Cleaning with hydrogen peroxide. Credit: Sam Schipani / BDN

Because we are spending more time at home, you might be doing a little more obsessive cleaning and organizing than usual. If you are going through and tossing things that don’t “spark joy,” you might also want to check to see if certain items throughout your house are expired.

There are some obvious times to seek out expiration dates — cleaning out the refrigerator, for example — but there are some unexpected instances where you should keep an eye out for expired products, too.

Here are nine things you might not have known have expiration dates that you should check and toss during your next cleaning frenzy.

Pantry staples

There are a number of things in your pantry that you may not have known can go rancid, including flour, rice and nuts. Check out this list of foods you might not have known could go rancid to figure out where to start.


While expired spices do not pose a food safety threat, they do lack potency and are better replaced if you are going to keep making tasty homemade food. Check the expiration date on your spices if the containers have them, or figure out if your spices are past your prime by conducting a simple smell or visual test. Toss spices that are past their prime, or you can use them in creative ways around the house. Then, you can purchase more, or dry your own herbs for a fun, fresh way to spice up your cooking.


According to the Food and Drug Administration, bacteria like the kind that causes pinkeye and other infections can start to grow in an open mascara tube within three months of use (nevermind the fact that the product might also dry out and make your lashes look flaky). Similarly, lipsticks that are exposed to air start to dry out and change consistency after around two years and can harbor lots of nasty bacteria you won’t want anywhere near your lips. Some products even have a hidden expiration date, but you can also just honestly reflect on the age of your products and toss as necessary. While you are cleaning up around your vanity, you should also keep in mind that perfumes expire between three and five years as well, so it’s time to toss those perfumes you have had since high school.

Cleaning products

Cleaning out your cleaning products? We see the irony, but disinfectants like bleach will lose their power three months after opening, rendering them much less effective (and, given the global pandemic, you probably want those products to work as well as possible). Similarly, hydrogen peroxide’s disinfecting abilities are only effective for about three years unopened, or up to six months if the seal has been broken. Check your cleaning products for expiration dates, and if they are past their prime, run out and grab new ones — or, make those cleaning products yourself and save yourself the trip and some packaging.


According to the Mayo Clinic, most sunscreen works at full strength for around three years. Having effective sun protection, even during the winter, is important for skin health. Throw out sunscreen past the listed expiration date. If it doesn’t have a date on the bottle, make sure you note the day of purchase and toss after a few years. If you do, consider replacing your conventional sunscreen with one of these reef-safe alternatives we tested.

Bug spray

Bug spray is no longer effective after about two years after the manufacture date, which is usually marked on the bottle. You definitely want to clean out your expired bug spray before mosquito season. Add that to the litany of things you might do to keep mosquitoes away from your yard this upcoming spring and summer for a (hopefully) bite-free season.

Fire extinguishers & smoke detectors

Having a good fire safety plan and having the proper tools for it are important no matter where you live. Fire extinguishers expire after around 15 years. Smoke detectors, meanwhile, expire after 10 years. Keep these both up to date along with your home fire escape plan to rest easy with peace of mind.


The shelf life differs between types and sizes of battery, as well as where they are stored. Batteries start to expire as soon as they are made, so the expiration date printed on them or the package doesn’t matter whether you use the battery or not. Make sure you store batteries in a dry location at around room-temperature for maximum longevity. Check the date and, if they are expired, make sure you properly recycle or dispose of them.

Car seats

If you have a baby car seat sitting in your garage waiting to pass on to someone else, you might want to reconsider. Because they are made from materials that expand and contract with age and temperature, most car seats expire six to 10 years after their manufacture date. That date should be stamped somewhere on the bottom or side of the seat. Also note that previous damage or car crashes can also affect the safety of the seat, so unlike many other home objects, you shouldn’t buy one used. Make sure you also stay abreast of state car seat laws while you do so.

Checking these expiration dates will not only make your home a little more tidy, it may prevent you from getting sick or injured.

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