5 Old Products Household You Really Need to Get Rid Of

by Team eLocal
Suburban garage mess.  Boxes, tools and toys in disarray.

They're lurking in the darkest corners of your basement or garage: rusted cans, murky plastic bins and tools that look like they came straight from the dark ages. As a homeowner, simply keeping up with daily or monthly maintenance tasks can be enough of a time demand, so old products can easily get forgotten amid the shuffle of all that doing.

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For the most part, the worst you face is some mildew on those stacks of old Reader's Digest magazines. But other products can pose a far greater danger to your safety and really should be thrown away ASAP. Here are five of them.

1. Smoke Detectors

We all know that we're supposed to check the batteries on our smoke detectors at least twice a year. A handy way to remember this is to press their buttons when we adjust our clocks for daylight savings time twice a year. However, we also know that these kinds of occasional tasks can slip our minds. So maybe when you are done reading this article, you should button-check your smoke detectors. Deal?

These days though, simply changing the batteries on your smoke detectors might not be enough. Some modern devices have solid-state batteries that can't be changed. In this case, if your detector fails the push-button test, you'll need to dispose of it and install a new one. Also, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, you should replace your smoke detectors every 10 years, even if they are working correctly. At that age, the likelihood of failure increases plus, plus new advances are always coming along that make modern smoke detectors better at doing their jobs. Most smoke detectors have the date of manufacture printed on the back of the alarm.

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2. Fire Extinguishers

According to FEMA, over 50% of house fires in 2019 were caused by cooking mishaps. A properly placed and functioning fire extinguisher can go a long way toward mitigating damage from such unfortunate events. But if your fire extinguisher is old or damaged in some way, you might be counting on help that's not there — and that can be even more dangerous than just exiting the home when the flames ignite.

Most fire extinguishers need to be replaced after 10 to 12 years if stored in normal in-home conditions. If your fire extinguisher is the rechargeable kind — meaning that it can be filled with flame retardant — you'll want to take it to a store that specializes in this process every six years.

If your extinguisher isn't old yet, there are still times when you may want to get rid of it and buy a new one:

  • If the hose is dry-rotted, torn or damaged in any way
  • If the metal locking pin is wobbly or missing
  • If the spray handle is wobbly
  • If the safety seal is missing
  • If the pressure gauge is no longer reading in the "green" zone
  • If there are any leaks around any component

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3. Household Cleaners and Solvents

Did you know that when cleaning products, paint, solvents, pesticides and even batteries are no longer in use, they are considered household hazardous waste? According to a report from Oregon State University, national estimates put the amount of hazardous waste as high as 100 pounds in a single home's kitchen, garage, basement and bathrooms. That's why it's a good idea to periodically go through these areas to get rid of any products you are no longer using. In addition to taking up needless space, certain products can degrade over time, becoming less effective. Some substances, including linseed oil, paint thinners, nail polish remover and other solvents could act as accelerants if a fire were to break out in your home.

Some household chemicals are pretty harmless as they age and can safely be washed down the sink before throwing away the packaging. Others carry special disposal regulations. Check with your local government's waste management programs to see how to best get rid of them.

4. Power Strips and Extension Cords

Power strips and extension cords have an average life expectancy of three to five years, so if you have any lying around that are older than that (or that you don't even remember acquiring), you might want to toss them.

If you have power strips that also have built-in surge protectors, and they've protected your equipment from such surges in the past, it could be time to replace those as well. A surge protector generally comes with a joule rating, which is an indication of how many surges it can take. For example, if you have a 1200-joule surge protector and it's already absorbed 600 joules worth of surges (due to power outages or electrical storms), then it will only have 600 joules left. If you live in an area prone to frequent power surges and your device has already protected your equipment a few times, it is no doubt time to swap it out.

You should also get rid of any power strips and extension cords that show signs of damage, such as fraying, black marks around any of the outlets or an electrical smell when used.

5. Recalled Products

This may go without saying, but if you have any recalled products lying around your home, it is certainly time to get rid of them. Depending on the type of recall, you may need to contact the manufacturer about repairs or parts.

It's easy to miss recalls as they hit the market, so a good practice is to regularly check government websites for recalls, especially of items like skincare products, children’s items, cars and other safety add-ons.

For a list of products that have been federally recalled, check out recalls.gov. Car and safety equipment recalls (such as car seats) can be found at safercar.gov. Foodsafety.gov and fsis.usda.gov will highlight food products that pose a danger to consumers. Fda.gov will show you any medicines, cosmetics, drugs, pet foods, medical devices and more that have had recalls issued on them. And cpsc.gov lists recalls of consumer products like toys, power tools, furniture and clothing.

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