What to toss and what to keep when cleaning your medicine cabinet

Q: I want to clean out my bathroom and, in particular, the medicine cabinet. How do I know what to keep and what to toss?

A: You may have gone through your closet and figured out what to keep, store or give away to charity this season, but when’s the last time you poked through your medicine cabinet? If there are pills and cough medicine lurking in there as old as those cowboy boots you’ve had since 10th grade, it’s high time to make a clean sweep. Tracey Phillips, a Rexall pharmacist in Toronto, offers her top tips:

• “The expiry date on a product—that product is good until that date only if it’s never been opened. Once it’s opened, all bets are off.” Why? The humidity in your bathroom causes medication to degrade faster. In most cases, this means the meds won’t work as effectively, although some, such as Tetracycline, can become toxic once it’s expired. So consider replacing anything in your cabinet that’s been opened.

• While you’ve got everything pulled out of your medicine cabinet, consider moving all of your medication out of the bathroom. Since the humid environment of the bathroom is no friend to your medication, invest in an airtight container and store it on the top shelf (out of reach from children and pets) of a linen closet, for example.

• When restocking your aid kit, Phillips recommends these medicine cabinet staples: an assortment of bandages; allergy relief medication (for both seasonal allergies and for emergencies); a pain reliever, such as acetaminophen (this can be taken by most people without any issues); an antidiarrheal product; and something for motion sickness/stomach ailments.

• Don’t just toss your open and expired medications into the garbage. “Two studies last year showed the enormous amount of medication showing up in our water and landfills, a danger to everyone, animals, the environment,” says Phillips. Instead, bring them to a facility that handles safe, enviro-friendly disposal, such as Rexall and Rexall Pharma Plus locations, both of which will handle the disposal free of charge. (Note: during March and April, you can pick up a handy medicine disposal bag and check list at any of their locations to help you with your spring cleaning).