19 Household Items You Should Probably Throw Out Now

We'll walk you through exactly when and how you should get rid of items like cleaning products, pillows, toothbrushes, and more.

Cleaning supplies under a sink
Photo: Werner Straube

Not everything is meant to last forever, and throwing away or recycling past-their-prime items will help declutter your home. Free up storage space for the things you actually use by checking the expiration date on these household objects and ditching as needed. We'll walk you through exactly when and how you should get rid of each item.

01 of 19

Dish Sponges

kitchen sink filling with soap water with color striped bowls
Marty Baldwin

When to toss: After one month

Why toss it: Between washing dishes, scrubbing sinks, and wiping down countertops, sponges can come in contact with a lot of bacteria. To avoid spreading germs around your kitchen, it's important to replace your sponge about once a month. In between changes, be sure to clean your kitchen sponges regularly using a bacteria-eliminating method, such as vinegar, bleach, or high heat. If your sponge starts to look dirty or smell bad even after it's been disinfected, you should swap it for a new one immediately.

How to toss it: Traditional kitchen sponges, which are often made of plastic, should typically go in the trash (try a slim design like this Better Homes & Gardens 10.5 gal Plastic Kitchen Step Trash Can, $45, Walmart), as they can't easily be recycled. Sponges made from cellulose and other plant-based materials, however, are often biodegradable, so they can go in your recycling or compost bin when you're done with them.

02 of 19

Expired Food

placing orange in organized fridge
Peter Ardito

When to toss: On or near the expiration date

Why toss it: Expired foods can lurk at the back of your refrigerator and take up precious space needed for food you actually want to eat. To better organize your fridge, start with one shelf or area, remove all the items, and check the expiration date on each one. Throw it away immediately (or toss it in the compost bin!) if the date has passed or if you notice mold or an unpleasant smell. For prepared foods or leftovers, be sure to mark the date on the container when you first put it in the fridge so you know how long it's been there.

How to toss it: Depending on the type of food, you should either pour the contents into the trash can, garbage disposal, or compost bin, then clean and recycle the container if possible.

03 of 19

Plastic Containers

cupboard of food storage containers organized in plastic bins
Jay Wilde

When to toss: Every few years for storage containers, immediately for disposable packaging

Why toss it: Plastic containers, especially those that are meant to be disposable, were not meant to be used forever. Plastic breaks down over time, which can cause chemicals to leach into your food. Check for signs of wear after each use, and toss any containers that appear discolored, warped, or cracked. You should also get rid of any containers that are missing a lid or have an unusual smell. Invest in a new set like this Better Homes & Gardens Canister Pack of 8, Flip Tite Food Storage Container Set, $30, Walmart. Always dispose of single-use food packaging, such as yogurt containers or margarine tubs, immediately after you're finished with the product.

How to toss it: Before you toss plastic containers in the garbage, check to see if it's recyclable by looking for the stamped number inside the triangular recycling logo, usually found on the bottom of containers and bottles. Most recycling centers take plastic Nos. 1 and 2—which include many beverage bottles, milk jugs, peanut butter jars, and other containers—but it's best to check with your community's program to verify which types of plastic they can accept.

04 of 19


Bedroom with paisley bedspread and star light
The Wilde Project

When to toss: Every few years

Why toss it: The material inside pillows breaks down with daily use, and all the dust, oil, and debris from your face can transfer to the pillow's surface and interior space. Dust mites also accumulate, which can be troublesome to people suffering from asthma or allergies.

How to toss it: To get rid of your old pillows, consider donating them (after a good washing) to a local homeless shelter or animal shelter to be repurposed as bedding. However, because not all shelters will accept used pillows, it's best to call ahead before bringing in your donation.

05 of 19

Household Cleaners

Cleaning supplies under a sink
Werner Straube

When to toss: After two years

Why toss it: Many of the ingredients that make cleaners and disinfectants effective will break down after time, reducing their effectiveness. You should dispose of cleaning products after a few years and replace them with fresh bottles. Consider labeling the new cleaning products with the date you purchased them so you can easily tell how long you've had them.

