How Often Should You Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet?
Generally it is a good idea to go through your medicine cabinet at least once a year. This includes prescription as well as over the counter medicines. Remember, over the counter products like vitamins, pain relievers and herbal supplements also expire.
First, empty the cabinet entirely. Wash down the inside of the cabinet with a disinfectant and be sure to let it dry completely. Look at the expiration dates on all over the counter items. Discard anything that is expired. It’s best not to try to save money by keeping any medicine that has expired. It maybe dangerous or if not, it may have lost its efficacy or potency.
For prescription medications, if you no longer need to take them, then get rid of them. Also get rid of them if they are expired. If you are unsure of a prescription expiration date, call your pharmacist.
Safe Disposal of Medicine
Safety counts in more than one way. We don’t want these drugs to get into the water supply. We also don’t want to have any prescription medicine fall into the hands of youngsters or pets. If you have been prescribed opioids like Vicodin or Percocet for pain, you must be very careful, as those drugs are very powerful and should not fall into the wrong hands. You also want to keep yourself safe, so remove all stickers and anything that bears your name or other personal information.
Local municipalities don’t want drugs to get into the water supply so flushing or dumping old medicine down the sink is not a good idea. Many localities hold events once or twice a year where you can turn in old, unwanted medications. Call your local fire station for information on these events.
Another idea proposed by Consumer Reports is to empty all your unwanted pills into an old plastic container and then pour something messy like cooking oil or coffee grounds over them. Put the plastic container in a zip lock bag and put it in the trash.
This should keep you and your family safe and healthy.
Editor’s Note: We originally published this article in September 2013. We have edited it for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.