Medicine cabinets are items of interest. While it’s useful for storing drugs and other items we need, others seem to be turning into a black hole. Anything that gets into a medicine cabinet’s gravitational pull is there forever. You never see it leaving. When you need something, that can be fine, but it can be really bad for you and your family too.
The underlying problem is that a lot of the things we use won’t last forever. Although the expiration dates are a little vague on certain goods and most drugs should be good well past that date, the truth of the matter is that we don’t really know how long they last. Worse than that, there are things we store in our medicine cabinets that can potentially go bad over time and, if we were to use them, might cause an infection.
We really need to clean out our medicine cabinets from time to time to combat this. Most people suggest twice a year, as we change our clocks, we will do so. If you can’t do that, then at least make it part of your spring cleaning; so you know there’s at least something fairly likely to still be useful in that.
And what sort of stuff are we really going to try to get out of our medicine cabinets? Which kind of stuff would we stop putting in there all together, for that matter?
Unidentifiable or Unknown Medicines
Just about everyone seems to be keeping old medicines around, especially prescription medicines. We are paying so much for them, that we refuse to let them go, even though we no longer need them. There is clearly a common mindset that we might need them someday.
But old medicines, especially if they have lost potency, can be dangerous.
Although we can be pretty sure that every prescription drug can reach the date of “use by,” we don’t know how far. Possibly a year or two is perfect, but it may be risky any longer.
Yet this isn’t the main challenge – the major problem is drugs we can’t recognize. The labels often get ripped or smeared. Others may still have their labels on them but we don’t know what they’re doing. In either case, you shouldn’t be keeping it around if you’re not sure what it is or what it is doing. Instead than taking a risk to misuse it, easier to dispose of it.
Typically, we do not think that cosmetics are going bad, but they can. The thing is, they can be the source of diseases when they do go bad. So we want to make sure that any cosmetics we use, particularly eye makeup, are safe. Otherwise, they can be causing an infection.
Four signs that cosmetics are going bad or have gone bad. Those involve extreme color, odor and consistency changes. Furthermore, some cosmetics will grow black or gray fungi on the surface. Both these should be thrown away right away.
Cosmetics are not the only thing that, over time, can become discolored. So can many other products. Usually, this is due to a chemical change in the product.
The problem is, we’re not sure of what kind of chemical transition has occurred. So you should probably get rid of them, just to be on the safe side.
Probably the one that goes bad the fastest of all the things in our medicine cabinets is products for treating acne. Each of those containing benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid can last just about six months.
Before that, even in a closed tube, such chemicals appear to lose their potency. So they are not continuing to do what they are meant to do.
One of the things in our medicine cabinets is sunscreen which has an expiry date which really means something. The FDA regulations allow sunscreens to maintain their efficacy at least three years after the expiry date.
That’s good news but covers some negative news as well. That is, you cannot rely on it after the three years. Better to get rid of it, than have it not work when you need it to.
Old Rubbing Alcohol & Hydrogen Peroxide
Believe it or not, over time, both hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol could be losing their effectiveness. When they do, they’re about as useful as water.Actually, that’s what they are mostly. They aren’t pure products, they’re combined with filtered water as sold in the pharmacy. The concentration in the bottle becomes less and less as the alcohol and hydrogen peroxide evaporate off.
Luckily these two disinfectants are cheap to buy. So buying a new bottle and throwing away the old one is really no problem even if you do it every few months. But you don’t have to do that too often; if the bottles are securely locked, they can last for at least a few years.
Contact Lens Cases You’re Not Using
Cases of contact lenses can easily grow into a breeding ground for bacteria. This has millions of bacteria on your hands. So, when you get the contact out, you can be putting bacteria in. Left sitting in your cabinet of medicine, the case of the contact lens can be like a petri dish, growing invisible bacteria.
You should replace your contact-lens case every three months, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. When you do, make sure to throw away the old one and not simply put it in your medicine cabinet.
Expired Contact Lens Solution
Contact lens solution is another medicinal product that has a date of expiry which really means something. In fact, you should never use it, even if the bottle is full, once that date has passed.
