Even the cleanest, most fastidious among us need to replace common household items often – for better health.
According to the Reader’s Digest, a study of 1,000 dishcloths and kitchen sponges found that 10% contained salmonella, noting: “Each square inch of their surfaces contains about 134,630 bacteria, 456 times the number on a toilet seat” — 456 times the bacteria on a toilet seat? Per square inch?
Darla DeMorrow, a certified professional organizer, says, “There are three big risks to not replacing items in your home when they are past their useful life”: First, you can make your household sick; second, you can lower your home’s value by not keeping it in its best shape; and third, forgoing important replacements can cause more damage. “For instance,” she says, “if you don’t replace air filters regularly, you cause your furnace to work harder, and break sooner.”
Here are 40 kinds of household items you may want to replace … sooner rather than later:
… in the Kitchen
What do you think is the germiest place in the average kitchen? While cutting boards and trash cans might be the first thing that pop in your head, the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) found that the refrigerator’s vegetable drawer was the biggest germ culprit. Veggie compartments can be common homes for salmonella, listeria, yeast, and mold – all of which can make you sick.
Make sure to thoroughly clean out your fridge this week and check the safety of these other common kitchen tools.
1. Cutting Boards
Plastic cutting boards need to be replaced often if they have cut marks or become scratched. Bacteria can gather in the knife marks of your board, increasing your chance of foodborne illness. A University of Michigan study found that more bacteria was recovered from plastic cutting boards than wooden boards, and once the board became too cut up, it was impossible to thoroughly disinfect.
Sticking with bamboo or wood boards is a better investment for your kitchen and the environment. Bamboo cutting boards come from a sustainable source, but can be harder on knives. Wood boards are not as renewable as bamboo, but they are better for knife upkeep. Preserve your boards with food-grade mineral oil and disinfect with three percent hydrogen peroxide, letting the mixture fizz to kill the germs.
2. Food Storage Containers
Plastic food storage containers vary, in terms of safety. If your container has a #3 or #7 recycling indicator on the bottom, beware of BPA and PVC. It’s also a good idea to avoid reheating food in plastic containers and slowly switch to glass containers instead. If a plastic container is cloudy, warped, stained, or scratched, throw it out. You can also use your plastic containers for non-food storage, such as organizing craft supplies.
While glass food containers are better for you and can be reheated safely, most lids contain a rubber seal that can attract Salmonella, yeast, and mold. Depending on how often you use your containers, try soaking the lids a sink of hot water with one capful of bleach a few times a year. Inspecting seals after use can also prevent mold build up.
3. Water Filters
The filter in a whole house water filter needs to be replaced every six months. Pitcher water filters should be changed every 40 gallons of water or every two months, whichever comes first. Out-of-date filters can harbor bacteria, and you will be essentially filtering your water through a clogged and dirty filter. Expired filters can also make your water filtration system work harder than necessary, increasing the need for future repairs or replacement.
Generally, most refrigerators have a lifespan of 15 years. You should also start looking for a new fridge if you notice your food spoiling faster than normal, the motor running louder and harder than before, or the appliance is hot to the touch. These are all signs that your fridge is on the verge of giving you food poisoning or setting your kitchen on fire if not repaired or replaced.
Old refrigerators are a pain to get rid of on your own. Have your unit picked up by a RAD program partner to ensure your fridge will be recycled optimally rather than just ending up in a landfill.
Dishwashers can last between eight and 10 years, but when it stops doing its job, it is time to shop for a newer model. The biggest sign it’s time for a new unit is if your dishes aren’t coming out hot right after the cycle finishes. This means your machine is not getting hot enough to sanitize the dishes, leaving you with lingering bacteria.
Dishwasher models are under strict energy- and water-saving guidelines. The top appliances use less than five gallons of water per cycle and cost about $25 a year to run. Recycling your old dishwasher through a RAD program partner is the best way to ensure it is recycled in the most eco-friendly way possible.
Depending on how you use them, sponges need to be replaced every two to four weeks. Putting your sponge in the dishwasher or microwave can help kill some of the bacteria that make you sick, but it won’t disinfect your sponge completely. Avoid using the same sponge for your dishes as you do the counters and table, and definitely keep your sponge away from raw meat.
