Cleaning Out Your Medicine Cabinet

Spring is here! This is a great time to clean out winter clutter. Marie Kondo, a New York Times best-selling author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” says the best way to approach cleaning is not by location, but by category. One of the more neglected categories in our home is our medication. Unlike our other materials that need to be tossed each spring, we have to take special care with our medications, both in evaluating whether to keep them and how we dispose of them. Below are four easy tips for cleaning out your expired medications the proper way.

Assorted pills and medicine bottles of varying colors are scattered on a white table.

1. Find a better spot for your medication

So, the first mistake most of us make when storing medication is keeping it in our medicine cabinet in the first place. Keeping medicine in our bathrooms can lower the potency and shelf-life due to our medicines not being tightly sealed. The heat and steam from showering can melt or erode our medications over time making them less effective. A solution is to consider only storing products in the bathroom that you will completely use within three months. Anything that needs to be stored longer should be put into a basket and stored in a cool, dry place, like a dresser or bedside table drawer. Remember, no matter what place you choose, it should not be accessible by small children.

2. Remove old medicine from your supply

Medicines can cost a lot of money so many of us are hesitant to toss away expired medication. However, taking expired medication can add to your troubles instead of helping them. Be sure to check the dates of everything in your medicine cabinet. Collect anything that is expired into a trash bag. Be sure to check your unexpired medicine, supplements, and vitamins as well. If they have been exposed to too much light or heat, you will notice a distinct change in smell or color. Play it safe and toss those out too. Also, be sure to get rid of any containers that have faded labels or are unmarked. Be sure to test any medical devices, like thermometers or blood pressure monitors, to make sure they are in working order.

3. Dispose of your old medication responsibly

Unlike other spring-cleaning trash, medication thrown in the garbage can be toxic for the environment. Check with your local waste management company for the best way to dispose of old medication. SEARHC pharmacies also offer medication disposal services. Read our blog post “Don’t Dump Old Drugs” for more information on what medication disposal options are available to you here in Southeast. If you are throwing away non-toxic medication, be sure to seal it in a plastic bag with coffee grounds or kitty litter to prevent wild animals from eating it.

4. Don’t forget to restock

As you are sorting and tossing your old medication, make a list of what you are getting rid of and talk to your doctor or advice nurse about which medicines you need to replenish and keep handy. Everyone’s needs are different but here are a couple of basic ones you may want in any medicine supply:

  • Pain reliever (Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen)
  • Thermometer
  • Heartburn reliever
  • Band-aids
  • Allergy medicine
  • Anti-itch cream
  • Cough medicine

Following the tips above when cleaning out your medicine cabinet will make sure your winter clutter will not get in the way of your health.

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