Read this before starting in on your next deep clean.

By Lauren Wellbank
July 27, 2020
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If you don't get around to deep cleaning as often as you'd like to, you may be hanging on to certain products for months (or, in some cases, years) after their expiration dates have passed. While this may not be as concerning for products that cleanse seldom-used surfaces (think window sprays), hanging onto disinfectants that are past their prime can be problematic—especially during a global health crisis or cold and flu season. Here, Alex Reed, the co-founder of Trumans, explains why.

Getty / Ian Melding / EyeEm

What happens when a cleaning product expires?

Cleaning products are more likely to lose their potency than actually spoil. "The efficacy of cleaning products can degrade over long durations, the exact timing of which will depend on the formulation," Reed explains. For example, bleach will begin to go bad between six months to a year after you've opened it. After that six month mark, the disinfectant loses an estimated 20 percent of its effectiveness. However, products like glass cleaners have a longer shelf life; some are able to maintain peak effectiveness for close to two years.

How long should your cleaning products last?

With the exception of bleach and other short-lived products, most of your favorite cleaning supplies should last long enough for you to get your money's worth. "Preservatives are often used to extend the 'shelf life' of products, and in most cases, they should perform as intended for at least a couple of years," notes Reed. If you're worried that some of the products lurking under your kitchen sink or in the back of your linen closet have expired, you can always check with the manufacturer to be sure. "While most cleaners don't have a 'born on date' they will often have a batch or lot number. If you're concerned with the age of the product, consult with the manufacturer and share that code to determine if it has expired."

How should you dispose of expired products?

If you haven't managed to go through a bottle before it reaches its expiration date, be prepared to cut your losses—you're better off tossing it. Just be sure to take care when disposing of any residual product inside. "Most cleaning products have instructions for disposal, which are important to follow as toxic formulas can be hazardous for plumbing or waterways," Reed says. "Most non-toxic formulas are biodegradable and safe to pour down the drain." Make sure you're following the manufacturer's instructions when disposing, and, just as you'd never mix different products together while cleaning, you should never mix them together while disposing of them, either.

How can you keep track of expiration dates?

Keeping track of expiration dates can feel like one more thing to add to your already overcrowded plate—so consider this professional tip. Write the date you opened the product for the first time on the bottom of the bottle with a sharpie or other permanent marker. This way, you will always know just how long it's been open (and when it's time to toss it).

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