How to toss it: To properly dispose of household cleaners, check the manufacturer instructions on the label first. Water-soluble cleaning products, such as all-purpose cleaners, detergents, and stain removers, in liquid or powder form can usually be poured down the drain with running water. Once the containers are empty, you can typically recycle them in your curbside bin. For hazardous chemicals like oven cleaners, contact your local waste disposal center to find the best way to dispose of them.

06 of 19

Cooking Oils, Herbs, and Spices

Cupboard filled with spices and oils
Edward Gohlich

When to toss: Two years for olive oil, one year for herbs and spices

Why toss: Light and heat will break down oils and spices over time and make them less flavorful. To extend their shelf life, store these items in a cool, dry spot. Oils will smell rancid when they're no longer good, and spices will lose their distinctive aromas (pinch some between two fingers to test).

How to toss it: Pour expired oils into a sealable, non-breakable container, then put it in the trash and recycle the original bottle. Dump old herbs and spices into your compost bin or trash can before recycling the container.

07 of 19


toothbrush holder
Adam Albright

When to toss: After three months

Why toss it: Twice-a-day brushings wear down toothbrush bristles and reduce their effectiveness. Plus, stray bacteria or food debris may lodge in toothbrushes. Throw them away after a few months, especially if you've been ill. If you have an electric toothbrush, replace the removable head every three months or sooner if the bristles show wear.

How to toss it: Although you can't typically toss toothbrushes in the regular recycling bin, some special recycling programs allow you to mail in your used toothbrushes for free.

08 of 19

Photo Negatives

Binder of photo negatives
Greg Scheidemann

When to toss: Now

Why toss it: Photo negatives degrade over time and are cumbersome to store. To preserve your photos, use a service, such as scandigital.com, that will scan original images and send you digital copies. You can also buy a slide and negative scanner and electronically store them yourself.

How to toss it: Old photographs and negatives should generally go in garbage, since the materials can't easily be recycled. Alternatively, look into companies like GreenDisk that can accept film and negatives for recycling.

09 of 19

Eye Makeup

Makeup bag in cupboard
Cameron Sadeghpour

When to toss: After 6 months

Why toss it: Most eye makeup has some basic preservatives to keep it fresh, but those wear down or can be overcome by bacteria after a few months. Bacteria from the environment or your face can transfer to the brushes and then the makeup itself, which can cause irritation or even infection. Refresh mascara, eyeliner, eyeshadow, and other eye makeup products after about half a year.

How to toss it: Instead of tossing old products in the trash, consider donating your mascara wands to a program like Wands for Wildlife, which uses them to help tiny animals at wildlife refuges.

10 of 19

Business Cards

Card files with colored pencils
Adam Albright

When to toss: Now

Why toss it: Stacks of business cards can quickly pile up and clutter your desk space. Instead of storing individual cards, add the information to your phone's contact list. To make this process easier, use an app, such as ABBYY Business Card Reader, that scans the card and instantly adds the information to your contacts, allowing you to edit as needed.

How to toss it: Recycle paper business cards when finished.

11 of 19


Cupboard with medicines and vitamins
Jay Wilde

When to toss: After two years, or the expiration date

Why toss it: Like most food items, vitamins degrade in quality over time. Check the packaging for an expiration date. If the vitamins are unused by then (or you can't find a date), replace them with new ones.

How to toss it: To safely dispose of old vitamins and other medications, the FDA recommends dropping them off at a drug take-back location near you.

12 of 19


Different kinds of sunscreen on beach towel
Peter Ardito

When to toss: After every summer, or with the expiration date

Why toss it: The protective chemicals in sunscreen break down over time, reducing the ability of the product to block out damaging rays from the sun. If you can't find an expiration date on your bottles, dispose of them after pool season has ended.

How to toss it: Call your local waste management office to determine the proper way to dispose of sunscreen in your area. In some cases, it's best to toss the entire sunscreen container into the trash, which helps prevent harmful chemicals from entering the water supply.

