Spring Cleaning? Throw It Out!

March 8, 2006 — -- If you tend to hold onto things, thinking that you may need them one day, think again. You could be risking your health.

"Good Morning America's" consumer correspondent Elisabeth Leamy teamed up with the Good Housekeeping Institute to find out how long it's safe to keep common household products and when to throw them out.

"Many people are surprised to learn that common household items need to be thrown out after a certain time, whether they're used or not," said John Kupsch, the institute's technical director.

If it's hard for you to throw things out, think of it this way: It gives you an excuse to go shopping.

When to Throw out Household Items

It's important to dispose of items properly. Paint, rechargeable batteries, fire extinguishers and smoke alarms should all be brought to a hazardous waste collection site.

Fire Extinguishers: Replace your extinguisher every 12 years because over time it loses its pressure and becomes ineffective.

Smoke Detectors: Throw them out every 10 years because over time the electronics don't work as well. They can lose their accuracy and sensitivity, and fail to alert you in an emergency.

Paint: Get rid of your paint every two years to three years -- and even sooner if it's been exposed to freezing temperatures.

Mattress: Buy a new one after 10 years because mattresses are impossible to clean. A 10-year-old mattress can have 10 million dust mites. An old mattress actually feels heavier because it is full of dust mites and their droppings.

Pillow: Throw it out after three years, but wash or dry clean twice a year. In the average used pillow, a British study found 1 million fungus spores, including species normally found in bread mold and shower walls.

Disposable Batteries: Toss these after seven years, even if you don't use them.

Rechargeable Batteries: Throw these out after three years to five years. Because these contain harmful chemicals, dispose of them properly at a hazardous waste center.

When to Throw out Personal Items

Medication: An expired medication may not harm you, but it may not help you because the active ingredient is less effective over time.

Eyeglasses: Have your eyes examined every two years. If your glasses are no longer the proper prescription, throw away the lenses and have new ones put into the frames. Or, you can donate your old eyeglasses to the Lion's Club where they can be refurbished and given to needy people.

Running Shoes: Get new ones every 500 miles, which is typically six months or less for a real runner. After that time, they've lost their padding, and they're not going to provide the protection or cushion your body needs for running.

When to Throw out Cosmetics

Bacteria grows in makeup, so it's important to update your makeup bag regularly.

Eye makeup: after three months

Facial cleanser: after six months

Makeup foundation: after one year

Powder: after two years

Lipstick: after two years

Lip pencils: after several years