Bread gets stale and moldy and milk starts to stink, but it’s much harder to know when it’s time to change your pillow or toothbrush. Using these items past their expiration date can be just as bad or worse for you than eating expired food.
Difficult to clean items can grow mold or collect bacteria and adversely impact your health. Here are some common household items and the recommended lifespan, after which you should think about replacing it.
1. Toothbrush: Three to Four Months
Dentists recommend changing your toothbrush even sooner if the bristles get frayed. That’s because those bristles need to be in good working order to best clean plaque off your teeth and sneak into crevices. Frayed bristles are simply not as effective at cleaning food and germs from your mouth.
There is no clinical evidence that microbes in toothbrushes will harm you. However, the American Dental Association still recommends rinsing your toothbrush after each use and storing it where it can fully dry out in between uses.
2. Car Seat: Six Years
The high price of baby equipment convinces some parents to reuse items for each kid. While this is a good economic practice, it could be dangerous if you’re using safety items past their recommended lifespan.
Individual car seats may have a specific expiration date, in which case, you should follow that date. If your car seat has no listed time frame, replacing it after six years is a good rule of thumb.
There are two big reasons for this. One is that the technology improves so rapidly that after six years, there will be much safer options. The second is that parts of the seat can imperceptibly degrade or become weaker over time. You may not see the damage, but the seat could perform worse in a crash.
3. Spices and Herbs: Two or Three Years
This is a tricky one because you may have a decade-old container of garlic salt that still smells garlicky and looks normal. The problem is that spices and herbs lose the potency of their flavor over time.
While it’s probably safe to eat old herbs and spices, you’re not getting the benefit of using them. Even if a jar of oregano smells like you think it should, the strong flavor won’t be there when you put it in food (and that’s the whole point of using it).
4. Pillows: Three Years
This one might be a heartbreaker for those who have a favorite pillow. Unfortunately, dust mites, bacteria, and dead skin find their way into pillows over time, and it’s hard to get rid of them.
You can buy a zippered pillow cover to lengthen the life, but eventually, every pillow passes its expiration date. Not replacing your pillow can lead to year-round allergies and acne.
5. Dish Sponge: Two Weeks
This will break the hearts of thrifty people who pride themselves on using sponges until they disintegrate. Unfortunately, these cleaning tools are also bacteria magnets.
You can reduce the number of germs by squeezing the water out after using it. Microwaving a sponge for 30 seconds can also help kill the bacteria in it.
Experts also recommend using paper towels to clean up messes from raw meats, so that the potential e. coli and salmonella germs go into the trash and not onto your sponge. However, even a well cared for sponge needs to be replaced once it starts falling apart.