Contamination of the contact lens solution is just too easy, which would cause you to put bacteria on the lens and then into your eye instead of cleaning off the lens of any bacteria.
Old Petroleum Jelly
In no way is petroleum jelly anti-bacterial, unless it has had something to it to make it antibacterial. Which means you’re adding bacteria into it every time you put your finger in the bottle.
Although there is nothing to feed the bacteria in petroleum jelly, they will live for some time.
When you’re like a lot of people and buy the giant size petroleum jelly containers, that gives the bacteria more time to multiply in it. Buying smaller containers does away with this problem. Perhaps those big containers which have sat around for the last century or so will be removed and replaced.
While the old petroleum jelly may not be suitable for medical use, you may want to stick to it anyway. Using it to make tinder for fires, by using it in cotton balls at a ratio of about one teaspoon per ball of cotton. This will quickly ignite and burn hot for around three minutes, which will help you get the fires going in humid conditions. Just be sure to keep them in an airtight container, like a petroleum jelly jar.
Bandages and Feminine Hygiene Products with Damaged Packages
Tampons, sanitary napkins, and sterile bandages all share some commonalities. First, they’re all being sterilized before they leave the factory. Second, they are all wrapped individually in thin paper containers, intended to keep them sterile. But if the package in any way gets damaged, then all bets are off. You can be quite sure it isn’t sterile any more.
Given the use of these items, it is too risky to use them once the package is open broken. The risks of being infected are just too high. It’s better throwing them out and getting new ones.
Be sure to check the bandages in your family first-aid kit too. Even if they are inside the box, there is no assurance that the paper product does not get harmed. If it is, then it’s time for replacing.
Anything in Damaged Packaging
Although getting rid of bandages and feminine hygiene products in broken packaging is important, you should actually expand it a little further, throwing away everything in packets that don’t close any more.
Not only does that open lid provide easy access for bacteria, it also allows spilling or evaporation of the content. Such discharges can damage other useful products.
While razors do not expire, they can rust out. In contrast to most cutlery today, razors aren’t made of stainless steel. They are instead made of what is known as “high carbon steel.” They will rust out as well. Keeping them in your medicine cabinet, where moisture can get stuck, is a safe way to let them rust until they can be used.
You’re better off leaving those razor blades out in the open, even with the normal bathroom humidity, than hiding them in the cabinet for medication. The humidity dissipates in the shower, but it does not come from a closed door.
Whether you are going to store your razor blades in the medicine cabinet, or even in the refrigerator under the sink, it is safer to place them in plastic zipper bags or containers for food storage. Both can have an airtight atmosphere which is moisture-protected.
So many small medical devices need batteries, such as digital thermometers and the blood pressure cuffs.
Either we buy them with already installed batteries, or we put them in when we buy the product and then forget about it. But we ought not. We need to make sure that certain batteries remain good, as bad batteries destroy the machines in which they are housed.
The humidity in most medicine cabinets will not only rust the razor blades but any other metal devices as well. The combination of that humidity and the presence of an electric charge can accelerate the process of corrosion, destroying your devices. Regular battery checks will help you see if anything happens to the contacts of the battery too.
If you see a certain amount of corrosion beginning to form on the contacts, the easiest way to clean it off is with a pencil eraser. But that works only with small amounts of corrosion. If your contacts get badly corroded, a brass wire brush will be needed.
Non-functional Medical Devices
Part of testing those batteries is to make sure they’re all working machines. If they don’t, then first check the batteries. Then look for corrosion. When you can’t get the device to work, throw it away and buy a new one. Leaving a non-working device in your medical cabinet would only make you think you’re all right, because you have it. Throwing it away will set the impulse for buying another one.
It’s okay to take old stuff out of your medicine cabinet, but you have to make sure you replace them, particularly the ones you use regularly. Like many other things we preppers stockpile, a good stockpile of basic medical needs is essential for survival. So add the substitutions to your shopping list and make sure that you pick them up. Please do not wait!