While sponges are cheap, they are essentially plastic, explains Natalie Wise, author of The Modern Organic Home. “If you use natural sea sponges, they are naturally more resistant to mold and bacteria growth,” Wise says.
7. Refrigerator Filters
Replace fridge water line filters every six months to protect yourself from exposure to chemicals and heavy metals in your water and ice. Without proper filtration your drinking water and ice could be subject to chlorine or lead.
While changing the filter is pricey – about $60 each time, using knockoff versions can cause potential health concerns since they aren’t certified for NSF’s safety standards.
Replace ground spices every six months to keep your recipes tasting best. Thankfully, old spices do not pose a health risk, but they do lose flavor and any potential health benefit, which defeats the purpose of using them when cooking.
Before tossing your old spices, get some more use out of them. Old sage, oregano, and pepper might not make your food taste good, but it can repel insects. You can also mix cinnamon, turmeric, nutmeg, and paprika with water for a fun painting activity for kids.
9. Nonstick Pans
It is time to get rid of nonstick pans and cookware and replace them with healthier, eco-friendly dishes that last. Not only are nonstick pans coated in toxins, but over 200 scientists from 40 countries have deemed the PFAS chemicals in nonstick cookware as harmful.
Invest in ceramic, steel. or cast-iron pans and cookware, which will last years with proper care. You can prevent some nonstick pots and pans from entering the landfill by upcycling them into planters and unique succulent displays.
10. Cabinet Shelf Liners
Change your shelf liners every two to three years to keep your cabinets looking clean. Food crumbs, insects, and moisture build up can leave your shelves not as clean or bacteria-free as you thought. You can preserve the life of your shelf liner by opting for sheets that lay on the shelf instead of adhere to them with adhesives. This allows you to wash your liners in mild detergent, air dry them, and reuse them.
11. Water Bottles
Plastic reusable water bottles are a popular replacement for disposable water bottles, but they are still not the most eco- or health-friendly choice. Plastic water bottles aren’t safe to use if they show signs of wear or are kept in the heat, since this can signify plastic toxins leaking into your water.
Stainless steel and glass water bottles are a good alternative. Stay away from aluminum since it is still unclear if the metal is linked to dementia.
If you decide to use reusable plastic bottles, plan to replace them every two to three years, or if you notice signs of wear. Depending on the reusable water bottle, you might be able to recycle it when you are done with it. Metal and glass bottles can last for many years, but you might need to replace plastic or rubber tips and straws every year or so.
… in the Bathroom
If you clean your toilet weekly, the bacteria count on your toilet is safe. What you should be worried about are the bathroom items that don’t get cleaned or replaced often. For example, your toothbrush can contain at least 200,000 bacteria per square inch – more than your toilet seat.
Mark Burhenne, DDS, founder of AsktheDentist.com, warns that waiting until your toothbrush is splayed out to change it is too late. “Once this happens, you’re scratching microscopic abrasions into your teeth during brushing,” says Burhenne, who is also the author of The 8-Hour Sleep Paradox. “These tiny abrasions are the perfect breeding ground for unwanted bacteria. That means more cavities, bad breath, and chances for gingivitis/gum disease.”
He recommends replacing your toothbrush or toothbrush head every one to three months with high quality heads. This will protect your teeth and gums from harmful bacteria.
13. Make-Up and Make-Up Brushes
Old make-up oxidizes, making the product less useful and possibly off color. In some cases, bacteria can build up and cause eye or skin infections. How often make-up needs to be replaced depends on the type. Mascara and eyeliner are in close contact to your eye and need to be replaced every three months to prevent eye infection or irritation.
Dry eye shadow, on the other hand, can last up to two years. Foundation and concealer should be replaced yearly. As for make-up brushes, wash them regularly and replace them entirely after two years.
Purchase beauty product from companies that are committed to responsible packaging, such as Aveda and Origins. This reduces waste in the manufacturing process and makes recycling finished products a breeze.
Replace your hairbrush if you notice wear to the bristles, since damaged bristles can lead to damaged hair. It is important to clean your hairbrush weekly to prevent product buildup. At a minimum, a dirty hairbrush can lead to product build up and greasier hair. A dirty brush can carry yeast and bacteria on its bristles, causing scalp irritations and making dandruff issues worse.
