Things That Last and Things That Don’t: Everything About the Shelf Life of Common Household Items

What’s the best way to store oranges? How can I make flour last longer? How do I know if my salsa has gone bad? Is it really dangerous to use old toothpaste? A few years ago, you could have gotten the answers to all those questions from your home economics teacher. Now, however, schools are a little more oriented towards the Pythagorean theorem and frog dissection. You know, things we never use.
Getty Images Photo by Stacy Zarin Goldberg
Getty Images Photo by Stacy Zarin Goldberg
Lucky for you, the answers are right here, along with a detailed guide on the shelf life and maintenance of nearly any important household item.

Tropical Fruits

Tropical climates are incredibly complex — warm temperatures, frequent rain, and insane humidity all come together and produce some of the best tropical fruits known to man.

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Since they’re grown under such specific conditions, they can’t be stored in a cool, relatively dry fridge.  Your mangoes, peaches, and other tropical friends would lose nutrients and flavors during their refrigerated stay. Instead, put them in a nice colorful bowl on your counter or coffee table.

Frozen Fruits and Veggies

We open the fridge a lot more than we open the freezer, so it’s easy to forget about the frozen goods we’ve got in there. The extreme cold does make sure the food we store there lasts long, but not forever.

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Frozen vegetables might spoil in 10 months or less, and frozen fruit might do the same in 6-9 months. If you’re on the fence about the products in your freezer, wash the crystallized ice off them. If they still have good color and texture — they’re safe.

Leftover Coffee

As long as they are kept in an airtight container, there is no problem in storing coffee beans or brewed coffee in the fridge. If you have no such container, however, putting these items in the fridge will only damage the items and your refrigerator.

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You see, coffee beans should be stored somewhere cool and dry — and the fridge is not very dry. As for brewed coffee, if it’s too hot, it can mess up with your fridge’s thermostat and possibly damage other products stored in it. Not to mention, it will make everything inside smell like coffee.

Citrus Fruits

Storing fruit in the fridge affects them in two ways: it slows down their ripening process and it makes them less flavorful.

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Citrus fruits especially need to be stored at room temperature to be the best they can be. Your best option would be to store them in a nice big bowl and put that bowl on the coffee table in your living room. You know, just like at your grandma’s house!

Vegetables

Vegetables we buy by the pound don’t come with an expiration date and can usually survive the fridge for a week or two.

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The ones that come with a package and a date (broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, etc.) usually outlast the expiration date. When trying to decide if your veggies are good to eat, just look for irregular smells, textures, slime, or dark spots. As long as none of these appear, your salad is safe.

Butter

Ah, butter. A toast’s best friend. Treat it with care and you can make it last longer than the date printed on the package.

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First, never leave butter at room temperature — it will stay fresh for no more than two days. You will easily see it changing its consistency or starting to mold, which isn’t good. Keeping it in the fridge will help it stay fresh for up to a month, and storing it in the freezer will make it live for 6-9 months!

Mouthwash

There is nothing like mouthwash to give your oral hygiene routine a finishing touch. You gurgle, you spit, and you smile at yourself in the mirror because you know this smile can mask any kind of existential crisis you’re about to fall into. Just make sure your bottle of mouthwash is up to date.

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Usually, it has a great shelf life and can hold for a few years. After two or three years, however, it becomes ineffective. We trust you to finish the product long before that.

Female Hygiene Products

This might come as a surprise to some of you, but female hygiene products come with an expiration date as well. When exposed, cotton can easily catch mold and bacteria, which can lead to infections and irritations. It is one of the reasons these products are so well-wrapped.

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That being said, all this wrapping combined with the right storage does give these products very long shelf life. Tampons, for example, can last approximately five years.

Bleach

We usually buy bleach by the gallon but that may not be the smartest thing to do. You see, bleach has an expiration date too, and it’s usually six months after you first open it. After six months, it becomes less effective, which means your cleaning will be moot.

