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15 Common Items With Hidden Health Risks

When do sneakers cause injury or smoke alarms go bad? Read our guide for when to throw them and other common products in the trash.

Four pairs of various running shoes laid on a wooden floor backgroundHalfpoint/Shutterstock

Worn-out sneaker

Running or walking shoes that easily bend in half at the midsole may increase your risk of injury. Give them the boot. Remember, the average sneaker life span: 300 to 500 miles, or about six months.

Smoke fire detected Smoke detector on light blue ceilingKANOWA/Shutterstock

Smoke alarms

After ten years, smoke detectors won't reliably warn of fire. Change them once a decade. Also key: Place alarms in and outside every bedroom and on each level of the home, and change batteries yearly. Learn about 15 ways technology can make you sick.

A lot of colorful medication and pills from abovePavel Kubarkov/Shutterstock

Old saline solution and medications

Even unopened saline solution and drugs can quickly become less potent past their expiration dates. Toss 'em.

Plastic jug water filter on a blue pastel background.Vladimir Sukhachev/Shutterstock

Water-pitcher filter

Most pitcher filters will remove contaminants from 40 gallons of water—about three months’ worth of normal use. After that, the filter is useless. Replace it. Tip: No warning light or timer on your filter? Slow flow indicates it’s maxed out. Watch out for these other things in your home that could hurt your health.

Hand holding 1000 cc, a liter plastic bottle or 0.26 gallon capacity for containing fertilizer or industrail liquid on white backgroundBonNontawat/Shutterstock

Pesticides more than two years old

The chemicals in old pesticides may not work as well, and worn-out containers are more apt to break, putting you at risk for exposure to toxins. Check for information on where to safely dispose of pesticides. Find out about more surprising things that could cause cancer.

Kitchen cleaning set sponge background, vintage kitchenSunCity/Shutterstock

Kitchen sponge

That “cleaning” tool might not be so clean after all. A study in the journal Scientific Reports found that sponges harbor a surprising amount of bacteria, and cleaning them won’t help much. That means you’re scrubbing your dishes with even more germs. Yuck! Replace your sponge once a week to avoid illness. Don't miss these other 16 items you didn't know had expiration dates.

White background from textile. Texture, abstract pattern. Top view.Svetlana Cherruty/Shutterstock


If you have allergies, your safe haven for sleep might actually trigger symptoms. Dust mites love snuggling into mattresses and bedding, so use an airtight plastic cover on your mattress if you’re prone to sneezing. Make sure you know these 11 other ways your house could make you sick.

Close up shot of bright green electric extension cordJim Barber/Shutterstock

Extension cords

Using an extension cord incorrectly could cause a fire or electric shock. Before plugging in an appliance, make sure the cord is designed to handle its wattage, and never use an extension cord for more than one appliance, warns the Electrical Safety Foundation International.

White open empty refrigerator. Weight loss diet concept.Andrew Rafalsky/Shutterstock

Fridge shelves

Don’t limit “cleaning out the fridge” to polishing off leftover pizza. The 2013 NSF International Germ Study found that vegetable drawers of fridges are one of the dirtiest places in a home, harboring Salmonella, Listeria, mold, and more. The group recommends giving the drawer a good scrub at least once a month.

Sunscreen bottles on beach sand5 second Studio/Shutterstock


High temperatures degrade sunscreen, meaning that after a season of sunny days by the pool, it won’t block as many UV rays as a fresh bottle. To avoid the burn, buy new sunblock every year. Here are 16 more things smart homeowners do once a year.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest