9 Tips for Giving Your Medicine Cabinet a Check-Up

Patient Expert
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It is important to clean out and update your medicine cabinet on a regular basis. Here are some tips for doing so.

Location of your medicine cabinet

Many people keep their medicines in the kitchen or bathroom, but these are actually two of the worst places to store medication. They can be hot, humid and filled with light, which can affect the function and safety of the medicine. A high shelf in a bedroom closet is ideal because it is dry, cool, dark and out of reach of small children.

Check expiration dates

It is important to check the expiration dates on all medications, both prescription and over-the-counter. Dispose of those that have expired because medicines past their shelf-life are  likely to be less effective and may not be safe since their chemical and physical properties have changed.

Take a look at the medicine

Look in the bottles of medicine to see what the pills, capsules or liquids actually look and smell like. If they have changed color, odor, consistency or stick together throw them out, regardless of the expiration date. Heat, moisture and other conditions can cause drugs to break down and change.

Dispose of old prescription drugs

Get rid of any medicine that your doctor has told you to stop taking. It is obviously not healthy to keep taking medicine when the doctor says otherwise and it does not make sense to keep them around. They will just add to the clutter, possibly get mixed up with other medications and are another medicine kids or pets can get into.

Cotton fillers

Take the cotton fillers out of the medicine bottles. They can draw moisture into the container, which can alter the composition of the medicine and render them less effective or even unsafe.

Use original containers

Keep medicines in their original containers. Using the original container means you have all of the information about content, dosage, warnings and expiration kept together and next to the relevant medicine. You don't want to take unecessary and potentially dangerous chances when it comes to medicine.


Once you've cleared out your medicine cabinet, take inventory and decide what medicines you need to restock. Replace any expired or missing medications that your family needs on hand. Some examples of generic medicines people keep at home are ibuprofen and allergy medicines.

Don't flush medicine

The Environmental Protection Agency discourages flushing medicine down the toilet. The water can't always be fully purged of the chemicals, putting fish and other wildlife at risk of poisoning. Many cities and towns have household hazardous waste facilities where you can drop off old medications.

Disposing of medication properly

If you must throw your medicine away, take measures to prevent accidental poisoning and protect your privacy. Keep all medications in their orginial containers. Black out the patient's personal information on the container. Place medications in a sealable container, and make this the last thing you put in the trash before it is collected.

Mark your calendar

Now that your medicine cabinet is clean, organized and up-to-date mark your calendar and check up on it regularly (quarterly or semi-annually). Once you've done the first big cleanout, future check-ups should be easier and quicker. Medicine cabinet check-ups are good for you and your family's health, safety and peace of mind.