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So, unless you really think you can go through a full gallon of bleach in the span of six months, get smaller bleach bottles in your next trip to the supermarket.

Old Shampoo & Conditioner

You don’t need to have a science degree to know when one of your hair care products goes bad. There is usually a change in color, smell, or consistency that is pretty obvious, letting you know to chug the jug in the nearest trash can.

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As long as your shampoo or conditioner doesn’t show any changes, you should be good. That being said, don’t use the product if it has been 18 months since you first opened it. Just like lots of other shower-stored items, this too can have bacteria, which you definitely don’t want on your scalp.

Basil

Got some fresh basil from the farmers’ market? Great. Put it in the fridge? Not so great. Basil needs to be stored where it has access to sunlight.

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If you don’t want your basil to wilt, fill half a cup with fresh water and put the basil in there. Then, place the cup near a window where is can see the sun. If you’re lucky, it may even grow some roots and you’ll never have to buy it again as you’ll be growing your own.

Antibacterial Cleaners

This might sound like something taken from the deep hallucinations of Monica from “Friends” but hear us out for a minute. Cleaning products have expiration dates. That applies to antibacterial cleaners as well.

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Antibacterial cleaners are good for about a year before they start to become ineffective. So take a look at your cleaning supplies and make sure you aren’t working in vain with products that don’t do their disinfecting job anymore.

Cucumber

Cool cucumber slices on your eyes can be incredibly relaxing. But that doesn’t mean you should store your cucumbers in the fridge.

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When stored in there for long, they can become waterlogged and less flavorful. Our best advice would be to only buy a few at a time and store them in the pantry or on the counter so you always have them fresh. If you desire some cool cucumbers, just give them an hour in the fridge before you use them.

Nut Butter

Unopened nut butter can stay fresh for a year regardless of where it’s being stored. Commercial peanut butter usually has more preservatives and can last up to two years from purchase.

 

Non-commercial (natural) nut butter can stay fresh for up to three months after the first opening. As long as it tastes good, it’s safe to eat. Nutella (which is more nutty than buttery) can stay fresh for up to 2-3 months past its official expiration date.

Pillows

Apparently, changing a pillowcase once every couple of weeks is not enough. We also need to change the whole pillow every year or two. What’s next? Changing the whole bedframe every full moon? Can we please catch a break?

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So, it’s not like we get arrested if we don’t change our pillow in a few years. However, it is recommended, especially if you’re allergic to dust mites that may build up in there or suffer from back or neck pains.

Meat

When stored in the fridge, meat can last no more than a few days. In the freezer, however, ground meat can hold for 3-4 months and whole cuts of meat can hold for up to a year!

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The reason that freezing the meat keeps it going for so long is that the kind of bacteria that causes food poisoning can’t grow in the freezer. Sure, the meat may not taste just as good as its fresh counterpart, but it will still be safe to consume.

Skincare Products

Yes, skin-care is expensive. Yes, we would all like to make our skin products last longer. But no, we can’t risk using products past their expiration date.

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The expiration date on a skin-care product is usually half a year to a year from purchase. After that, the expired formula can be ineffective at best or trigger nasty skin reactions at worst. No acne for us, thanks. We tried it in middle school and weren’t happy with the service.

Towels

Bathroom towels have it hard. They have to deal with other people’s dirty hands all the time, live in a warm and humid room, and accumulate bacteria.

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Those of us who treat their towels well will wash them frequently, but we all know that after one too many visits to the washing machine, the fabric can wear. Tough is the life of a common bathroom towel. The best thing you can do is put the towels out of their misery and replace them with new ones once every three years.

Milk

The recommended date on most milk packages is usually five days before the product actually expires. (And when we say milk, we mean actual milk. Not the soy/coconut/rice/oatmeal kind.)

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The more fat the milk has, the less time it can survive. This means that whole milk won’t survive as long. However, non-fat milk can stay viable for up to 10 days! The best way to know if your milk is good is to look for odd smells, color, or consistency.

