Medically Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar, MD on September 09, 2020
It doesn’t take long for sponges to become a hotbed of bacteria. They can spread germs to your hands and then to your food. Or if you have a cut on your hand, bacteria can enter your body that way. Even if you boil or microwave your sponges after each use, scientists say it’s best to replace them once a week.
Your nightly neck and head prop loses shape and firmness over time. It also absorbs the sweat, oil, and skin cells you shed while you sleep. Trade in old pillows for new ones every 2 years -- sooner if they’re flat, lumpy, or stay folded after you bend them in half.
Twice-a-day scrubbing sessions really do in your toothbrush’s bristles over time. For best cleaning results, switch to a new one every 3 to 4 months.
Nonstick pots and pans with scratches, grooves, or flaking polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon) should be on your kitchenware move list. Luckily, Teflon flakes won’t hurt you if they get in your food. Still, they're a sign you’re due for something new.
While products vary, a good rule of thumb is to restock cosmetics around the 6-month mark to keep bacteria at bay. Always replace makeup after you’ve used it on infected skin or eyes.
Wash applicators regularly with warm water and a mild soap to keep them clean enough to use for a good while. Follow this schedule: once a week for tools that apply wet makeup; twice a week for eye makeup applicators. Brushes for dry makeup can go a month between cleaning. Toss them once they look frayed or worn.
Your HVAC system’s filters should come with instructions that tell you how often to replace them, but the EPA recommends every 60-90 days as a general guide. If they seem extra gunky when you switch them, change them out sooner next time.
Manufacturers are required to put expiration dates on their meds. Some studies show they work much longer than their stamped shelf life, but the best option is to keep your medicine cabinet contents current. Most expired medications will lose strength over time. When you toss drugs, be responsible: The FDA’s website can give you guidelines for what to trash, what to flush, and where to look for take-back options in your area.
Any sign of wear on an extension cord means it’s time to throw it out. Cracks, damage, or problems with the plug or prongs can be a fire hazard. Inspect cords before use, and don’t run one under a rug or overload it with too many appliances.
Check the manufacturer’s date on your smoke alarm. If it’s 10 years ago or more, get a new one. This goes for alarms powered by 9-volt batteries, lithium batteries, or those that are hardwired into your home.
Contact Lens Case
To keep your contact case clean, rinse it with fresh saline solution, not water, after each use. Chuck it for a fresh one every 3 months. Cracked or damaged cases make a great home for bacteria, so replace them right away.
Ready to get rid of your computer, TV, cellphone, or other gadget? Do it right: Check with the manufacturer first to see if they have a recycling or donation program. Or call your local recycling center so your gadgets don’t end up in a landfill.
It’s safe to toss regular batteries (AA, AAA, manganese, and carbon-zinc) in the trash, but it’s worth a call to your local recycling center to find out other options for these single-use power supplies. Nickel-cadmium or small sealed lead acid rechargeable batteries have toxic metals in them that are bad for the environment and the human body. You’ll need to find a drop-off facility or recycling event.
Leftover water-based latex paint that hasn’t been stored in an airtight container at room temperature can break down in a matter of months or sooner. If you notice the can bulging, it there’s probably a buildup of gas-producing bacteria inside. Call your local government or public works to find out how to get rid of it safely.
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Scientific Reports: “Microbiome analysis and confocal microscopy of used kitchen sponges reveal massive colonization by Acinetobacter, Moraxella and Chryseobacteriumspecies.”
National Sleep Foundation: “When Should You Replace Your Pillow?”
American Dental Association: “Toothbrush Care: Cleaning, Storing and Replacement.”
The University of Illinois College of Medicine: “Safe Use of Cosmetics.”
Cleveland Clinic: “Think Makeup Makes You Break Out? It Might Be Dirty Brushes.”
EPA: “Guide to Air Cleaners in the Home,” “Frequent Questions on Recycling.”
Harvard Medical School: “Drug Expiration Dates — Do They Mean Anything?”
FDA: “Disposal of Unused Medicines: What You Should Know,” “Don’t Be Tempted to Use Expired Medicines.”
Consumer Product Safety Commission: “Limit Extension Cords To Reduce Risk of Fire.”
U.S. Fire Administration: “Smoke Alarm Outreach Materials.”
American Academy of Ophthalmology: “How to Take Care of Contact Lenses.”
Consumer Reports: “How Long Does Leftover Paint Last?”
Tibbs Bioscience Blog: “Ask a Toxicologist: Is it safe to use Teflon pans?”