Spring-clean your medicine cabinet

Published in Medicinewise Living

Date published: About this date

spring-clean your medicines

Just like food, most medicines slowly deteriorate over time. Image: micro10x  www.shutterstock.com

Most people throw out food or drink that is past its use-by date, but many of us don’t pay the same attention to what we keep in our medicine cabinet.

Throw away unused or out-of-date medicines

Just like food, most medicines slowly deteriorate over time, which can make them less effective and, in some cases, potentially harmful. It's dangerous to leave these lying around your house, so it's a good idea to spend a few minutes sorting through your medicine cabinet and removing any medicines which are unwanted or expired.

While you may be tempted, don't throw your old medicines in the bin or down the sink. Medicines poured down the sink can harm the environment and if you throw them in your rubbish bin, there is a risk that children, pets or wildlife may ingest them. Instead, take unwanted or expired medicines to your local pharmacist who will be able to dispose of them safely.

Keep a medicines list

Once you’ve discarded your old or unused medicines, it’s a good time to start keeping a medicines list. A medicine list allows you to record all your medicines, including important details such as the active ingredient, the reason you are using the medicine and the dose.

To get the most from your medicines list:

  • keep it up to date by removing any medicines you are no longer using and adding new medicines as you start
  • take it with you each time you visit your doctor, pharmacist or other health professional, or if you go into hospital
  • keep it with you at all times in case of emergency. 

You can order, print or download an NPS Medicines List. It is also available as a smartphone app.

Use our medicinewise C.L.E.A.N tips to help you keep your medicine cabinet safe and tidy without putting children, animals or the environment at risk.

Tips for cleaning out your medicine cabinet

  • Collect all the medicines in your house including creams, gels, eye drops, vitamins, prescription and non-prescription medicines. Don’t forget to check your handbag, car, bedside table and first aid and travel kits.
  • Look at the expiry date on the label or packaging of all medicines to check if they’re still in date.
  • Exclude medicines from your cabinet that are past their expiry date or are no longer needed. If in doubt, ask your pharmacist or doctor. If a medicine has an expiry month, this means the end of that month.
  • Arrange to have any unwanted or out-of-date medicines disposed of by a pharmacy. You can return your medicines to any pharmacy for safe and easy disposal through the Return Unwanted Medicines (RUM) Project.
  • Note all your medicines using an NPS Medicines List to help you keep track of them.

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