Open your medicine cabinet. If you see a prescription bottle from “Cunningham’s Drugs” or “Perry” or “Arbor” or “Revco” or “Eckerd,” then reading this article is mandatory. While they were once some of the biggest pharmacy names in America, they’re no longer our corner drugstores. And, you missed the memo about cleaning out your medicine cabinet every spring.

Believe it or not, medicine cabinets all over Southeast Michigan still have containers from Michigan’s defunct drugstore chains—prescription and over-the-counter medicine that’s long past its prime.

No matter what name is on your prescription bottle, now’s a great time to spring clean the medicine cabinet.

Check the Date
Nearly every product will have an expiration date. Even sunblock, toothpaste and eyedrops should be tossed after a certain time. Most over-the -counter drugs have just a few years and most pharmaceuticals just one year. After that, they start to break down. You don’t want these products in or on your body. The moment you open your medication or hygiene product, the clock starts ticking. And every time a hand goes in that container, new germs are introduced to the product. That’s why this yearly cleaning is a good idea.

Toss it Carefully
Not everything can be tossed in the garbage or flushed down the toilet. We don’t want to harm our water supply or put our pets at risk. Check with your local pharmacy to see if they have a drug disposal program. Many have drop-off bins for your prescriptions and even over-the-counter products. Here’s a link to containing great info on programs for disposing expired medications. (Also see FDA’s disposal guidelines).

And to be safe, before you start tossing meds, scratch out your name and information from the prescription label just to protect your identity and personal health information.

If you have over-the-counter products that you haven’t opened and that haven’t expired (bandages and other first aid supplies) consider donating it to a local homeless shelter.

Location, Location, Location
The bathroom is actually the worst place to store your medicine. It’s too warm and too moist. Be sure what you keep is kept in an air-tight plastic bin on a high and dry shelf far from children and pets and ideally at room temperature. And as long as your getting rid of unused products… get rid of the Old Spice, too.

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