Real talk: Have you cleaned out your spice rack lately? Did you know you should be checking the expiration dates on your vitamins and supplements, too? As long as we’re being honest, I can’t even remember the last time I put on makeup, let alone thought about cleaning or replacing my makeup brushes. I just reinstalled my window AC unit for the season (hello, NYC summers), and I don’t think I’ve ever replaced the filter. When it comes to changing out household items, it’s safe to say we could all benefit from buying a new dish sponge, toothbrush, and probably a fresh set of bath towels while we’re at it.
To help make sure your home is always reflecting the best version of you, we put together this list of household items you’re definitely overdue to replace. Plus, we’ll also tell you what to do with those items when it’s time to get rid of them.
1. Air Filters
Air filters are one of the most often neglected parts of the home, says spiritual design expert Bethany Holmes. Replacing these filters is extremely important, not only to maintain your air quality but also to keep your system running properly. How often to replace your air filter depends on the type that you have, where you live (air quality tends to be worse in major cities), and other factors, but generally, it should be replaced every 30-90 days which is probably a lot more often than most of us are doing it. Bonus? Cleaner air could help if you’re dealing with allergies.
What to do with old air filters: Avoid a big mess of dust by having a plastic bag handy when switching it out. You can either throw it away or contact your HVAC company to see if they recycle old filters.
2. Cutting Boards
How often should you replace your cutting boards? This one depends a lot on their quality, material, and how often you are actually using them. If you are simply using your wooden cutting board once a year for your holiday charcuterie, you’re probably set for much longer. But at the end of the day, the cuts can collect bacteria.
As a general rule, wooden cutting boards will last 5-7 years. Plastic cutting boards should typically be replaced every 1-5 years. If you’re not sure, pay attention to how they look and smell as well as how difficult they are to clean. If you struggle to clean between all the deep grooves, it is likely time for a replacement.
What to do with old cutting boards: If you’re crafty, you can repurpose old cutting boards into something new like a chalkboard, a plant stand, or a rack for your coffee mugs. Otherwise, recycle it.
3. Spices and Herbs
Raise your hand if you have ever finished a whole jar of spices or herbs. Unless you’re an all-star cook with a heavy hand for spices, the end of that container was probably expired. Don’t panic, though. Expired spices are not bad in the same way expired dairy or meat might be. While old herbs and spices are probably not going to make you sick, refreshing them within their expiration date is important to maintain their quality, taste, and benefits.
According to Healthline, dried herbs typically last 1-3 years, while ground or powdered spices will expire in 2-3 years. Whole spices have the longest shelf life, lasting up to four years.
What to do with old spices: If you don’t want to toss them, use them in homemade soaps, candles, or potpourri. You can use the emptied jars to store cotton swabs, sprinkles, cocoa, or powdered sugar for dusting. If you don’t have a use for the jars, recycle them.
I don’t care what you’re doing right now, go buy a new loofah. I promise: You need one. Plastic loofahs should be replaced every two months, while natural loofahs only last 3-4 weeks. If you want your loofah to last longer, don’t store it in the shower, as the damp environment will cause bacteria to build up. If you physically dry it after use, that’s even better. TLDR: If you use a loofah, you should buy a new one pretty much every time you go to the pharmacy.
What to do with an old loofah: Toss it. Keep in mind that while natural loofahs need to be replaced more often, they are also 100% biodegradable and do not even need to be recycled. On the other hand, their plastic counterparts could take hundreds of years to decompose.
5. Bath Mat
Bath mats are a breeding ground for mold, mildew, and bacteria. Think about it: They are kept in a damp environment, they rarely dry out fully, and you step on them at least once a day. Depending on your household rules, people may even step on your bath mat with shoes on. So yeah, this needs to be replaced often. You should wash your bath mat frequently (once a week), and replace it at least once every two years.
What to do with your old bath mat: Toss it.
6. Shower Curtain and Liner
While you’re in the bathroom aisle, consider shopping for a new shower curtain, too. If nothing else, at least upgrade to a new liner. It’s typically obvious when to replace clear shower liners because you can actually see the mold, dirt, and bacteria beginning to form. Make sure to wash both the liner and the curtain regularly, but as soon as you see those signs, it’s time to go shopping. Plan to replace the liner about every six months, and while fabric curtains do not need to be replaced as often, they should be washed at least once every few months.
What to do with old shower curtains and liners: Toss them.
7. Toilet Brush
19-year-old me did not think twice about cleaning my toilet with the toilet brush that came with my New York City apartment. Actual adult me gets chills just thinking about it. Have you ever actually cleaned the brush you use to clean your toilet? If not (don’t worry, you’re not alone), you definitely should—ideally after each use. When you’re done cleaning, spray it with disinfectant, let it sit for 10 minutes, and then rinse it. If you typically skip this step, you should soak it in a mixture of bleach and water for about an hour for a deeper clean. And if you remember one thing, it should be this: Never put it back in the holder while it is still wet. The brush itself should be replaced about every six months or as soon as it starts to show any buildup.
What to do with your old toilet brush: Toss it.
You can (and should) wash your towels super regularly, but eventually, you’ll need to replace them. Experts recommend washing towels that you use every day—like kitchen towels, bathroom hand towels, and washcloths—every couple of days. Aim to wash your bath towels every 3-5 uses. If a towel starts to smell, or it just isn’t getting its one job (drying) done, it is time to get a new one. Typically, this will be every 2-3 years, depending on the quality, material, and frequency of use.
What to do with old towels: Use them as cleaning rags, or donate them to a local animal shelter. They can often use old towels for cleanup or to provide comfort for the animals.
Looking for an excuse to upgrade to a larger bed or a nicer mattress? This is it. If you’ve had your mattress for more than five years, you are likely due for a replacement. Holmes recommends replacing your mattress every 5-7 years. To my horror, a study from Amerisleep found an average of over 16 million colony-forming bacteria on 7-year-old mattresses. Compare that to mattresses that were only a year old, which had just 3 million (a number that still makes me less excited to get into bed tonight, by the way).
What to do with your old mattress: Get crafty (you can use the stuffing for a DIY dog bed!), donate it, or recycle it. Many mattress companies will recycle your old mattress for you.
According to Holmes, pillows should be switched out every 1-2 years. Bedding can last a bit longer (2-3 years), assuming you wash it regularly. When thinking about how often to replace your pillows, cleanliness is just one of the factors. Comfort and sleep optimization are also hugely important things to consider. Discoloration, lumps, and sagging are all signs that it’s time to swap out your pillows. Regularly waking up with a sore neck is another one. If you notice your allergies acting up more frequently at night or first thing in the morning, you could also be due for an upgrade.
What to do with old pillows: Donate or recycle them.