Surprise! Your cleaning supplies won't be good forever. Because they're chemical mixtures, they can break down over time as air, heat, or moisture accelerate various chemical reactions. The clearest signs things are expired are as follows: It's past the expiration date on the bottle, the formula looks or smells different, the packaging is compromised, or the solution just isn't working. Another possible sign? If you straight-up can't remember the last time you used it.
And note that while many cleaning products include "best by" dates, they are not required to include them. Your best bet is to label the containers when you first buy the product, and to call the manufacturer directly if you have any questions about their effectiveness.
Getting Rid of Expired Cleaning Supplies
If your cleaning products are no longer good, it's time to get rid of them. To figure out the best way to do that, your first line of defense is to check the label for instructions, says Nancy Bock of the American Cleaning Institute. "To properly dispose of a product, think about how you use it. If it mixes with water, it is water-soluble, which means it can be disposed of down the drain with running water just like when you use them," she says.
For products that aren't water-soluble, such as oven cleaners, drain openers, and furniture polishes, call the manufacturer's toll-free number (or write to them) for disposal recommendations, or check with your local waste disposal facility, says Bock.
And a big reminder from Bock: Just as you should never mix products when using them to clean, do not mix them when you're disposing of them, because even products with weakened cleaning power can create toxic chemicals when combined!
Here's How Long You Can Expect Your Kitchen Cleaners to Last
All-purpose cleaner: About 2 years
Multi-surface cleaners — like Mr. Clean or 409 — can last up to two years. If they contain antibacterial ingredients, that time may be shortened to one year.
Baking Soda: 18 months to 2 years
Baking soda does not degrade quickly, unless it's exposed to moisture, which can make it degrade quicker. If you're using it for cleaning purposes, its deodorizing properties will still work even when it's not good for leavening bread.
More on Baking Soda
Bleach stored under ideal conditions has a shelf life of about a year, but can degrade more quickly if it's exposed to extreme heat or cold. If you can't remember when you opened the bottle and it no longer smells like bleach, it's time to replace it.
Castile soap: About 3 years
This wonder soap lasts longer than many soaps, due to its concentrated formula.
Like other multi-surface cleaners, you can expect these formulas to last about two years.
Dish Soap: 6 to 18 months
Liquid soap will last from a year to 18 months, but powdered dish detergent is only good for up to six months once it's opened. Unopened, it's quite shelf-stable.
Go shopping: 10 Dish Soaps That Smell Clean and Happy
Drain de-clogger: 2 years
Drain products — like Drano — typically only last for about two years.
Make your own: How To Make Your Own Drain Cleaner
Floor cleaner: 2 years
Like multi-surface cleaners with similar ingredients, you can expect these formulas to last about two years.
OxiClean: Forever, if stored properly
Dry things tend to stay stable for extended periods of time. The OxiClean powder will last forever as long as it doesn't get wet.
Silverware polish: About 3 years
Polish for metalware — including silver, brass, and copper polish — should stay good for about three years (a relief if you only polish things up around the holidays!).
Make your own: How To Clean and Polish Silver
Vinegar: About 3 years, or forever
Under ideal conditions (unopened, stable temps), vinegar can last forever, but if you open a bottle, it'll stay good for about three years.
More on Vinegar
Window cleaner: About 2 years
Similarly, window cleaners like Windex should be effective for about two years.