Almost Everything You Own Will Expire: Know When

Almost Everything You Own Will Expire: Know When

Food isn't the only thing that expires. Everything from Windex to lipstick to condoms has an expiration date. It's good to use what you buy, but you also need to know when to throw it out.

Photo by Denis Tabler (Shutterstock) and Triff (Shutterstock)


We all know food expires and that lifespan can vary based on type and how you store the item. Rather than list every food in existence, you can easily look up the ones you want to know about at Still Tasty. Generally smell will answer your question pretty quickly, but if you're not sure after you've sniffed your probably-expired food you should see what this site says. It will help you err on the safe side.

Cleaning Products

You can't use your glass cleaner and bleach for the rest of your life. In fact, several of these items expire much sooner than you'd expect. Here are some common household products you should know about:

  • Bleach: 2 years
  • Dishwashing liquid: 1 year
  • Laundry detergent: 9 months unopened, 6 months opened
  • Windex/wood polish: 2 years
  • Metal polish: 3 years (sometimes more)
  • Rubbing alcohol: 3+ years

Basically, you're not going to succeed in cleaning anything if use these items past their expiration date. Make sure you dispose of anything you don't use safely.

Household Items

Nothing lasts forever, although household items tend to last longer than most. Still, they expire, too:

  • Batteries: 10 years
  • Paint: Up to 10 years unopened, 2-5 years opened
  • Spray paint: 2-3 years
  • Motor oil: 3-5 years unopened, 3 months opened

There's a fair chance you'll be able to tell if these items aren't good anymore, however, as batteries and paint just won't work.

Body and Beauty Products

You don't want to wash your body with expired soap, right? Or shave your face and/or legs with bad shaving cream? A lot of body and beauty products expire, so make sure you know when:

  • Bar of soap: 18 months to 3 years
  • Body gel/wash: 3 years
  • Shampoo: 2-3 years
  • Shaving cream: 2+ years
  • Lip balm: 5 years unopened, 1-5 years opened
  • Lipstick: 2 years
  • Teeth-whitening strips: 13 months
  • Nail polish: 1 year
  • Nail polish remover: Doesn't expire (so if you use expired nail polish, you'll definitely be able to get it off!)

For more information on when body and beauty products expire, check out our more detailed guide.


While we can't speak for the illegal kind, the drugs you get at the chemist definitely come with an expiration date. Whether or not that expiration date means anything is another story, according to Harvard Medical School:

If the expiration date passed a few years ago and it's important that your drug is absolutely 100 per cent effective, you might want to consider buying a new bottle. And if you have any questions about the safety or effectiveness of any drug, ask your pharmacist. He or she is a great resource when it comes to getting more information about your medications.

You can take a lot of drugs years past their expiration date but you might not want to. Ibuprofen, for example, evaporates over time and loses its efficacy.

Everything Else

Other stuff expires. For example, your furniture, silverware, and electronics will all go at some point. We look at expiration dates as a safety measurement for food in most cases, but nothing and nobody lasts forever. It's just that with furniture, silverware, and electronics, you can kind of tell when they're dead. Furniture falls apart, electronics don't turn on anymore, and silverware rusts. You'll know when it's time to say goodbye, but it also helps to know what kind of lifespan to expect (assuming no unexpected failures):

  • Laptop computers: About five years
  • Desktop computers: About five years (but replacing parts is a bit easier and you may be able to make them last a while longer)
  • Smartphones: 21 months (yikes!)
  • TV sets: At minimum, 16 years (but you'll replace it before then because that's what we do now)
  • Mattresses: Anywhere between five and 15 years, depending on these factors
  • Furniture: Depends on use, material, and construction quality, but it can outlive you if cared for and rarely moved
  • Humans: 78.7 years

Prepare accordingly.

Sources: RealSimple, Harvard Medical School, The Guardian, Bright Hub, Chron, the CDC.


    Drugs. Some are stable but have an expiration date because the company doesn't want to bother testing past say 2 years for example. Could be good for 5 years.

    Other drugs break down and could potentially be harmful if used after expiration.
    I recently did a clean out of our medicine chest.

      Can you name one drug that is otherwise fine that breaks down into harmful components? As far as I am aware, it's much more likely that they simply become less effective in every instance i'm aware of.

        No, I'm not a chemist. Go ask one, I'm sure they could name a few.

          It just seems like a strange concept.. A drug that is fine, but then degrades into toxic compounds lol..

          Since degradation starts nearly immediately even in the packaging (though all efforts are made to avoid), there'd nearly always be some trace of toxins in such a medicine. Seems like a bad plan :P

          Would be interested though if anyone knows of one!

      I've been hoarding Sudafed for years as it's been getting harder and harder to buy, with more chemists not bothering to stock it anymore due to the hassle. Had a cold this week and been taking Sudafed that expired two years ago, seems to work.

    your statements about expiry dates on electronics are ridiculous. Expiry implies that the device/product will either no longer work, work in a significantly diminished capacity or be unsafe for use after said date.

    The lifespans you are listing for laptops, desktops and smartphones are simply average length of use (smartphones in particular are only so low because of the industry standard of 24 month replacement cycles). Nothing about the device changes after time periods, so to say they have "expired" is just stupid

    Last edited 20/03/14 11:31 am

    Does that mean every 78.7 years we need to find another human? Shouldn't be too hard.

      Well Google has gotten a lot of really smart people together to tackle human aging. Be interesting to see what comes of it.

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