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Healthy Living: When to Toss Common Household Items

Sponges

It does not take long for sponges to become a hotbed of bacteria.

It doesn't take long for sponges to become a hotbed of bacteria. They can spread germs to your hands and then to your food. Or if you have a cut on your hand, bacteria can enter your body that way. Even if you boil or microwave your sponges after each use, scientists say it's best to replace them once a week.

Pillows

Your nightly neck and head prop loses shape and firmness over time.

Your nightly neck and head prop loses shape and firmness over time. It also absorbs the sweat, oil, and skin cells you shed while you sleep. Trade in old pillows for new ones every 2 years -- sooner if they're flat, lumpy, or stay folded after you bend them in half.

Toothbrush

Twice a day scrubbing sessions really do in your toothbrush's bristles over time.

Twice-a-day scrubbing sessions really do in your toothbrush's bristles over time. For best cleaning results, switch to a new one every 3 to 4 months.

Nonstick Cookware

Nonstick pots and pans with scratches, grooves, or flaking polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon) should be on your kitchenware move list.

Nonstick pots and pans with scratches, grooves, or flaking polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon) should be on your kitchenware move list. Luckily, Teflon flakes won't hurt you if they get in your food. Still, they're a sign you're due for something new.

Makeup

Always replace makeup after you have used it on infected skin or eyes.

While products vary, a good rule of thumb is to restock cosmetics around the 6-month mark to keep bacteria at bay. Always replace makeup after you've used it on infected skin or eyes.

Makeup Brushes

Wash applicators regularly with warm water and a mild soap to keep them clean enough to use for a good while.

Wash applicators regularly with warm water and a mild soap to keep them clean enough to use for a good while. Follow this schedule: once a week for tools that apply wet makeup; twice a week for eye makeup applicators. Brushes for dry makeup can go a month between cleaning. Toss them once they look frayed or worn.

Air Filters

Your HVAC system's filters should come with instructions that tell you how often to replace them.

Your HVAC system's filters should come with instructions that tell you how often to replace them, but the EPA recommends every 60-90 days as a general guide. If they seem extra gunky when you switch them, change them out sooner next time.

Medications

Manufacturers are required to put expiration dates on their meds.

Manufacturers are required to put expiration dates on their meds. Some studies show they work much longer than their stamped shelf life, but the best option is to keep your medicine cabinet contents current. Most expired medications will lose strength over time. When you toss drugs, be responsible: The FDA's website can give you guidelines for what to trash, what to flush, and where to look for take-back options in your area.

Extension Cords

Any sign of wear on an extension cord means it is time to throw it out.

Any sign of wear on an extension cord means it's time to throw it out. Cracks, damage, or problems with the plug or prongs can be a fire hazard. Inspect cords before use, and don't run one under a rug or overload it with too many appliances.

Smoke Alarms

Check the manufacturer's date on your smoke alarm.

Check the manufacturer's date on your smoke alarm. If it's 10 years ago or more, get a new one. This goes for alarms powered by 9-volt batteries, lithium batteries, or those that are hardwired into your home.

Contact Lens Case

To keep your contact case clean, rinse it with fresh saline solution, not water, after each use.

To keep your contact case clean, rinse it with fresh saline solution, not water, after each use. Chuck it for a fresh one every 3 months. Cracked or damaged cases make a great home for bacteria, so replace them right away.

Electronics

Ready to get rid of your computer, TV, cellphone, or other gadget?

Ready to get rid of your computer, TV, cellphone, or other gadget? Do it right: Check with the manufacturer first to see if they have a recycling or donation program. Or call your local recycling center so your gadgets don't end up in a landfill.

Batteries

Nickel cadmium or small sealed lead acid rechargeable batteries have toxic metals in them that are bad for the environment and the human body.

It's safe to toss regular batteries (AA, AAA, manganese, and carbon-zinc) in the trash, but it's worth a call to your local recycling center to find out other options for these single-use power supplies. Nickel-cadmium or small sealed lead acid rechargeable batteries have toxic metals in them that are bad for the environment and the human body. You'll need to find a drop-off facility or recycling event.

Paint

Leftover water-based latex paint that has not been stored in an airtight container at room temperature can break down in a matter of months or sooner.

Leftover water-based latex paint that hasn't been stored in an airtight container at room temperature can break down in a matter of months or sooner. If you notice the can bulging, it there's probably a buildup of gas-producing bacteria inside. Call your local government or public works to find out how to get rid of it safely.

Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar, MD on 8/8/2018

Healthy Living: When to Toss Common Household Items

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