Wooden brushes with sandalwood bristles or natural rubber bristles are easy to find on Amazon and online. Some brands even boast of hypoallergenic qualities and can help promote healthy, shiny hair naturally.
If you can’t recycle a worn-out brush, try removing the bad bristles and using it as a pet brush.
15. Contact Lens Case
Your contact lenses aren’t the only things that require special care and cleaning. Replace your contact lens case every three months or right away if you notice cracks or damage. You will want to clean your case with sterile contact solution and allow to air dry. This will keep your lenses in optimal condition and prevent eye infections and irritation.
16. Bath Poufs
The notorious bath pouf is a breeding ground for bacteria, especially when it’s kept in your warm, moist shower. Dead skin can get trapped in the netting, so replace your bath poufs every one to two months to prevent bacteria growth. Switching to washcloths might be the better cleaning option, since you can wash and disinfect them more often than a loofah or pouf. Cleaning with your hand is also a great no-waste option.
Towels should be replaced every two years, if they lose their absorbency or show wear. Donate worn out towels to animal shelters or use them as a pet mat in your car. You can also turn them into cleaning rags or keep them around for messy jobs you don’t want your nice towels around – like drying the car.
Keeping towels clean is another important factor, since bath towels are commonly covered in bacteria. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, told Time that he found that nearly 90% of bathroom towels were contaminated with coliform bacteria and about 14% carried E. coli. The health risks come when this bacteria comes in contact with flesh wounds, such as a small cut.
18. Shower Heads Filters
Shower head filters need to be replaced every six months to a year. Look for shower heads and filters that keep viruses, bacteria, and chlorine out of your shower flow. While a good filter can reduce bacteria build up, disinfecting the shower head weekly is also a good idea.
19. Toilet Brush
Toilet brushes keep your toilet clean, but can host a lot of bacteria and residue. Plastic toilet brushes should be replaced every six months, but you can extend the life of your cleaning brush if you opt for a sustainable wood version. Green cleaning expert, Natalie Wise advises to look for a compostable toilet brush that has a wood or bamboo handle and natural fiber bristles.
“After you’ve scrubbed, flush the toilet one last time and rinse the brush under the clean incoming water,” says Wise, who shares the importance of caring for the brush for product longevity and cleanliness. “One handy trick is to let the wet brush dry by closing the toilet seat on top of the handle and letting it drip into the bowl until it’s dry.”
20. First Aid Kit
Good news, using expired first aid kit items, such as bandages or saline solution will not hurt your health. Check your kit yearly and replace items such as aspirin and yellowing supplies, as well as any supplies you are low on. Businesses will most likely need to replace their kits every three to five years, due to safety regulations. Animal shelters and homeless shelters might be able to use these expired first aid.
… in the Bedroom
Not to ruin your sweet dreams, but you could be snoozing with a lot of unwanted guests. Ten percent of the weight of a two-year-old pillow can be composed of dead mites and their droppings. Here’s how to limit unwanted mites and bacteria in your bedroom.
You are using your pillow anywhere from seven to nine hours per night, which means you are breathing in accumulated body oil, skin cells, dirt, and even dust mites. Using pillow protectors can help minimize this gross build up.
If you use a plain pillow, plan on replacing it every six months. Even if you disinfect a plain pillow, you will need to replace it for the sake of your neck health and sleep posture. Memory foam pillows can last longer, but still need to be replaced every 18 to 36 months.
Once a pillow is no longer suited for your head, disinfect it and reuse it. Old pillows can be upcycled into decorative pillows, floor pillows, pet beds, or outdoor cushions.
Old mattresses pose two threats: bed bugs and poor sleep posture. Using a mattress cover designed to keep bed bugs and liquids out will preserve your mattress longer. However, it is still a good idea to replace your mattress every five to 10 years, especially if you find it harder to sleep or if you wake up with back and neck pain.
Eighty percent of a mattress can be recycled, so how come so many end up in a landfill? Some companies like Bye Bye Mattress charge a fee to recycle your mattress, but you can sleep better knowing that your old bed is being repurposed into something useful.