13 of 19

Opened Nail Polish

spa party hands painting fingernails red polish
Rebekah Molloy

When to toss: After a year

Why toss it: Once they've been used, nail polish ingredients can evaporate or separate, causing inconsistent color and application. To prolong its shelf life, store your nail polish in a cool, dark place. If the polish becomes discolored or especially thick, it's time to dispose of the bottle.

How to toss it: Nail polish often contains hazardous ingredients that require special care for disposal. Your best bet is usually to contact your local hazardous waste facility about drop-off, or let the polish dry out before throwing it away. Pour leftover nail polish onto newspaper, let dry completely, then throw all components into the trash.

14 of 19

Gift Cards

Bag filled with gift cards
Marty Baldwin

When to toss: Now

Why toss it: Gift cards can easily get lost or forgotten about inside your wallet. Instead, use a mobile wallet app, such as Gyft, to digitize the gift card information and store it on your phone. You can track the balance and redeem the card in-store with just a few taps on your phone.

How to toss it: Although they shouldn't go in your bin at home, you can often recycle gift cards at the store they were purchased from. Contact the retailer to see if they'll accept your used card for recycling.

15 of 19

Opened Wine

Pouring red wine into a wine glass
Erica Michelsen Allen

When to toss: After one to two days

Why toss it: Exposure to oxygen, heat, and daylight will cause wine's aromas and flavors to fade. To keep an opened bottle of wine fresh and drinkable, recork it or seal it with a wine stopper (like this Better Homes & Gardens Elegant Wine Bottle Stopper, $5, Walmart) as soon as possible. Stash the unfinished bottle in the fridge (this includes red wines) and plan to enjoy it within the next two days.

How to toss it: If you still have some leftover after a few days, pour the remains down the drain and recycle the glass bottle.

16 of 19

Opened Paint

Different cans of paint
Kim Cornelison

When to toss: After two to five years

Why toss it: Once the can is opened, the components in paint start to separate and break down. After a few years, this can make the paint difficult to mix, even with the most vigorous stirring. To repaint a room, take the color formula specifications to your local paint, hardware, or big box store and have them mix up a new can of paint to match.

How to toss it: When disposing of old paint, be sure to note the type of paint before deciding what to do with it. Oil- and alkyd-base paints are considered hazardous waste and typically need to be taken to a local hazardous waste drop-off site. You can dispose of old latex paint by throwing it in the trash, but you'll need to dry it out completely first by using a paint hardener, cat litter, or shredded newspaper.

17 of 19


Stacks of DVDs and CDs
Laura Moss

When to toss: Now

Why toss it: Plastic cases and CDs take up lots of shelf space, and they're difficult to sort through and keep organized. To save your favorite songs before ditching the discs, pop them into a computer and import the tunes into your digital music library. If you can't bear to part with your CD collection, take the discs out of the plastic cases and stash them in archival boxes.

How to toss it: Although most are made of plastic, CDs and their cases shouldn't go in your recycling bin. Instead of trashing them, consider donating your old CDs to a local thrift store, or send them in to an organization like GreenDisk.

18 of 19

Appliance Manuals

Binder filled with appliance manuals
Marty Baldwin

When to toss: Now

Why toss it: Most major appliance and equipment manufacturers have made it simple for you to get rid of your how-to manuals: They're available online as PDFs, free of charge. And if they're not, online Q&A forums and company contact options make getting answers easier, too. If you're worried about getting rid of very specialized instruction manuals, put them in a binder or file folder for more efficient storage.

How to toss it: Recycle paper manuals in your household bin.

19 of 19


Bleach next to blue fabric and spray bottle
Steven McDonald

When to toss: After three to five months

Why toss it: The chlorine in bleach dissipates over time, causing the cleaner to lose its effectiveness. Keep your bleach in good shape by storing it in a cool, dry place. The chemical should be replaced if the bottle is over a year old or you don't notice a bleach smell as soon as you pour it from the container.

How to toss it: You can dispose of bleach down the drain as long as you dilute it with plenty of running water as you pour.

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