Ninety-one percent of Americans and 96 percent of millennials participate in spring cleaning, and because so many of us are social distancing in our homes right now, cleaning makes for an even more welcome distraction. At the Spruce, while we know the ins-and-outs of how to clean your home (see our Spring Cleaning Checklist for more details!), we decided to focus our cleaning efforts on getting rid of those pantry items and beauty products we inexplicably find ourselves holding onto, even when they are well-past the expiration date.
If you’re a little scared of what’s hiding in the back of your fridge or if you can’t remember the last time you checked the items in your medicine cabinet—you’re not alone. The editorial team at The Spruce, and our buddies over at MyDomaine, have dug through our pantries, refrigerators, and medicine cabinets to find out who is most guilty of clinging to the past.
Want to join the fun? As you’re cleaning this spring, post photos of your oldest and most expired finds to social media using the hashtag #TheSpruceMostExpired.
Allison Bean, Editorial Director, The Spruce
I am a big advocate of regular home organization and getting rid of expired or not useful things. When I run out of projects in my own home, I usually set my sights on friends’ or family members’ closets and cabinets (Hi mom!). Despite my penchant for purging, I do have some blind spots—my medicine cabinet is a mess of half-finished bags of cough drops and disposable medicine cups, and my pantry has become a three-dimensional scrapbook of all the grocery stores I’ve ever shopped in (and by extension, all the apartments I’ve ever lived in).
All told, I had 16 expired items in my medicine cabinet, including, inexplicably, three varieties of Airborne (the oldest of the bunch expired 11 years ago), assorted decongestants, and a somewhat alarming and confusing number of anti-itch products. I suspect whenever I get a particularly annoying mosquito bite I pick up a new tube rather than waiting to treat it when get home.
In my pantry there were ten expired items, though some folks on the internet claim bread crumbs, quick oats, and spices are “fine” for pretty much ever. The orange sprinkles are the oldest item in my pantry by far, and were purchased when I was in college (I’m guessing senior year, 2006ish), probably because I was making cookies for a Halloween party. While there is no expiration date on the package, the thought of baking with something I purchased before iPhones existed is alarming.
Overall, I’m happy to see that I didn’t have a lot of expired food. I do try to audit my cabinets every few months or so, and prioritize cooking with foods that are close to expiring. (I have a bad habit of buying cans of chickpeas with no recipe in mind. No, I can’t explain it.) For my next cleanout project, I plan to tackle my tote of travel-sized toiletries. I have so many fancy soaps taken from hotel rooms and half-used bottles of shampoo that I’d like to finish.
Most Expired Item: Airborne, expired February 2009
Mélanie Berliet, General Manager, The Spruce
I decided to tackle my medicine cabinet because it’s so over-crowded and I use approximately five of the 50 items living in it regularly, which begs the question: wtf is in there??? What I found were a bunch of usual suspects (half empty cough medicine bottles, old prescriptions, rarely used perfumes, and unopened beauty products), plus a small contingent of items representing the various ailments our household has faced in the last decade (lice, ingrown toenails, and dandruff, to name a few).
The most expired item I discovered was a bottle of off-brand foot powder spray that expired in April, 2014. It was surrounded by two other foot deodorants, also expired, but to lesser degrees. My husband must’ve purchased these because my feet smell awesome all the time.
What I learned from this challenge is that I need to clean out my medicine cabinet more often, lest it become overrun by foot odor sprays from eras past. Next, I’m going to tackle the condiments lurking in my fridge door. There are some mustards I suspect may be from the aughts.
Most Expired Item: Foot powder, expired April, 2014
Sami Allen, Editor, The Spruce
I chose to look through my mom's medicine cabinet, because she acts like she's 95 and can't get to the back of them to check expiration dates. Sadly, it proved to be true. Yyyyyeah, this mouthwash was six years-expired. I was horrified. Sure, there's probably enough alcohol in there to keep the mouthwash from totally spoiling, but can we know for sure? I've read about how compounds and chemicals in many wellness and beauty products can legitimately break down and turn into something else that could have an adverse effect on your health. I'm not about to take chances. Into the trash it went!
I'm making it a personal mission to go through my mom's cabinets. It's productive, but also feels like it's a true act of love. Spring cleaning doesn't have to just be about your own things. Make it a moment to help someone else tackle their own mess. If nothing else, you'll get good karma!
