too. Plus, it’s way more convenient than disposing of or storing countless plastic bags.

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8. Loofahs

Sorry, germophobes: Your loofah might just be doing you more harm than good in the shower. That’s because the scrubbers are a hot-spot for bacteria, spurred on by the damp, warm environment in which they’re kept. What’s more, they’re very effective at collecting flakes of dead skin as you use them.

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So, while that first loofah use might scrub you clean, every subsequent scrubbing might just, in fact, be making you even filthier. And that because you’re basically spreading yesterday’s bacteria back on to your body. It’s not really dangerous, but it is pretty gross. To make sure you’re actually cleaning yourself, then, you’ll probably want to ditch the loofah.

Image: David Wuertele

7. Old water filter cartridges

You can’t just buy a water filter and expect it to work endlessly without a little maintenance. By and large, that means replacing the filter cartridge regularly – around every three months or so, depending on the type of cartridge you have. Don’t worry, though, if you lose track of when you last switched it out. There are plenty of ways to tell when it’s time for a change.

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For instance, if the water flow begins to slow, or it starts to smell or taste a little off, then it’s possible that your filter is clogged with contaminants. Even if you follow the manufacturer’s recommendations, these are good warning signs to check for anytime. That’s because the quality of your tap water can also affect how frequently the cartridges need changing.

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6. Old kitchen sponges

Did you know that kitchens are generally less sanitary than bathrooms? According to a 2009 study by the Hygiene Council, carried out in eight countries, including the U.S. and the U.K., kitchen taps are twice as likely to carry dangerous bacteria than the toilet. But the biggest culprit is undoubtedly the kitchen sponge.

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Indeed, a 2017 study in Germany revealed that 14 different used sponges contained tens of billions of bacterial cells between them. While most of the 362 different species discovered on the kitchen staples weren’t dangerous for us humans, some of them definitely were – and boiling or microwaving your sponge apparently won’t help. The best course of action, in fact, is simply to replace it every week.

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5. Old spices

While spices will never go off, that doesn’t mean you can use them forever. Over time, they’ll begin to lose their potency. And they can even have the opposite of their intended effect, adding strange, repugnant flavors to your food. It’s worth keeping an eye on how long you’ve had your cupboard staples, then, and clearing them out periodically.

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That doesn’t mean ditching all your seasonings instantly, though. Ground and whole spices are generally good for around three years, while dried herbs can last just as long. If you’re not sure how old yours are, check the strength of their smell, taste and color. Any that aren’t potent should be replaced.

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4. Old cribs

In 2011, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued new safety guidelines for cribs. These included banning sales of drop-side rail cribs and requiring stronger slats. If you’re currently using an old hand-me-down that was manufactured before 2011, then it may not be up to current federal standards. And that might mean that it’s not entirely safe for your baby.

Image: Courtney Kammers

As a crib is supposed to be the one place in the house you can leave a baby unattended, it’s best to make sure they’re as safe as can be. The new guidelines weren’t, however, accompanied by a widespread recall. As a result, the CPSC recommends dismantling and discarding any cribs manufactured earlier than 2011. If you can’t afford a new one, don’t use any drop-down sides that your old unit may have.

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3. Old bras

Most clothes wear out eventually, and bras are no exception. Over time, they’ll gradually lose their shape. As a result, they’ll stop giving the necessary support, and, therefore, fail at the one job they’re supposed to do. If you find yourself constantly readjusting or tugging at any of your bras, then it’s probably time to get rid.

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Luxury lingerie company Journelle’s CEO Lyn Lewis told HuffPost in 2018 that an ill-fitting bra “feels like the equivalent of wearing shoes that are the wrong size, once you’ve been spoiled [with] a bra that fits you well.” Moreover, she recommends replacing your bras regularly. If you rotate two on a regular basis, for instance, they might only last six months.

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2. Expired or poorly-stored sunscreen

Ignoring the expiration date on your sunscreen can have disastrous consequences, because it protects you from harmful UV rays using active ingredients. Over time, these additives, such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, can break down, reducing the cream’s effectiveness. And if it’s not working properly, then it’s not protecting your skin from sun damage.

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It’s not just expiration dates, however, that factor into the effectiveness of sunscreen. If it’s stored somewhere warm, or exposed to moisture, it can lose its potency long before it “officially” expires. That leaves you open to an increased risk of sunburn, and even skin cancer. And while expired protection is still better than nothing, it’s best to make sure it’s in date – and stored properly.

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1. Old paint

While paint has a long shelf life, that doesn’t mean you can use it forever. If you’ve got old paint cans sitting around your garage from a long-forgotten redecoration project, for instance, it might be worth double checking whether they’re still useful. Depending on their age, and how they’ve been stored, you might just have to throw them out.

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Water-based or latex paint, for instance, generally lasts around ten years, while oil-based paint could stretch to around 15 years. Those figures are moot, though, if the paint hasn’t been sealed properly, or was stored at extreme hot or cold temperatures. The best way to check is by removing any layer of film that’s formed over the top, then giving it a stir. If it’s lumpy or rough, it’s no good.