Fire Extinguishers

Generally speaking, all fire extinguishers —in both public and private places— need to be inspected periodically. The reason for that is that extinguishers can expire over time, and that can have some serious consequences.

 

What makes extinguishers expire is gas escaping from the seal ever-so-slowly. When too much of it is out of the tank, there isn’t enough pressure left in it for the mechanism to work. Just to be safe, when in doubt, throw the old extinguisher out. (And obviously, replace it with a new one.)

Old Spices

No, we aren’t talking about the men’s personal care brand. We’re talking about actual spices that are actually old. (Other than vanilla extract and salt, which can potentially last forever.) Take a look at your spice rack. There must be some spices in there you don’t remember using in a year (at best). These babies have to go.

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Spices that are more than 3-4 years old can go stale and cause stomach problems and become less, well, spicey. While it isn’t life-threatening, we’re sure you’d appreciate skipping an occasional day spent on the toilet.

Frozen Meals and Desserts

As their name might suggest, pre-made meals and TV dinners have already been cooked. This makes them less durable than other types of frozen food, and they only last up to three months in the freezer.

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Fresh food kept in the freezer might gradually lose some flavor but will last much longer. Ice cream and other frozen dairy products will usually last for 2-4 months in the freezer. Pancakes, waffles, and other grain-based dishes will hold there for two months.

Ketchup

We bet our last dime you keep your ketchup in the fridge. After all, it is fairly common. But it turns out you don’t really have to. Room-temp ketchup won’t spoil any faster.

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Think about it — diners and restaurants keep their ketchup on the tables at room temperature all the time! All the preservatives in the ketchup’s formula make sure it doesn’t spoil no matter where you keep it. It can, however, spoil if you contaminate it with other kinds of food. So as long as you squirt it out of the bottle without letting anything else get inside, it should stay in mint condition even past the printed date.

Batteries

Batteries aren’t forever, but they can last for up to 10 years. This also means it’s easy to forget how old your batteries really are. While expired batteries can’t really harm us, they are very bad for the environment.

 

Do yourselves a favor; go get a fresh batch of batteries with a visible expiration date, do an overall sweep of all the battery-powered devices at home, and change what’s necessary. Don’t forget to dispose of the expired batteries in the designated waste bins.

Sunglasses

No, sunglasses don’t usually come with an expiration date attached. Yes, you’d like to keep yours because they mean you can look at other people without them realizing. But you should know you will need to part with those fancy shades at some point, and not for the sake of fashion.

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You see, when sunglasses are in the sun for too long (which they are going to be, it’s kind of their job), the sunlight will make the lenses less effective. Once they don’t screen UV rays away, our eyes are unprotected. Replace them once every two years and keep your eyes safe.

Avocados

Avocados have a very small window of opportunity during which you can enjoy their delicious goodness. There is a little trick to help you regulate their ripening process and avoid a disappointing overripe avo.

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Place your avocados in the open air. A nice bowl on the counter usually does it. Next, you will have to feel and check them every day. Once they hit the right spot and ready for eating, put them in the fridge. Refrigerating them will slow the ripening process significantly, which means you can save it for a few more days rather than eating it right away.

Toothbrushes

No matter what your morning routine is, we’re sure it includes brushing your teeth. (And if it doesn’t, you must have some more important things to do than reading this article.) But have you ever given thought to how often you change your toothbrush?

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Dentists recommend changing your toothbrush once every four months. The reason? Over time, the bristles on your brush catch some micro-germs you don’t want in your mouth. You should also change your toothbrush after recovering from a cold, which can speeds things up germ-wise.

Vegetable Oil

Generally speaking, vegetable oil is usually the healthier option for just about anything you cook, bake, or fry. However, once it expires (about six months after opening the seal) it becomes as treacherous as a steroid-ridden Judas.

