With Spring right around the corner, most of us will be fighting allergies, going on vacations, and doing a little spring cleaning. While you are getting all tidy and organized I wanted to provide some tips on how you can Spring Clean your medicine cabinets and why it is important.

Now, yes I know this is probably not something on the top of your list, but it is something you should find time to do. Many of those medications that you are saving for “in case you may need them one day” situations, could actually be doing more harm than good. Expired medical products can be less effective or risky due to a change in chemical composition or a decrease in strength. Certain expired medications are at risk of bacterial growth and sub-potent antibiotics can fail to treat infections, leading to more serious illnesses and antibiotic resistance.

Here are some tips for cleaning out your medicine cabinets. Your local pharmacy, police department or Drug Enforcement Agency may also be able to assist in disposing of medication in a safe manner.

  1. Check the dates. Examine everything in your medicine cabinet, including ointments, supplements and vitamins. Discard any item that is beyond the expiration date. Many medications lose their effectiveness after the expiration date. Some may even be toxic.
  2. For prescriptions, follow the one year cut off rule. Discard any prescription medications that are more than one year old. Don’t be tempted by expired medications!
  3. Ditch any items that have changed color, smell or taste. This includes any colors that have faded, because they may have been exposed to too much light.
  4. Discard unmarked containers. If something is no longer in its original container and cannot be identified, get rid of it. In the future, try to always keep medications in their original containers so that you can easily recognize every medication. This includes ointments, since these can easily be mistaken for creams.
  5. Be careful about throwing out medication. Because of the potential harm to the environment, it is not recommended to simply throw out medication or flush them down the toilet. Here’s what to do:
    • Place all medication in a sealable bag. If there are solid medications, add some water so they can dissolve.
    • Add kitty litter, coffee grounds, saw dust, or any material that mixes well and makes it unappealing for children or animals to eat.
    • Seal the bag and put it in the trash.
    • Remove any identifying information on the prescription bottle (like the label), clean and recycle.
  6. Consider relocating your medicine cabinet. Many people don’t realize that the bathroom cabinet is not the best place to store medication. The temperature and humidity changes that take place while the shower is running can lower the potency of your medication. Medications should be kept in a cool dry place, away from children. Consider a drawer in your dresser or a lock box in your closet.