20 Things To Throw Away for Better Health

Clean out expired products and clutter to make way for a healthier and happier you.

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You may never toss out your mother's vintage leather boots, but some everyday items should be given the boot for a healthier home. Watch the video to learn what should be replaced regularly to keep you happy and healthy.

Things To Throw Out in Your Kitchen

Your kitchen could be harboring several items that might not be the best for your health. Here are some of the most offending culprits you may want to toss right now.

Old Plastic Containers

Go through your collection of food-storage containers and toss anything made of clear, rigid plastic and stamped with a 3 or a 7 or "pc" (stands for polycarbonate). "These are the types of containers that may contain BPA," Sonya Lunder, MPH, senior toxics policy advisor for the Sierra Club, told Health. Lunder also advised tossing warped or cracked plastic containers.

BPA, or bisphenol A, is a chemical in many plastics and has been found to leak into your body. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 93% of urine samples from people ages six years and older had BPA.

Your plastic containers are not the only places where BPA shows up. It can also be found in the lining of canned foods. Look for labels that say BPA-free if you want to avoid having this chemical in your canned goods.

It is still unclear exactly how BPA affects human health. However, some evidence suggests that BPA could potentially affect the reproductive system.

While manufacturers have taken BPA out of many of the newer polycarbonate containers, old ones still probably have it. And multiple cycles through the dishwasher can leech the chemical. Lunder also cautioned against heating any type of plastic in the microwave because of chemical-leeching concerns. "Glass is safer in general," said Lunder.

Antibacterial Soap

You can toss your antibacterial soap. It's no more effective at killing bacteria than the regular stuff—and it may not be safe either.

Triclosan is the active ingredient in these cleansers. It has been shown to alter hormone regulation in animals, and there's also concern that the chemical may contribute to antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria evolve a mechanism that protects them from the antibiotic used to try to kill them. This makes the bacteria more likely to spread and cause disease.

Although more research is needed, triclosan may not be good for humans either. Evidence suggests it could negatively impact the reproductive system, and it may increase your risk of breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer. If you're worried about your exposure, check for this ingredient in other places, like your toothpaste and cosmetics.

Replace your antibacterial soap in the kitchen, bathroom, and anywhere else in your home with normal soap. Washing your hands with normal soap helps keep the current antibiotics, like antibacterial soap, effective in the long run. Plus, you won't be exposing yourself to a potentially harmful chemical.

Your Stash of Diet Soda

If you haven't already, you may want to reconsider your diet soda habit—especially if you're trying to lose weight.

Non-caloric sweeteners such as saccharin (Sweet-n-Low), sucralose (Splenda), and aspartame (Equal) may mess with the gut bacteria that play a key role in healthy metabolism. There's a link between these sweeteners, altered gut microbes, glucose intolerance, and metabolic syndrome (both precursors to type 2 diabetes) in humans.

If you're having a hard time giving up diet soda, try to slowly reduce your soda intake over time. You might consider replacing it with seltzer water if you still want some fizz. Flavored varieties can be just as tasty as diet soda—and are better for you.

Lingering Leftovers

When it comes to highly perishable food that contains animal ingredients, the general rule is to eat, toss, or freeze after three days, Michael P. Doyle, PhD, director of the Center for Produce Safety at the University of Georgia, told Health.

Foods like deli meats, hot dogs, smoked seafood, raw (unpasteurized) milk, soft cheeses, and raw sprouts are more likely than others to contain a germ that causes food poisoning—specifically, Listeria monocytogenes.

"Listeria is linked to scary things like meningitis, miscarriages, and even death," said Doyle. "It can grow to millions at refrigerator temperatures in under a week."

Stale Spices

Spices hanging out in your cabinets for years probably won't make you sick—but they won't add any flavor to your food. Adding flavor to food is key when you're trying to cook healthy meals that don't go overboard on fat or calories.

Fresh spices can mean the difference between bland meals that makes you consider giving up on your goals and ordering delivery and amazingly flavorful food that's good for you and satisfying. Plus, some spices, like turmeric, have pretty amazing health benefits—even more reason to spice up your dishes regularly.

Plastic Cutting Boards

Slicing and dicing on plastic cutting boards scores the surface (those lines you begin seeing after the first few times you use one). Once bacteria get into these tiny grooves and begin to grow, they can be very difficult to get rid of, said Doyle.

Switch to wooden cutting boards because wood contains resins that are naturally antimicrobial, recommended Doyle. When you score a wooden cutting board, the resins in the wood kill any bacteria instead of allowing them to thrive.