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Expired vegetable oil has some changes in its chemistry. When ingested, it has been linked to heart diseases, cancer, and neurological disorders. If you don’t use vegetable oil that often anyway, just get a smaller bottle.

Motor Oil

Obviously, we shouldn’t ingest motor oil under any circumstances. We also don’t rub it on our bodies or use it to clean our houses. So does it really matter how often we change it? The answer is yes. Very much so.

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Old motor oil is not safe to use in a car. And surprisingly, it does have an expiration date. Regardless of the date, it’s also easy to see when the oil is too old. Just check the consistency — if it’s sticky, thick, or has gooey-looking pieces, don’t use it.

Flour

Flour is an incredibly basic kitchen product. (Unless you can’t have gluten, in which case, we’re sorry.) And just like anything in your fridge or pantry, it can also go bad.

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Sure, there is an expiration date on the package, but you might want to take a closer look at the actual powder before you start using it. If it smells weird, has suspicious, possibly moldy spots on it, don’t cook/bake with it. Your stomach will thank you for the anguish you spared it. In terms of storage, make sure your flour stays fresh by storing it in an airtight container so it lasts longer.

Cracked Cords

Okay now, these are actually hazardous. Sure, there is no expiration date involved, but you should pay attention to any visible sign of damage you see on your power cords.

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The minute you see exposed wires, scratches, cracks, or anything of the sort, it’s time to let the cord go. Make sure to look at each and every plugged cord in your house, especially the ones that are stuck behind a desk or two pieces of furniture. When it comes to fire hazards, you can never be too safe.

Old Pacifiers

You know what it’s like with babies. They grow up so fast, and their items get passed down to siblings, cousins, and friends faster than you can blink. This might be okay with strollers, clothes, and toys, but don’t you even think of doing it with pacifiers.

 

When a pacifier’s rubber gets worn out (which happens often when the child is teething), pieces can tear off and create a choking hazard. Some pacifier brands have expiration dates printed on their package, but you would do well to just change your child’s pacifier once every two months and not take that risk.

Acne Medications

Oh, acne, herald of puberty, we don’t miss you one bit. Remember that acne medication you were prescribed way back in your early teens? Even as an adult, you might be tempted to reach for it when you spot something remotely close to a zit on your face. But don’t.

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If that medication is expired (and there’s a good chance it is), it will just be ineffective. Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are the main ingredients in most acne treatments and they lose effectiveness within 4-6 months.

Hydrogen Peroxide & Rubbing Alcohol

When did you last check your first aid kit? If it takes you too long to come with an answer to this question, you might want to do it right now.

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The rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide you see there are used to disinfect cuts and wounds. But if the product in your kit is expired, rubbing it on a bleeding cut won’t help because it is no longer effective. At this point, you might realize you need to take a little trip to the drugstore. When you get your new products, take a look at their expiration dates, and set a reminder on your phone for when you need to replace them.

Carrots

If we’re talking about short-term storage, the fridge can be a good place for your carrots. However, if you leave them in there for too long, they can become droopy.

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Your best option for long-term storage would be the pantry or a closet with low moisture that sees no direct sunlight. If you have some carrot pieces you’d already cut up and want to save for later, here is what you need to do: get a plastic container, fill it with water, put the carrot pieces in there, and put the whole thing in the fridge. It should buy your carrots a few more hours.

Seafood

As a general rule, the freezer will make seafood last longer than the fridge. Raw fish like halibut, cod, or salmon, will last 6-9 months in the freezer, but only a day or two in the fridge.

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The fridge will grant smoked fish a lifespan of about 5-7 days, while the freezer will help it last 3-6 months. When air-packed, smoked fish can last 2-3 weeks in the fridge. Canned fish, however, takes the cake with a shelf life that extends their printed date by 2-5 years.

Dry Pasta

Uncooked pasta can last for a pretty long time. When stored in the package in the pantry, this Italian delicacy can hold for up to two years. Once the package is open, though, you have one year to help it find its way to your belly. (Which doesn’t sound very hard.)

