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16 Things You Never Knew Had an Expiration Date

Sure, you’re wary of spoiled milk, but many other everyday (non-food) items also go bad over time.

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Best before date macro
ilbusca/Getty Images

This can expire?!

Typically, you only worry about expiration dates for food you buy at the grocery store. But, believe it or not, there are actually expiration dates for things that you don’t eat as well. They’re meant to keep you safe or to ensure that the product will still work, so don’t blow them off. This is what “best by,” “sell by,” and “use by” really mean.

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happy child in a rear facing car seat in the back seat of a car

Car seats

A car seat can literally save your infant or child’s life, so you’ll want to make sure it’s installed correctly and that it’s not past its expiration date. Yes, every car seat has an expiration date, and it’s usually printed on the bottom of the seat. The longevity of a car seat varies by manufacture date and brand. For example, Graco and Britax car seats tend to expire after six to ten years, depending on the type of seat you have. Find out why even bottled water has an expiration date.

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close up of hands squeezing sunscreen into one hand


Your sunscreen might not come with an expiration date, but that doesn’t mean it lasts forever. In fact, experts say that sunscreens are generally effective for only three years, after which they begin to lose their potency. The Mayo Clinic recommends jotting the purchase date on the bottle so you’ll know to toss it when you hit the three-year mark. And some sunblocks do have an expiration date, so check the bottle and be sure to mind the guideline.

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close up of pouring liquid into a car engine
Siarhei Hivoin/iStock

Motor oil

There’s nothing wrong with stocking up on motor oil when you see a sale, but be aware that it tends to go south after five years, experts say. At that point, the oil can start to separate and the consistency could change, compromising its performance. Don’t miss these other 30 secrets a car mechanic won’t tell you.

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cup of tea with extra tea bags arranged on a wood table
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Tea bags

If you drink tea only when you’re sick, the tea bags in your pantry may not be as potent as when they were fresh, experts say. While tea won’t necessarily spoil, it can lose quality after about two years, according to manufacturers. Preserve tea longer by storing it in the freezer.

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sunglasses on the edge of a pool


Don’t bother searching for a tiny date printed on your shades—you won’t find one. But it’d be helpful if you could. In addition to shielding your eyes from the sun’s glare, sunglasses block harmful UV rays that could cause cancer or cataracts. Unfortunately, sun specs become less effective at blocking UV light as time goes on, according to researchers at the University of São Paulo, partly from normal wear and tear that may scratch the lenses.

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overhead view of open cans of paint with paint brushes
Rafal Olkis/iStock


If you’re crafty or own a home, chances are you have plenty of old paint cans in your basement or garage. You likely won’t see an expiration date on them, but that doesn’t mean you can expect to see like-new results every time you pop the top. In fact, painting experts recommend disposing of any paint that’s been open for two to four years. Unopened, oil-based paint will stay good for about 15 years, and latex-based paint stays good for around ten years. Regardless of time, always toss any paint that’s moldy, dried out, or has chunks in it. On the flip side, these are the foods that will never expire.

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person putting toothpaste on their toothbrush


Toothpaste is not a good candidate for buying in bulk, although a tube’s expiration date depends on the manufacturer and brand. Colgate toothpastes, for example, are generally good for only two years from the manufacture date. If you’ve got some older tubes, consider using them for household projects like removing shoe scuffs or cleaning your clothes iron.

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An old man washing his hands with a bar of soap
Photographer, Basak Gurbuz Derman/Getty Images

Bar soap

You expect soap to get you squeaky clean, but it might not do as great a job if it’s past its prime. Some bar soaps have expiration dates, but for those that don’t, experts recommend storing them no more than three years. Signs of a too-old soap bar include dryness and cracks. See these other signs you’re probably showering wrong.

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Pharmaceutical Bottle Mock-Up - Three Bottles

Hydrogen peroxide

That dark bottle has a surprisingly short shelf life. Unopened, it will be good for about three years, but it loses its effectiveness about six months after you open the lid and expose it to the air. If you’re debating whether to replace your old bottle, pour a bit into the sink; you’ll know it’s still good if it bubbles and fizzes.

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Close up motion shot of person walking away in running shoes
Daxiao Productions/Shutterstock

Running shoes

Sneakers seen some better days? Time to throw those ratty kicks out. The more you work out in a pair of shoes, the more the cushioning wears down, meaning you won’t be able to run as efficiently and might increase your risk for injury. Most shoemakers recommend replacing a pair after running 300 to 600 miles in them. It’s a wide range, so pay attention to how they feel. Most runners will be able to feel when their shoes have maxed out, Altra shoe developer Golden Harper tells the New York Times.

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anonymous woman walking with her bike and the helmet is on the handlebars


As the only thing between you and a nasty head injury, a helmet needs to be in tiptop condition. But an old one that’s been exposed to the elements might not offer the protection you need. Salt in sweat can corrode the helmet’s materials, and the sun takes a toll on plastic, too. Serious bikers should replace their lid every two years, while those who hop on a bike every once in a while can wait four before getting a new one. Here’s why you should never throw out an expired passport.

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Young man spraying mosquito / insect repellent in the forrest, insect protection
Simon Kadula/Shutterstock

Bug spray

Don’t be shocked if you still end up with mosquito bites after spritzing yourself with insect repellent you bought ages ago. As long as you keep it out of extreme heat or cold, it will last about three years. After that, though, the product starts to break down slowly and won’t be as effective. If you can’t remember when you bought the bottle, you might be better off with a new one.

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mascara brush, holding a mascara brush.


Experts recommend tossing mascara about three months after you open it. The makeup can be contaminated with bacteria, and putting it near your eye could put you at risk for infection. If the formula dries up before three months is up, throw it out anyway, recommends the FDA. Trying to moisten it with water or saliva will just add more bacteria.

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Emily Ranquist/Shutterstock


That sponge you use to wash yourself might not be so clean. For one thing, dead skin cells can get stuck in their nooks and crannies. Add the dampness of a shower that makes it hard for the loofah to dry, and you’ve created an environment where bacteria thrive. Even if you wash yours in bleach every week, a natural loofah should be replaced every three or four weeks, and plastic poufs should go in the trash after two months, according to Cleveland Clinic.

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Closeup of pile of used alkaline batteries. Closeup colorful rows of selection of storage batteries energy background of colorful storage batteries. Alkaline battery aa size. Several batteries in rows


Unless you have a lot of battery-powered devices, you might want to hold off on the value pack. Look closely and you’ll find an expiration date. Certain parts of the battery corrode over time, and the lithium breaks down to make it harder to transfer electricity. The batteries won’t be dangerous or even totally useless by that date, but they probably won’t function as well as fresh ones.

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womans hands rubbing in a dab of moisturizer cream
LaylaBird/Getty Images


Facial lotion that’s been open for more than two years won’t hydrate as effectively as a new bottle bottle. And when it comes to the face products in jars, you might need to replace even more often. Every time you stick your fingers in, you leave bacteria in the jar to fester. Replace it after six months to avoid spreading germs. To learn even more, check out these interesting facts about practically everything.

Reader's Digest
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 Medscape.com 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.