Kitchen Sponge

Studies show the kitchen sponge is the germiest thing in the average American household, Philip Tierno, PhD, a microbiologist with New York University, told Health. Brushes may actually be cleaner than sponges and can be better at killing bacteria like salmonella. Still, you may want to replace both regularly.

While some experts recommend microwaving sponges daily to zap bacteria, Doyle recommended skipping them completely: "When you use a sponge to clean meat juices, which can contain harmful microbes like salmonella, and it stays moist at room temperature, they grow quickly, and studies show even the dishwasher doesn't kill them."

Use a washcloth to clean dishes instead, grab a clean one every few days, and throw the dirty ones in with your laundry, recommended Doyle. "Because it's thinner, a washcloth dries quicker than a sponge between washes, which helps significantly slow bacterial growth," explained Doyle.

Things To Throw Out in Your Closet

Clothing and shoes that you no longer wear are just taking up space in your closet and dressers. It can be very freeing to clear out unused items. Here's where you can start.

Worn-Out Running Shoes

Most running shoes should be replaced every 300 to 400 miles, Jason Karp, MD, exercise physiologist and author of Running for Women, told Health. For a runner who logs 30 miles a week, that's about every three months.

When shoes wear down, they lose their cushioning and are less capable of absorbing the impact of your foot landing with each step, so more force is transmitted to muscles, bones, and tendons, putting you at risk for injuries, said Dr. Karp.

If you're not a runner, replace your walking or workout shoes about every six months, or as soon as you notice that the tread is looking worn out.

Clothes You Don't Wear Anymore

Take a peek in your closet. How many items have you not worn within the last year? Many people who've lost weight keep the bigger sizes around in case they regain it, while others hold onto the size 2 jeans they wore in high school, thinking maybe if they diet, they'll fit again.

In either case, seeing these items every day might bring on anxiety. Plus, donating clothes you no longer use allows them a second life, promoting sustainability.

Stretched-Out Bras

The elastic in bras can get stretched out over time (the washing machine speeds up this process), which means less support for you.

"Replacing a bra whenever it no longer lends comfort and support will help reduce back pain in heavier women and can slow the natural process of aging in breast tissue," breast specialist Kristi Funk, MD, told Health. That "natural process of aging" is better known as sagging.

Things To Throw Out in Your Bathroom

These common items found in your bathroom may need replacing sooner than you think.

Frayed Toothbrush

If you're brushing in the morning and evening like you're supposed to, then your toothbrush bristles are probably becoming frayed and worn faster than you realize.

"In my experience, bristles start to fray after about two months of use, so I recommend my patients replace their brushes every three months," American Dental Association spokesperson Ruchi Sahota, DDS, a practicing dentist in California, told Health. Worn-out brushes are less effective at cleaning teeth and fighting off decay.

Dirty Contact Lens Case

"Using a dirty lens case is one of the primary risk factors for getting eye infections," Thomas Steinemann, MD, an American Academy of Ophthalmology spokesperson and Ophthalmologist at MetroHealth in Cleveland, told Health.

Dr. Steinemann recommended replacing your lens case at least every three months, cleaning, air-drying facedown, and using fresh solution daily.

"Even if you care for your lens case fastidiously, a grimy biofilm builds up on the surface that's a magnet for dirt and germs," explained Dr. Steinemann. "If you don't change it out for a new one, you're putting yourself at risk for a potentially serious eye infection like a corneal ulcer that can become infected and—even when healed—result in a scar that could affect your vision."

Old Sunscreen

Dermatologists will tell you to use sunscreen every day you go outside—not just during the summer. If you are using sunscreen as much as recommended, your bottle should be empty before it gets old.

Sometimes you'll find an occasional bottle of sunscreen hiding in the back of the shelf. Not all sunscreens have an expiration date. If there is one, and it has passed, this is a clear sign that the sunscreen has to go.

Otherwise, if it's been three years since you bought the bottle or you can't remember, it's safer to toss it. That's because the United States Food and Drug Administration requires that sunscreens keep their original strength for three years. Writing down the date of purchase on your sunscreen bottle may also help you determine how long the random bottle you find has been on the shelf.

Sunscreens that are no longer effective may also look strange. Visible signs that the product has expired include changes in color or consistency. If the sunscreen looks different from when you bought it, replace it with a new one. The chemicals that block the sun break down over time, so no matter how much you slather on, it won't protect your skin from aging or cancer risk.