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Fresh pasta, however, is a different story — if it’s spent more than two days in the fridge, don’t eat it. Cooked pasta has a week-long fridge-life, but the freezer will save it for 6-8 months.

Bananas

If you want your bananas to stay at their most nutritious state, keep them away from your fridge. Or any fridge for that matter. While the cold does make them ripen slower, the moisture in the fridge counters that effect and can turn them brown. And nobody wants brown bananas.

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If you aren’t planning on eating your bananas anytime soon but still want to keep them around, cut them up into little pieces, put them in a plastic bag, and store the bag in the freezer. They won’t be fresh-off-the-tree, but they’ll be great in your next smoothie.

Hot Sauce

Keep it in your pantry, keep it in your fridge, keep it on your bedside table as a midnight snack, (we won’t judge). Hot sauce is one of the few things that can be stored wherever you like.

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It has loads of natural preservatives (vinegar, for instance) which makes it last for a really long time. If you keep it away from direct sunlight, your hot sauce (no matter the brand) should be good to eat as long as it looks good and tastes good, even past its expiration date.

Boxed Wine

Wait, what? Aren’t old bottles of wine actually better? Have we been tricked into paying too much for our celebratory Pinot? Well, there is no need to panic. When it comes to bottled wine, it does improve with age. When stored in a box, it’s a little different.

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Boxed wine is usually good for 6-8 months after the purchase. You should also pay attention to the actual box material. Most of them contain BPA, which you don’t want in your body no matter how good the wine is.

Coffee Creamers

Loaded with preservatives, coffee creamers are usually still safe to use even if it’s been weeks since the date on their package has come and gone, but not forever. Three weeks within the expiration date would be a good time to toss whatever’s left in the nearest trash bin.

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If you use Half and Half creamers, you should know they contain fewer preservatives and can only last for 3-4 days. Storing it in the freezer, however, will buy it up to 4 months. Sealed non-dairy creamer at room temperatures can last up to two years. Once opened though, they will last a week or two in the fridge.

Eye Drops

Generally speaking, eye drops are great. Especially if you wear contacts that irritate your eye every once in a while. In fact, many people keep a bottle of these drops at hand just in case.

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But the truth is, you shouldn’t keep them around if you’ve broken the seal more than 28 days ago. After 28 days, the regular preservatives in the formula become ineffective, which means those very same drops can cause an infection.

Eggs

Okay, so this one is more of a social norm than a recommendation. Studies show that it doesn’t really matter if you store your eggs in the fridge or at room temperature. You should still be able to eat them within 2-3 weeks past the recommended date.

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Where you keep your eggs usually depends on where you’re from. In America, for example, people refrigerate their eggs. But in the UK, they keep it at room temp. However, the FDA does recommend that you keep them in the fridge. Still, we promise not to tell if you feel like using that extra space and storing them outside.

Apples

Okay, so apples don’t really come with an expiration date, but there is a thing or two you should know about storing them so they stay fresh for longer.

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First, room temperature is best for apples. It keeps them fresh for up to two weeks and makes sure most of their nutritional value stays within the fruit. Keeping your apples in the fridge will only make them mealy. The gas they emit will also make other perishables in your fridge ripen (and ultimately spoil) faster.

Old Medicine

This right here is not only a matter of following instructions, but it’s also just good sense. Look through your medicine cabinet and toss anything expired.

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Also, just as a pro tip — don’t store your medicine in the bathroom if you want it to live to see its expiration date. The room tends to be warm, damp, and humid, which can make the formulas go bad even quicker.

Jam

Jam is essentially just fruit that was cooked in sugar. This means that it has a naturally long shelf life no matter where you store it. Sure, you can store it in the fridge, but that won’t make much of a difference.

