Spring Cleaning: Which Meds Go, How To Dispose of Them, What to Restock & Safety Storage Tips

By Stef Morisi -

How often should you clean out your medicine cabinet? Beth Israel Medical Center’s Clinical Pharmacy Manager, Dr. Elizabeth Palillo, says, “Once a year.” If you want prescription medications to work as expected, dispose of the expired ones. The antibiotics you were prescribed six months ago? Ditch them. Yes, even if you saved the last one “just in case.”

Products that can get easily contaminated – eye drops and liquid medications you may drink straight from the bottle – should get thrown out after three months. Do you still have sunscreen left from last summer? Throw it out and purchase a new bottle. “Sunscreens degrade after being exposed to heat,” Palillo states. Spending a few extra dollars once each year is worth not getting dangerously and even fatally ill.

Tin cans are your go-to container for disposing of medications. Place the pills and liquid medications in the can (make sure it comes with a sealable cover). Combine the meds with a “non-edible” substance. Common suggestions are powder detergents and kitty litter. Put the lid back onto the tin can and, for extra security, seal it with duct tape, gaff tape, or another industrial tape. Then, it is safe to put the whole can into the garbage.

Remember not to flush the medications, since it can be harmful to the environment. Narcotics and painkillers are considered the exception to that rule. Dr. Palillo says, “We advise you to flush those because of the potential for them to be found in the trash and abused.”

First Aide products are important to have access to at all times. Replenishing those supplies is a must. This includes:

  • an antihistamine
  • different sized bandages
  • first aid ointment
  • fever reducer

It is also very important to keep your local Poison Control Center’s Number with your medications. Having your doctor and pharmacy’s phone numbers on hand is also a good idea.

Storage is important as well. Contrary to popular belief, the medicine cabinet in your bathroom is not a safest place at all for your medications. “Too much heat and steam,” says Palillo. Safer options include a shelf in your kitchen or a desk drawer. Be sure to choose a place that is out of a child’s reach.

Remember: Spring cleaning doesn’t just mean dusting your furniture. Getting rid of old and unnecessary medications and restocking on essentials are just as important.

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