Spring Cleaning Should Apply to Your Medicine Cabinet

Certainly, a right of spring is throwing open the windows to air out the house and going through the closet for clothes that are either outdated, outgrown or refuse to let go of that stain from a Swedish meatball. Indeed, the drumbeat for “getting rid of stuff” and seeking a clutter-free existence has never been stronger.

One great place to make a significant dent is probably in that area relegated to medicine and first aid. You may be shocked… embarrassed… to see cartoon character bandages and infant Tylenol purchased for a toddler… who is now shaving. This is no time to be sentimental and keep it for the grandkids!

While you may be tempted to grab a trash bag and go forth, take a minute to sort through the trash-bound goods. First and foremost, adhere to this rule: Your toilet is not a trashcan. Pitching prescription medicines down the toilet, sink or garbage disposals creates an environmental hazard in our wastewater system.

You have a couple of choices:

  • You can empty prescription bottles into a sealable plastic bag with coffee grounds, kitty litter or sawdust and a little water, seal it and put it in the trash. Peel labels from bottles, rinse bottles out and dispose of the trash as well; shred or cut up labels.
  • Some pharmacies offer a prescription disposal service for old or expired medications as well as unused syringes, needles and other medical material used to administer medication. Chat with your pharmacist for their suggestion.

So, what should go?

  • Dates matter. Prescription medicines more than a year old, put in a “to go” bag. Check the expiration dates on over the counter medicines (including ointments), supplements and vitamins, as they lose strength.
  • Appearance changes. Hate to be judgmental, but if it looks or smells different, throw it away.
  • What the heck is it? If you have placed in an unmarked container for travel or who knows why, throw it away.

Beyond the medicine cabinet. While most of us grew up with a medicine cabinet in the bathroom where all this stuff was stored, pharmaceutical experts concur that the bathroom is possibly the WORST storage place. Temperature and humidity changes can negatively impact medicine. A cool dry place, away from children, like a drawer in your dresser or a lockbox in your closet, may be a good alternative. Contrary to popular belief, the refrigerator is NOT a good place to store medicines (unless the label directs otherwise). Again, humidity and temperature issues. Consider a drawer in your dresser or a lock box in your closet.