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However, one thing that can spoil your jam (no pun intended) is contaminating it with things other than jam. So, if you eat your jam with cheese, butter, or anything of the sort, don’t use the same knife for it all. Doing that will get some non-jam food particles in the jar, which will spoil the whole concoction.

Children’s Car Seat

Unlike other products on this list, which are perishable and obviously need to be replaced from time to time, a child’s car seat has no expiration date.

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This surprising item is usually very durable (as it should be to keep our children safe), but plastic doesn’t stay durable forever. Prolonged exposure to sunlight (which happens a lot when the seat is strapped in) will eventually turn it brittle. Luckily, that usually takes about six years to happen. By that time, the kid should be old enough to not need the seat anymore.

Disposable Razors

Whether you shave your face, your legs, or your armpits, we can bet our last penny that you haven’t been changing your disposable razors often enough.

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We usually mistake the fact that the blade is still sharp as a sign we can still use it. In reality, though, we should dispose (carefully) of the razor after three uses. After that, they can start attracting bacteria. And we definitely don’t want bacteria on an item that sometimes breaks through our skin, do we?

Cooking Oils

Regardless of type or brand, all cooking oils are essentially the same product and have virtually the same shelf life. According to the USDA, from the moment the oil’s cap has been popped, it has a lifespan of one year. Coconut oil, however, is a little more durable and can last for up to three years.

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Keep your cooking oils fresh by storing them in a kitchen cabinet or a pantry, and always make sure the cap is tight to prevent oxidation. Obviously, if the oil starts smelling or looking a little funny, don’t use it.

Yogurt

Yogurt has a pretty long shelf life comparing to most of its dairy friends. Low-fat and Greek yogurts can last for up to two weeks when refrigerated, no matter what the label says.

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Freezing yogurt can make it last even longer — two months after the printed date! The least-durable kinds of yogurt are the ones with fruit and the drinkable ones. But regardless of what the package says, you should always check your yogurt for mold, extra liquid, or odd smell.

Petroleum Jelly Containers

Petroleum jelly can be used in so many ways it might as well be the key to the survival of the entire human race when the Martians finally invade. But that too can sometimes go bad. One thing that speeds the product’s expiration is the fact we use our hands to scoop it, which ultimately lets bacteria in.

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So, while getting a big tub that would last a lifetime, go for smaller containers you can start and finish within a reasonable time. This is also a great time to get rid of that too-many-years-old tub of Vaseline in your medicine cabinet.

Sponges

Your house may be spotless. Your floor may be so clean you can eat whipped-cream off it. Your windows may be so clear pigeons often don’t realize they’re there. Your kitchen may look, dare we say, better than your mother-in-law’s. But your sponges are still dirty. It’s not you, it’s science.

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All the sponges we use for cleaning end up as breeding grounds for bacteria no matter what we do. To keep the bacteria away, change your sponges once every two weeks.

Salsa

Salsa is a must-have in any fridge. Well, any fridge of those of us who need something to dip their chips into.

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Just like other items found on this list, salsa can still be fresh and safe to eat even past its printed date, although we wouldn’t give it more than two weeks past what’s written on the package. If the label is torn or faded, just look at the salsa — if it has some spots or film on it, don’t dip anything in it. Instead, send it for a dip in the nearest trash can.

Canned Goods

Contrary to common belief, canned goods don’t last forever. You can stock up on them in your doomsday bunker all you want, but they are usually good for about four years when properly stored.

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Canned meat or vegetables, for example, can stay in the pantry for 2-5 years. More acidic foods, like sauerkraut or pickles, should last for about 18 months. Once opened, though, they should last for up to a week in the fridge. Also, always make sure to check your cans for any signs of rust, swelling, or deep dents.

Watermelons

Everybody loves to snack on a cool piece of watermelon when the temperatures rise. But tempting as it may be, don’t let it trick you into putting your melons in the fridge.

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Keeping watermelons at room temperature will hold their nutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants within the fruit. Those of you who are still interested in cold watermelons should just slice a few pieces about an hour before you plan on eating them and have them spend that hour in the fridge.