23. Bed Sheets
Bed sheets should be washed weekly to prevent bacteria buildup. So long as there is no wear or tear to the sheets, they do not need to be replaced. If you do need to replace your sheets, try cutting it into strips to use as decorative bunting.
… in the Living Room
Living rooms are high traffic areas, for both your family and bacteria. Clean carpets and couches with steam to help extend their life, and disinfect pet stains and food spills right away. Enforcing a “no shoes” rule can also limit how much bacteria and dirt are welcomed into your living space.
Carpet should be replaced every 10 years, or sooner if your space has a lot of pet damage. Breathing in pet urine can cause health issues, such as allergies, asthma, and skin and eye irritation.
Marcos Franco, carpet expert and owner of Mighty Clean Home, says, “Your carpets hold a lot of pollen, molds and allergens. Having carpets in your home that are beyond their expired date in terms of replacement, might mean lots of allergic reactions, including asthma.” However, you don’t necessarily have to replace all of your carpet. Franco suggest replacing high traffic or damaged areas to minimize health risks.
Search for carpet reclamation centers near you to help keep your old rug from the landfill.
Replacing a couch can be a costly endeavor, but investing in a high-quality sofa means you can replace less often. You should replace your couch every three to five years if it is used often by pets or if it starts to lose its support. Sitting on a sunken-in sofa can cause poor posture and back pain.
Try giving away your couch for free through local sale websites, such as OfferUp, Facebook Marketplace, and Craigslist. You can also ask your local thrift stores if they accept couch donations.
… in Your Home Office
If you use your home office less than an hour a day, you can avoid replacing your office chair, keyboard, and computer for many years. However, if you work from home and use your office for multiple hours a day, you might need to replace these items sooner.
26. Office Chair
How often you need to replace an office chair depends on the quality of the chair and how often you sit in it. Higher quality chairs and ergonomic office chairs can be replaced every 10 years, whereas lower quality office chairs need to be replaced every five years. Donate old chairs to local thrift stores or organizations like The Furniture Trust.
Depending on how often you use your keyboard, it might have to be replaced every two or three years. Many times, keyboard keys can be cleaned or replaced, which allows you to fix a problematic key rather than the whole keyboard. Make sure to disinfect your keyboard weekly.
Recycle old keyboards and electronic waste through special E-waste recycling events. Check with your city for information on the local events.
28. Reading Glasses/Prescription Glasses
Get your eyes checked every year or every other year to help ensure you are using the best prescription for your sight. Using glasses that are too strong or too weak for your eyes can cause long-term vision problems.
The best to recycle your glasses is by dropping them off at local LensCrafters, Sears Optical or Pearle Vision locations. You can also donate glasses to Vision Aid Overseas.
There is debate about how often to change your passwords on social media accounts, email accounts, and finance accounts. Some experts say every 90 days will keep your accounts safe, and other experts think this is counterproductive. One thing is certain: Change your password immediately after you discover a company or website has had a data breach.
… in the Closet
If you want to wear the same outfit for five decades, you can do so without any health risks. However, some items in your closet like your shoes and yoga mat are a different story.
30. Running Shoes
Even if you wear running shoes for walking or kickboxing class, plan to replace them every 300-500 miles. This can mean every six months for very active individuals and every year or so for individuals who exercise less often. Exercising in worn out shoes can increase your chance of pains and injury.
Thankfully, you don’t have to feel guilty about updating your shoes. Nike recycles shoes to create playgrounds and running tracks, whereas Soles 4 Souls delivers used shoes to individuals in need around the world.
31. Yoga Mats
Old yoga mats can increase your likelihood of bacterial infections, such as athlete’s foot. An old yoga mat might also make slips more common. Replace your mat every year or if you notice your mat feels too thin or doesn’t lie flat.
To give your mat new life, disinfect it and reuse it as padding in an animal crate or litter box. You can also reuse the mat to keep dirty shoes on while camping.
If you want to say “OM” without hurting your health or the planet, invest in an eco-friendly mat made to last, like Manduka’s eKo mat which is made from biodegradable natural tree rubber and manufactured with zero waste.
Plan on replacing your bra every eight months, especially if you wear it frequently. Regular wear and washing can break down the elastic and support of a bra. Handwashing your garments and wearing the right size can extend the life of your undergarments. Sports bras can last a year or two with proper care.
