Spatulas, shoes, bras: Everyday objects around your house could be past their expiry date

Everyday staples have a best-before date too. Continue to use them and you could be putting your health at risk.

health Updated: Feb 28, 2018 17:50 IST
Expiry date,Household items,Best-by date
The cushions in the soles of most sports shoes available today only last for about 500 km. (Josiah Mackenzie/Flickr)

While we are quick to discard medicines and food items that have crossed their expiry dates, we tend to ignore household items well past their prime, often because we didn’t really know they had a best-before date.

Think loofahs, lipsticks, and bras.

Delhi receptionist Shweta Vinod, 31, found this out the hard way. Last month, dressing for a party, she used a lipstick that had been lying unused for about six months in her refrigerator, where she keeps her lipsticks to preserve them.

“By the time I got to the party, my lips were itching. Then they started flaking and turning red. There was swelling too,” she says. It turned out to be an allergic reaction and she had to use a topical ointment for a week to heal her lips.

“Expired make-up can spell doom for your skin,” says dermatologist and laser surgeon Dr Apratim Goel. “Always check for a change in smell or texture, or you could end up with a breakout or even an infection like oral herpes.”

The vanity bag

Eye makeup is the second biggest offender hiding in your vanity case. Experts suggest replacing mascara and kohl every three to six months. (Pexels)

Makeup products usually do not carry an expiration date, but that does not mean that you can use them indefinitely. “They come in contact with germs in the atmosphere and bodily fluids and this can make them a health risk,” says dermatologist Dr Shehla Agarwal. “When it comes to makeup, it’s usually use it or lose it.”

Solid lipsticks can last two years; liquid ones a year.

“Most lipsticks contain glycerine and lanolin derivatives and other oily substances. With every use, contact with air dries it out and saliva promotes bacterial growth,” says Dr Agarwal. “In our hot climates, the oils can also go rancid.” Now, would you want that in your mouth?

Eye makeup is the second biggest offender hiding in your vanity case.

Goel suggests replacing mascara and kohl every three to six months. “Clumps are a tell-tale sign that your liquid liner or mascara is past its prime,” she says. “People tend to add water or even acetone to make it smooth again, which actually aids bacterial growth and can cause infections and inflammation in the eyelids and even the cornea.”

Torsha Mukherjee, 33, a corporate researcher from Mumbai, learnt this the hard way when she used mascara that had crossed its expiry date. She experienced redness and watering of the eyes for a day, even though she washed it off as soon as the symptoms first appeared.

“It turned out to be a mild eye infection because the mascara had expired six months before I used it,” she says. “I’m extra-cautious now about the cosmetics I use.”

Blender sponges and make-up brushes can also become contaminated, transferring dirt and microbes to your skin and causing breakouts. “It helps if you clean them diligently with specialised brush-cleansing solutions or just a vinegar solution, and store them in airtight containers, away from direct sunlight.”

The kitchen

Replacing your chopping board once a year is a good idea, says gastroenterologist Dr Jayshri Shah, because it clings to microbes from meat and pesticides from vegetables. (Pixabay)

Don’t blame the bloated feeling of indigestion on food alone. It could be a low-grade infection because of something as common as an invisibly germ-laden chopping board or spatula, says Dr Jayshri Shah, gastroenterologist at Mumbai’s Jaslok hospital.

If your board is wooden, you’re better off. If it’s plastic, it’s probably clinging to bacteria from meat and poultry, pesticides from vegetables. Replacing once a year is a good idea, says Dr Shah, and definitely clean it thoroughly before and after every use.

Wooden spatula and spoons, meanwhile, should be replaced once they crack because otherwise they start to harbour bacteria and germs in those crevices, a situation made worse by the fact that the crevices will also retain moisture.

And then there is, of course, the dish sponge. “It’s porous and often stays wet, which makes it an ideal breeding ground for germs and microbes,” says Dr Shah. Keep that sponge dry, sun it often, and replace regularly.

Around the house

Common household goods expire too. It could be your favourite pillow, the loofah in your bathroom, or your innerwear.

The loofah must be disinfected regularly, especially if it has not been used in a long time. “It can breed bacteria and fungus, because of its maze of plastic mesh and the fact that it is usually kept left in the bathroom, which stays moist,” says Mumbai-based dermatologist Dr Sujit Shanshanwal. Washing and dry in direct sunlight after every use, and replace at least twice a year, he advises.

“Once it starts wearing out, it has to go. Rough fibres on skin already softened by warmth and water can cause abrasion and even amyloidosis, a net-like pigmentation,” he says.

Your toothbrush could make you ill too. “I always tell my patients that they must not wait till the bristles start fraying but ensure that they change their toothbrush every month,” says dental surgeon Nilay Ganatra. “Using the wrong toothbrush is a common cause of gum diseases, plaque deposit and bad breath. Basically, after a month your toothbrush stops doing the one job it is supposed to do, keep your teeth clean.”

At the very least, dunk your brush regularly in very hot water to clean it thoroughly.

In the closet

That pretty bra-and-undie set that you like best? It has to go after a year, say doctors.

“The breasts and the genitals are open areas, meaning that there are always secretions in our undergarments that can promote the growth of bacteria. Washing them well and regularly helps, but after a year it is just not healthy,” says Dr Ajaya Kashyap of Fortis La Femme, Delhi.

On the floor

Running shoes have to be replaced regularly too. You can still use the old pairs, but not to run, and here’s why.

The cushions in the soles of most sports shoes available today last for about 500 km. “Depending on how much you run, the life of the cushions may be as short as three months. After that, these shoes can be worn for walking or playing games in the park — but they can no longer adequately absorb the impact from running,” says sports medicine specialist Dr Pushpinder Bajaj.

And without that cushion, you risk straining and even injuring your knees, hips and lower back — affecting the very fitness you’re running for.

First Published: Jan 20, 2018 18:23 IST