Past Its Prime: When to Throw Away Common Household Products

As the weather warms up and you’re spending more time outside enjoying it, it’s time to stop procrastinating and finally clean out the garage. Whether you can hardly fit another thing in it or you just can’t find what you need in the disorganized mess, here’s some guidance to keep you from hanging on to household products that are past their prime.

When to Throw Away Paint

Do you have a stash of half-used paint cans on a shelf that you’re saving for just in case you need to do a touch up some day? If they’ve been open for more than two years, it’s time to toss them, according to LifeHacker. This should be pretty easy to tell on you own, as paint dries out and hardens over time after opening. Alternately, if unopened, canned paint can last up to ten years according to Real Simple. Spray paint generally has a shorter shelf life of two to three years. Always dispose of paint in an environmentally responsible manner. Paint should not go into the landfill.

When to Toss Antifreeze

Premixed anti-freeze is has a shelf-life of one to five years, according to the home experts at Real Simple, though you should review the label for a more specific date. For antifreeze concentrate (not already mixed with water), you can expect to use it indefinitely as long as it’s stored in cool, dry conditions. Coolant/antifreeze manufacturer Prestone notes that its antifreeze concentrate product is good for “many years.”

How About Pool & Hot Tub Chemicals

Each individual pool product has its own expiration date. If one isn’t clearly printed on the packaging, call the manufacturer for more information. As a best practice, date all chemicals with a permanent marker before you begin using them. Be sure to store chemicals out of reach of pets and children in a cool dry place, free from environmental contaminants. Experts also recommend storing acids and sanitizers separately to avoid any chemical cross-contamination.

Does Bleach Go Bad?

When stored in a cool dry place away from direct sunlight, bleach can last for up to a year, according to Clorox. After six months, it begins breaking down into salt and water, which causes the effectiveness to decrease over time.

What About Laundry Detergent?

Whether you prefer liquid or powdered detergent, the shelf life for unopened detergent is the same: nine months to a year, according to Real Simple. Once open, it’s only good for six months, so skip buying it in bulk unless you regularly do more than five loads of laundry per week.

Do Batteries Go Bust?

All batteries are marked with a freshness date, which should be heeded accordingly as the internal components of batteries corrode over time, notes Real Simple notes that lithium batteries typically have a longer shelf life (10 years) than alkaline batteries (seven years).

And, Finally, Gasoline…

Gasoline that’s stored in a container designed for long-term storage has a shelf life of no more than a few years, according to It degrades over time, becoming stale changing the octane rating. It can damage the engine of your car, boat or even lawn mower if they require gasoline of a different octane.

About the Author: Sean Graham is an educator, blogger, and father.