Common Household Items and Their Expirations

Explore household items and how even the most modern home can have items that expire before you know it. We'll help you keep your home clean and current for the New Year.

Photo by: iStock

Every New Year, at the stroke of midnight, revelers pay tribute to the year gone by with the traditional “Auld Lang Syne” — roughly translated as “times long past.” It’s a great reminder that nothing lasts forever, which is especially true when it comes to certain household items whose times are long past. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of things to consider as you go “out with the old and in with the new.”

Kitchen Food



You might be one of those who did a fair amount of baking over the holidays. Check the “best before” date on your white flour, which usually lasts six to eight months past the printed date. Also, make sure to keep it in a sealed, airtight container, as its shelf life is ultimately impacted by the way it’s stored.

Brown Sugar
Brown sugar can pretty much stick around indefinitely. Just keep it stored in a cool, dry spot and in a moisture-proof container.

Peanut Butter
Don’t you just love a good old-fashioned PB&J? Unfortunately, peanut butter doesn’t last forever. Unopened regular, processed peanut butter lasts about two years. Opened, it lasts about six months. Refrigerate it after three months, however. Oh, and if you prefer natural over processed peanut butter, its opened life is about nine months (and it should always be refrigerated).

Although vinegar is sour, you really don’t want to hang on to it much past the three-and-a-half year mark.

Olive Oil
Olive oil is good for about two years from the manufacturer date. You’ll be fine if you keep it longer, but keep in mind that its original color and flavor may change!

Even if the world ended, you’d still be able to keep your unopened jar of mayo on hand indefinitely. Opened, however, it lasts approximately two to three months from the “purchase by” date before its color and flavor begin to change. It’s still safe to consume, though. Feel free to include it in any end-of-the-world survival kits you might have stashed away!

Bathroom supplies



Shampoo and Conditioner
While shampoos and conditioners aren’t required to have expiration dates, a general rule of thumb is to toss opened bottles after around 18 months (unless they smell or look unusually oozy — in which case toss earlier). Unopened bottles will last around three years.

Bar Soap
Bar soap will last anywhere from 18 months to three years, but if you’re not running through it faster than that, you might have another problem…

Unopened deodorant lasts about two years. Opened, one to two years. Antiperspirants have expiration dates on their containers. Be sure to follow them.

Skin care and makeup products risk bacteria and other forms of degradation after they’ve been opened and used for any length of time. They are also affected by heat and humidity. Use care if you experience unusual symptoms with cosmetics that otherwise wouldn’t be a problem for you. Call or visit the manufacturer website for information on expiration guidelines if they aren’t included on the packaging.

Laundry room


Laundry Room

Detergent (liquid or powder)
Laundry detergent loses its effectiveness, unopened, just under one year, and opened, at about six months (who would have thought?).

If there were ever a case to be made about a product that should last longer than it does, that would be for bleach. Its effectiveness declines anywhere from three to six months after opening (plus it has an expiration date on the container). It’s always good to switch it out after 12 months.

Real Simple
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