Things To Throw Out in Your Makeup Kit

When it comes to what you're putting on your face, you want to make sure your cosmetic products are fresh. Some may need replacing sooner than others. Generally, if the contents have separated, smell off, or look funny, that's a good sign it's time for the product to go.

Old Lip Gloss

Anything used around your mouth collects a lot of bacteria quickly, and the longer the bacteria sit in a moist tube, the more it grows. This increases your chance of infection if bacteria get into a cut or crack on the delicate skin of your lips.

For this reason, it's recommended that you throw out lip gloss three to six months after you buy it. Lipstick and lip pencils should be tossed after a year.

Old Mascara

Liquid makeup, including mascara, can harbor a lot of germs, said Dr. Steinemann. That's why Dr. Steinemann recommended throwing tubes away two to three months after opening.

"Each time you use mascara, you are brushing it and any germs onto your lashes," said Dr. Steinemann. "You're also contaminating the brush with even more bacteria present on your skin or eyelashes, then plunging it into a moist room-temperature environment, which encourages bacterial growth."

One of the primary functions of eyelashes is to keep debris and germs from entering your eye, so it's important to keep the makeup you put on them as germ-free as possible, added Dr. Steinemann.

Things To Throw Out in General

There may be other things around your house that can negatively impact your health and well-being without you realizing it.

Air Fresheners

Many air fresheners (solids, sprays, and plug-ins) contain a type of chemical called phthalates. Though some companies have started to phase them out, phthalates are still found in several air fresheners. The bad news about phthalates is that these chemicals may have harmful effects on reproduction and development.

"These products are simply chemical perfumes that you put in the air," said Lunder, who argued that it's healthier to take care of the root cause of a smell than mask it with chemicals.

Instead of air fresheners that contain phthalates, scent your home with non-toxic air fresheners. If you're feeling creative, you can make a DIY air freshener with natural ingredients. Also, watch out for phthalates in cosmetics.


"In the end, we are what we think about, and what we think about is heavily influenced by what we keep around us," said motivational speaker and life coach Gail Blanke, author of Throw Out Fifty Things. It's true. Clutter can have a negative effect on your well-being and can make your home feel less homey.

Blanke called the things that neither serve a specific purpose nor exist to make you feel good "life plaque": "The more life plaque we pile around ourselves, the less we can focus on what we really care about," explained Blanke.

Not sure where to start? Toss things that annoy you every time you see them, like socks that have lost their match or your overflowing kitchen junk drawer.

No matter what you decide to throw out (or donate), your goal is to whittle the physical objects down to only items that help you feel energized and accomplish your goals.

Musty, Clogged Air Filters

If you have an air purifier at home, you get a gold star. "HEPA-filtered air cleaning devices—the most efficient kind—are important because, according to the EPA, indoor air quality is 25 to 100 times worse than outdoors," said Tierno.

"One in five Americans suffer from allergies or asthma, which can be exacerbated by dust, mold, and bacteria in the air, so a good filter system goes a long way," added Tierno. HEPA air filters can remove up to 99.97% of dust, pollen, and other airborne particles, including pet dander. That's pretty significant.

Just don't forget to replace the filter every so often, or you could actually be growing mold and bacteria and blowing contaminants back into your air. How often depends on what kind you have, so check with your manufacturer and use common sense. One telltale sign it needs to be tossed is a musty smell.

Phones and Other Devices

You don't need to toss your iPhone or Android out completely, but you should unplug from time to time. Mounting research indicates that information overload—what happens when you use smart devices constantly—is linked to depression and anxiety.

This is important if you're someone who is always using digital devices like smartphones and tablets. Studies suggest that digital information overload can happen to people who multitask, use multiple devices, and shift their attention frequently.

Power down and stow your devices in a drawer at least a few times per week to give your brain a break—ideally on a set schedule (for example, weekdays after 9 p.m. or weekend mornings before noon).

Your Chair

You don't have to toss your chair, but you may want to consider spending less time in it. If you're like most people in the U.S., you may be seated for up to nine-and-a-half hours of your day.

All of that physical inactivity may not be so good for your health. Excessive sitting impacts the body's metabolic system and can lead to obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, and depression.

It's not always as simple as putting in more time at the gym. People in offices spend up to 73% of their workday in their chairs. Switching to a standing desk may motivate you to scoot your chair aside and reduce the amount of time you spend seated at work.

A Quick Review

All around your home, you may have products that may be doing you more harm than good. The first step to improving your health and well-being is to be aware of the potential hazards. The next step is to assess what needs to be tossed, donated, or replaced. Then it's time to clear your life of items you no longer need and enjoy the freedom that comes with it.

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18 Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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