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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.

bicycleVaclav Mach/Shutterstock


A helmet is only designed to withstand one crash, so replace yours if it’s already protected you from one head injury. Sweat and the elements can also wear it down, so replace yours every two to four years, depending on how often you get on your bike.

The inside of a stove ovenFotosr52/Shutterstock

Oven cleaner

Oven cleaners contain corrosive chemicals such as sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide to attack stubborn spills. Unfortunately, they can also wreak havoc on your system, causing symptoms like breathing difficulty even if you just breathe it in or eat food that came in contact with the cleaner. Wear gloves and safety glasses, and keep the room ventilated when using store-bought oven cleaners, or skip them entirely and use DIY cleaners with a little elbow grease. Plus, avoid these 11 cooking mistakes that can make your food toxic.

Contact lenses, contact lens, tweezers on a blue backgroundTatiana Kochkina/Shutterstock

Contact lens case

Used incorrectly, contacts and their cases can introduce dangerous bacteria to your eyes. Only use solution—not water—to rinse your contacts and their case, and get a new case every three months to avoid contamination. Here are 16 more everyday things that pose huge health risks.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.