Honey

Generally speaking, honey can’t really go bad as it is its own preservative. However, refrigerated honey is no bueno.

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People who put their honey in the fridge (who are you?) will quickly find that their jar of golden sweetness has crystalized on the account of the cold air. That being said, there are ways to salvage crystallized honey. One is to fill a tub or a pot with warm water and place the entire jar in it until the honey turns liquid again.

Loofahs

We know, it’s a little counterintuitive. After all, loofahs are constantly engaging with soap. They are supposed to be the cleanest thing in our entire house. Well, they aren’t.

 

So you know how loofahs are great at gentle exfoliation? That’s exactly why we need to change them every 3-4 weeks. The dead skin can sometimes get caught in the loofah material. When places in a damp environment like our shower, it’s a sure found way of letting bacteria build up in the material. Bacteria party? No ma’am.

Dish Detergent

Dishwasher detergent does the hard work so we don’t have to. We should be building shrines for it. We should also change it once every three months.

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How does the detergent deteriorate after three months of some good cleaning? Simple. The cleaning enzymes lose their power. This means that your dishes leave the washer not much cleaner than they were when they first entered there.

Garlic

Garlic lovers usually know better than refrigerating their garlic. If you are garlic novices, you might wonder why that is.

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Well, refrigerated garlic loses its flavor and its texture becomes rubbery when refrigerated. Sometimes it even sprouts in the fridge! Assuming you’re cooking with it rather than farming it, it’s best to store it at room temperature. Loose, peeled cloves, however, can be stored in the freezer.

Chocolate

Storing your chocolate in the fridge can go either way. The temperature in the average fridge is about 40°F. Though it won’t really spoil your chocolate, the best temperature for chocolate storage is 65-68°F, which is a lot warmer.

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Refrigerated chocolate could be a little less flavorful but it will last for 6-8 months as opposed to 2-4 months in the pantry. You may notice a light white film on refrigerated chocolate — don’t let it scare you. It’s just cocoa butter reacting to the temperature. Little white dots, however, mean the chocolate is getting old.

Slippers

Slipping into your slippers at the end of a long day is incredibly comforting. Or so we thought. It turns out, that these fluffy, home-worn shoes also require frequent changing.

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It’s not that crazy when you think about it. These shoes do meet your feet on a daily basis and they are made with cushy material that can easily collect and house bacteria and dust mites. The overall recommendation is to replace them once a month to keep your feet safe from nasty infections.

Bread

Don’t put your bread in the fridge. The cold temperatures will turn it from the soft foundation of your next sandwich to a stale, tasteless, dry lump.

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It will also absorb any and all odors your fridge may have. No fun. Your best bet would be to get a breadbox, which will keep the moisture locked in the loaf. If you don’t feel like investing in a special box, your microwave could also do the trick.

Sunscreen

Expired sunscreen simply doesn’t screen the sun. It’s that simple. And we want that sun screened. Anyway, take a look in the cabinet behind your bathroom mirror.

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Yes, we know it’s where you keep your sunscreen, and no, we aren’t stalking you, that’s just good sense. Was the tube bought more than three years ago? If so, it’s time to get a new one.

Running Shoes

Well, that depends on how much running you actually do with them. If you wear your running shoes only to lie to yourself about getting in shape, don’t worry about it. If you actually do run, however, you might need a new pair every 400 miles or so.

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After 400 miles, there is natural wear around the outsoles and the foam on the inside becomes too compressed and not cushy enough. Basically, the shoe doesn’t support your weight as well as it did when you first bought it. The shoes absorb less of the shocks, which can result in pain or injuries.

Toothpaste

You can never be too careful with your oral hygiene. Most people think it comes down to brushing, flossing, and an occasional visit to the dentist. These obviously can’t hurt, but have you ever given any thought to your toothpaste’s expiration date?

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No matter how minty-fresh your toothpaste smells, after a couple of years, its ingredients become ineffective. This might leave your teeth exposed to the very things you’re trying to protect them from.

Mascara

Borrowing makeup can be tricky. Products are usually developed for certain complexion and skin type, so no one’s makeup bag is like the other. However, the thing they will usually have in common is the almighty mascara. But that too, like the lactose-free milk in your fridge, has an expiration date.

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More than 30% of mascara tubes get contaminated within three months after opening them. The kind of bacteria that gets in there can cause eye infections. And, in rare cases, affect your vision. Next time, just buy the sample-size, just to be on the safe side.

Alcohol

This may come as a surprise for some, but alcohol doesn’t stay good forever. If you ask researchers at Bacardi, they will tell you that alcohol stored in glass bottles is a little more vulnerable to warm temperatures, air, and light, which can eventually spoil it.

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Bottled wines (both red and white) can stay fresh for a year or two. The expiration date on beer is usually 6-9 months before it actually expires. Alcoholic beverages like whiskey or vodka can stay fresh for many years. Once the bottle is open (for any of the aforementioned drinks), it will only be safe to drink for two or three days.

Chips

Chips can generally last for a really long time. So long that an unopened bag can stay fresh for months!

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In fact, all the salt in the snack also acts as a preservative, which helps the snack last a long time even after it has been opened and exposed to oxygen. While they will stay ingestable for a long time after being opened, their quality won’t be as good and their texture will grow stale.

Air Conditioner Filters

Deep inside we all know that these filters need changing every once in a while. In practice, however, we get caught up in conference calls, PTA meetings, yoga classes, and that avocado that is now just perfect for dinner. Before you know it, it’s been five years.

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When they go unchanged for too long, these filters can have mold, dust, and bacteria build up in them. We may not feel it at first, but if you have respiratory problems (or live with someone who has them), you would do well to replace them twice a year at least.

Cereal

The best thing about cereal is its crunchy texture, and putting it in the fridge will make them lose it and go stale. A quick scan of the cereal box will tell you to store it somewhere cool and dry, like one of your kitchen cupboards.

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In terms of shelf life,  a box of cereal can stay fresh for 6-12 months if it’s never been opened. After it does open, however, it will stay fresh and crunchy for 2-3 months (as long as you close it when it isn’t being used).

Contact Case

Eye infections are bad. They can be even worse when you wear glasses. But they are the absolute worst if you wear contact lenses on a regular basis.

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One way of reducing the chance of getting eye infections is to change your contact solution whenever you place them back in the case. But there is something more you can do — replace the entire case once every three months. Sounds annoying? Well, eye infections are even more annoying, so do your math.

Olive Oil

We don’t know where you grew up or who raised you, but if you were lead to believe that olive oil belongs in the fridge, we’re sorry for all the hardship you’ve been through.

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When stored in the fridge, olive oil will harden and will start to resemble butter. Not good. If you’ve ever wondered what the alternative was, opt for the pantry or one of your kitchen cabinets.

Condiments

Most condiment labels will instruct you to keep them in the fridge. But the truth is, as long as they haven’t been opened, you can keep them in the pantry or kitchen cabinets. The label will also have an expiration date printed on it that isn’t entirely accurate.

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After the first opening, mustard can stay good for up to a year! Chili sauce and ketchup are good for about half that time once they’ve been opened. Horseradish and mayonnaise will stay fresh for up to 2-3 months after opening, and relish will do the same for 9 months.

Cheese

Okay, so determining the freshness of cheese is a little tricky. You know, because some of the fanciest kinds of cheese made a career out of smelling funky.

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Soft cheese can last for about a week or two in the fridge. Unopened hard cheese can spend six weeks in the fridge and still be safe to consume. Once it’s been opened, however, you have 3-4 weeks before it goes bad. Mold doesn’t necessarily mean your cheese isn’t safe to eat — you can simply cut the moldy parts off and enjoy the rest.