I was searching in our pantry a few days ago for bandages and took a good look at our medicine shelf. Crowded with boxes, bottles, push through packages, cough drops, lotions, potions and a few mysterious liquids, our family medicine shelf is out of control. Spring cleaning fever caught up with me, and I started taking stock of what was usable and what needed to be discarded. There were outdated prescriptions, individually packeged pills that had become separated from their boxes, a broken digital thermometer and some bandages that had seen fresher days. Oh boy! I was ready to start pitching pills in the trash when I began to wonder what the proper procedure might be for cleaning out a medicine cabinet or shelf. After doing some research, here are some tips that will make the task much easier and safer.
- Check the dates on all your medications, vitamins and herbal supplements, both prescription and over the counter, and throw away those that have expired. Even if you think the medicine may still be good, chances are that it has weakened and will be ineffective, so discard it anyway.
- If you haven't used the medication in the last year, get rid of it. Keeping medications that you are no longer using can lead to misuse or abuse, so it's best to throw these out also.
- If you have medications that are not in their original container, throw them out. If you can't positively identify the medication, and there is no expiration date visible, it is not safe to keep.
- Store medications is a safe and proper place. Medications should be stored in a dry, low humidity area with low lighting. Many medications are affected by exposure to sunlight or other light sources, so make sure your storage area meets these suggestions. Also make sure that medications are stored out of the reach of small children or those with dementia.
Now that you have cleared your medicine cabinet of expired, unused and loose medications, what should you do with all of those old pills? Medications should never be flushed down the toilet or poured down a sink or drain. Instead, dispose of medications properly in your trash, or through your community's medication disposal program. Contact your local pharmacy for recommendations for disposal or to find information about your local disposal programs. Follow these guidelines for disposing of medications in your household trash.
Pour medication into a plastic bag. If medications are solids or pills, add water to the bag to dissolve the pills.
Add coffee grounds, kitty litter or sawdust to the bag, seal the bag tight and dispose of it in your trash.
Remove all labels or personal identification material from plastic medication bottles and recycle the bottles appropriately.
Spring cleaning of our medicine cabinets is important for our health, and proper disposal is essential for the health of our environment. Reduce the risk of outdated medications and clean out your medicine cabinet today!
Remember, every day, families just like yours and mine are facing a health care crisis with a loved one. The support and education you need to navigate the aging journey is available at your finger tips from expert care professionals at Lutheran Homes of Michigan. For more information on dealing with a life changing issue with your parents or a loved one, contact a care representative at Lutheran Homes of Michigan by calling 989-652-3470 or by emailing
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