It’s time for spring cleaning. We will wash the windows and clean out the closets, but there is one place we might overlook, our medicine cabinet.

We all have old prescriptions bottles or medicine that are just collecting dust and may cause us more harm than we realize. According a 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 6.4 million Americans abuse controlled prescription drugs. The study shows that a majority were obtained from family and friends, often from the home medicine cabinet.

Be sure to go through each medication, check the dates, discard unmarked containers and for prescriptions follow the one year cutoff rule. Here are some tips to help you clean out your medicine cabinet.


  • 1

    Check the Dates

    Make sure to examine everything in the medicine cabinet, including ointments, supplements and vitamins. Get rid of any item that is beyond the expiration date. Many medications lose their effectiveness after the expiration date. Some may even be toxic.

  • 2

    Follow the One Year Cut Off Rule

    Any prescription medications that are more than one year old get rid of as they are simply collecting dust.

  • 3

    Throw Out Any Items that Have Changed Color, Smell or Taste

    Many times colors that have faded in medications are due to them being exposed to too much light or air.  

  • 4

    Discard Unmarked Containers

    If something is no longer in its original container and cannot be identified, get rid of it. In the future, we should try to always keep medications in their original containers so that we can easily recognize every medication. This includes ointments, since these can easily be mistaken for creams.

  • 5

    Be Careful About Throwing Out Medication

    Due to the potential harm to the environment, it is not recommended to simply throw out medication or flush them down the toilet. Here are a few ideas on what to do.  Place all medication in a sealable bag. If there are solid medications, add some water so they can dissolve.  Add kitty litter, coffee grounds, saw dust, or any material that mixes well and makes it unappealing for children or animals to eat. Seal the bag and put it in the trash.  Remove any identifying information on the prescription bottle, clean and recycle.  The local pharmacy, police department or Drug Enforcement Agency may also be able to assist in disposing of medication in a safe manner.

  • 6

    Consider Relocating the Medicine Cabinet

    If the medicine cabinet is in the bathroom that may not be the best place to store medication. The temperature and humidity changes that take place while the shower is running can lower the potency of your medication. Medications should be kept in a cool dry place, away from children. We should consider a drawer in our dresser or a lock box in the closet.

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