Most Expired Item: Mouthwash, expired 2014
Margot Cavin, Photo Producer, The Spruce
We moved recently so I don't have a lot of extremely expired items. There's no need to move all that stuff and who's got the space for that in New York City?! I did however find something that clearly belongs to my boyfriend. I found three bottles of men's multivitamins that are all expired. The spacing between expiration dates is funny because it's pretty consistent, and you could imagine him in the store every few months thinking, "hmmm, maybe I should start taking a multivitamin" not realizing that he's already got some at home. I think this is something many of us can relate to. I only threw out the item from 2018. I'll save the other two bottles for the next time we move.
Most Expired Item: Men’s multi-vitamins, expired 2018
Candace Madonna, Visual Editor, The Spruce
I just knew there were things lurking in my medicine cabinet that haven't seen the light of day in quite a while, and I'm not much for hoarding so I thought it was going to be tough to find something expired. But lo and behold, I discovered my hydrogen peroxide had expired in 2016, which means it must have been there, collecting dust for 5+ years! I guess it's something I've rarely used, but based on that timeline this bottle has relocated with me to three different apartments.
I discovered that I need to give my medicine cabinet a little more attention. And now I'm really itching to tackle a clothing clean-out. I know there are items that have sat in storage for a while now that I couldn't part with for one reason or another. It's time to open the flood gates!
Most Expired Item: Hydrogen peroxide, expired 2016
Jamie Abarca, Editorial Project Coordinator, The Spruce
This challenge was especially challenging for me. My husband and I are Type A when it comes to clearing unnecessary things from our home. We never needed Marie Kondo-like guidelines to keep our home tidy. “If we didn’t notice it then we don’t need it now” is our motto. For this challenge I didn’t check drawers or cabinets. (Our fridge is constantly cleared out and restocked for our hungry toddler.) Instead, I went through my old handbags and gym bags for this challenge. Alongside a random dollar bill here and there was this expired bottle of eye drops. (This is one of 3 bottles found!) It has an expiration date of December 2016. Most people have multiples of chapstick in their handbags—I have eye drops.
Most Expired Item: Eye drops, December, 2016
Bridget Mallon, Associate Editorial Director, MyDomaine
When I started cleaning out my fridge and pantry, I was pleasantly surprised to find very few expired items—save for the unopened bag of nutritional yeast that expired last month—but my freezer was another story. That’s where I found this bag of Tilapia that expired almost a year ago in May 2019. Once I saw the bag, I immediately remembered buying it on a Target run back when I moved into my current apartment in 2018. But I guess as the months passed it just got shoved deeper and deeper into the depths of the freezer. I usually err on the side of caution when it comes to expiration dates (hence the lack of expired items in my fridge and pantry) so I won’t be attempting to cook up these filets. That seems like a recipe for stomach issues.
Most Expired Item: Frozen tilapia, May 2019
Caroline Utz, Associate Editor, MyDomaine
I decided to tackle my medicine cabinet for this experiment. I’m usually pretty good about cleaning out my fridge and pantry, but I tend to hoard makeup and old hair products in my bathroom. I can never remember when I bought them originally! I tend to keep a few cold and flu supplies on hand in my medicine cabinet, and I stumbled upon this decongestant that expired in 2017. I must have bought in in college, so this medicine has followed me from Virginia all the way up to NYC! Because I don’t think this medicine will do me much good now, I’m going to try to start going through my cabinets more regularly and making sure I have the right things on hand in case of an emergency.
Most Expired Item: Decongestant, expired 2017
Kim Carvalho, Social Media Editor, MyDomaine
I don't have a proper pantry in my apartment, so we use a rotating lower cabinet that's a bit bigger than all of the others to store our food. Because it rotates, there are many corners and sections that are totally neglected by my husband and I that truthfully don't see the light of day. I knew I had to bring some attention to those areas and do some cleaning, and when I did, I found that this poor jar of fire roasted red peppers unfortunately didn't make it. It didn't expire too long ago—September 07, 2019—so I'm not too embarrassed, but oddly enough, this is the second jar of roasted red peppers that expired way before I ever reached for it, so the moral of the story here is that I probably should take a break from buying roasted red peppers. This challenge has really inspired me to get deep into my kitchen cabinets and do not only some reorganizing but also some intentional cleaning so that my whole kitchen is prepped and ready for a warm and sunny spring season.
Most Expired Item: Fire-roasted red peppers, September, 2019
Think you've got us beat? Share photos of your oldest and most expired finds to social media using the hashtag #TheSpruceMostExpired.