Most individuals who wear an old bra will just experience discomfort and their chests will not be supported as well as they should be. However, some can experience back pain, neck pain, and headaches from wearing a bra that lacks support. You can donate old bras to cancer survivors.
…in the Playroom
Even if your grand kids don’t have a dedicated play space at your house, you probably have baskets full of toys and gear. Keep your loved ones safe by disinfecting toys and sippy cups after use, and discard toys when they break.
33. Bath Toys and Squirt Toys
You know those cute bath animals that squirt water? Cut them open, and there is a good chance you will find mold growing in them after months of use. One study suggests that children who are around mold growth exhibit respiratory issues, fatigue, and headache. While this relates to extreme cases of mold, it is a good idea to prevent mold build up in water toys.
Either avoid buying hard to clean squirting bath toys or seal the holes with a hot glue gun before bath time. Other bath toys can be washed on the dishwasher’s top rack to remove slime build up.
34. Antique Toys
While old toys saved from past childhoods or found at the thrift store offer warm feelings of nostalgia, they can also carry safety risks. Before allowing a child play with an older toy, do a quick web search to see if the toy was banned. A good rule to follow is to keep anything with small, magnetic pieces out of reach.
Lead can be found in toys manufactured with lead in the paint, plastic, or metal. This is true for older toys and unregulated toys made in foreign countries. You can test for lead with home testing kits, like 3M’s LeadCheck swabs which cost less than $22 for a pack of eight.
If you discover a toy is unsafe for play, you can still display it as décor. Do not donate the toy, since it can put another family at risk of harm. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that lead-contaminated items should be discarded with regular household trash.
… and Elsewhere
From smoke detectors to air filters, there are several things in our home that keep us safe and healthy. However, neglecting to replace and maintain these items will only put our families at risk.
35. Smoke Detectors
More than one third of home fire deaths result from fires that happened without smoke detectors present. Did you know that smoke detectors have an expiration date on them? Smoke detectors should be replaced every 10 years, and the batteries should be changed every year. Smart smoke detectors eliminate the need for battery replacements since they are hardwired into your home’s power supply.
36. Air Filters
It is important to stay on top of changing your air filter to ensure that your home’s indoor air quality remains healthy for you. Change your air filter every 30 to 90 days. If someone in your home suffers from allergies or asthma, you will want to change the air filter every 30 days and, if you have pets, you will want to change the filter every 60 days.
37. Washer and Dryer
A well-kept washer and dryer (meaning, you clean your washer and dryer hoses and dryer ducts yearly) can last 10 to 15 years, depending on the brand. Energy Star washing machines use 25 percent less energy and 33 percent less water than the standard models. Similarly, Energy Star dryers use 20 percent less energy and reduce wear and tear on your clothes.
If you are purchasing a new washer or dryer through a store like Lowes or Home Depot, it is worth the extra fee to have them haul away the old model. You can also contact The Salvation Army to see if they pick up appliance donations.
38. Bike Helmets
Bike helmets should be replaced every three to five years, especially if you keep your helmet in the garage, where it is exposed to extreme temperatures. It is best to replace your helmet if it gets dinged up or if you’ve had a major fall. You can repurpose the foam material in helmets for mail packaging or as a soil enhancer and recycle the plastic shell.
39. Car Tires
At best, worn tires can decrease your car’s fuel efficiency. At worst, worn tires can cause major car accidents. Check your tire pressure monthly to ensure they remain properly inflated, especially in times of extreme weather. Get your tires rotated every six months so tires can wear evenly. Tires should be replaced if the tread is worn or at six years.
Recycling your tires through your city or a designated facility is the best way to make sure your tires get repurposed.
40. Fire Extinguishers
Keeping a fire extinguisher in your kitchen and laundry room is key to preventing fires. However, these canisters don’t last forever. They should be replaced every five to 15 years, though it can be hard to tell if your extinguisher came with your house. A quick web search for “fire extinguisher servicer” can connect you to locals who can ensure your canisters are in good working order.
Want to replace your items less often? Invest in quality, eco-friendly products from the start to minimize your footprint. Yes, these products cost a little more upfront, but are ultimately better for your health and the planet than the plastic or cheaply made alternative.