Monday, June 27, 2016

Check The Expiration Dates On Your Over-The-Counter Medications

I'm always banging my drum to check your makeup products for their expiration dates since they can carry Staph and other diseases. Well, here is a post to get you to clean our your medicine cabinet. You're probably going to need the big trash can for this one.

We have two bathrooms, upstairs and downstairs. Over the course of a year, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins and related products float between the two, are replaced in one and forgotten about in the other. We don't need two bathrooms full of products, but that's how things migrate around the house. I got on a tear this weekend and cleaned out the bathroom cabinets, drawers and under the sinks. There were so. many. expired. products. In the downstairs bathroom, I filled up a kitchen trash bag with expired products, empty containers (!) and broken bits that had found their way to the back of drawers. The do we have any lipbalm? was answered when I found a dozen tubes in various corners of the downstairs bathroom. I'm not joking.

Expired over-the-counter medications and vitamins

This stack is what I pulled from my bathroom. Most of these are vitamins and digestive aids. Their expirations date from 2013 and up. I had a bottle of Tylenol not pictured that expired in 2011. That's FIVE YEARS out of date. I hung my head in shame.

Aside from taking vitamins and medications that were woefully out of date, most of these bottles were barely used. We couldn't find X because it wasn't where it was supposed to be. Buy another one and start using it. The first one turns up. Circle of life. So much money wasted. I estimate this stack is about $50 in unused, outdated products. Ouch.  

Some suggestions I am implementing to keep our meds fresh and my money out of the trash can.
  • Streamline medications - Do you really need 5 products for a single issue?
  • Which products actually work well for you? 
  • Dedicate a single space for storage and return errant bottles there.
  • Keep a special eye on the expiration dates of liquid medications, those tend to turn faster.
  • Buy generic medications at the Dollar Tree or similar stores: aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxin, allergy, Excedrine Migraine (20 pills for $1).
  • Time to turn back the clock? Time to change your fire alarm batteries and the expiration dates on all the products you use.
While a bottle of Vitamin B two years out of expiration probably won't hurt you, you won't get the same benefit as a fresher product. Vitamins and medications do break down over time, both physically and in potency. Since most people keep medicine in the bathroom, you have to factor in heat and moisture into the viability of expired products. I had a huge bottle of flax seed oil pills turn into a gelatin concrete mass because I kept it in the bathroom. Don't repeat my mistakes.

Further discussion about expiration dates.

Drugs You Never Take Past Their Expiration Date
Harvard: Drug Expiration Dates - Do They Mean Anything?

Guidance from the FDA of prescription medication disposal. I strongly disagree with flushing medication down the toilet. For any "flushable" medications they name, I would recommend crushing them up and throwing them out with the cat litter, coffee grounds or something else fairly disgusting. The point is to keep them out of the hands of addicts. That doesn't mean you need to destroy the environment by putting them into the water system.


  1. This is such an important post. We often forget to check expiration dates before consuming medication which can lead to some serious consequences. Thanks for the tips on how to maintain a medicine cabinet.

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