Tony Abate is the vice president and chief technical officer at AtmosAir Solutions, based out of Connecticut. According to him, it is especially important for people with respiratory problems to have their HVAC systems serviced at least twice a year to maintain good indoor air quality.
“An HVAC (heating and air conditioning) system not properly serviced at least once or twice a year can cause mold, dust, odors, bacteria, and airborne viruses due to poor air filtration and ventilation systems,” he warned.
If you’re taking the time to do a thorough cleaning/disinfecting of your home, then you might as well be sure that the products you’re using are still up to the task. We’ve already learned that bleach loses its effectiveness after about six months, but what about other products?
Good Housekeeping reports that multi-surface cleaners work pretty well for about two years, but products with antibacterial properties have a shortened shelf life of just one year. Be sure your house is as clean as you think by checking those dates!
Most batteries have a shelf life of about ten years. After this time, there’s no real threat to us healthwise if we attempt to use some (they just won’t work). However, if you need the batteries in the event of an emergency, such as for a flashlight in the case of a power outage, you could really be left in a bind.
It’s a good idea to keep a fresh stock of batteries on hand for emergencies and make sure the expiration date is clear. Replace them as needed.
Just because you see a bargain on motor oil at the auto supply store doesn’t mean you should stock up on the stuff! Just like so many other products, motor oil also has a shelf life. Where you store it can make a difference; experts recommend keeping it in a cool and dry place.
Check the consistency of any motor oil before using it in your car — even before the expiration date. YourMechanic.com reports that “[i]f it is thick and sticky, and has solid or gel-like particles, do not use it. If you see that the additives seem to have separated from the oil, it is not safe to use.”
This is one household item that you don’t want to find yourself in need of. Fire extinguishers are items that we tend to buy, put under the kitchen sink, and then forget about. But experts warn that fire extinguishers do expire over time.
The reason is that gas escapes from the seal over time, and once that pressure is gone, the extinguisher won’t be able to operate. According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, “an expiration date cannot be fully trusted and there is no foolproof way to know if an extinguisher is no longer functional. Due to the extremely destructive potential of fires and the relatively low cost of extinguishers, it is advisable to replace or recharge questionable extinguishers.”
Although it’s tempting to save money and purchase certain baby supplies second-hand, experts caution against buying used pacifiers. Some brands print an expiration date on their product packaging, but as a general rule, it’s a safe bet to change out your child’s pacifier every couple of months (especially rubber ones).
According to HealthyChildren, natural rubber can break up over time, resulting in a choking hazard if a piece of the pacifier comes loose. Always keep an eye on the pacifier’s condition and note if it has any discoloration, tears, or weak spots.
According to the experts at Fleet Feet, running shoes have a shelf life of about 400 miles. This is because after repeated use, “[t]he outsoles begin to go bald and the cushy foam gets compressed under our weight. When shoes are on their last legs, they lose the ability to protect your feet and joints from running’s repetitive pounding, which can lead to increased soreness and injury.”
Even people who aren’t runners can benefit from changing their walking sneakers out more frequently, especially if they’re experiencing discomfort or pain in an older pair of shoes.
Apples can last a week or two at room temperature, but they start to get mealy pretty quickly if you keep them in the fridge. Also, apples can cause other fruits to ripen faster because of the natural gas that they emit. You don’t want to trap all of that gas in your fridge with your other perishables.
Enzymes within apples become far more active at room temperature, making the apples way more nutritious.
If you have some unripe avocados that you want to ripen up, the fridge is definitely not the place for them. The cold air causes avocados to ripen more slowly. Leave your avocados in a cool, dry place, like on your counter in the open air.
But make sure to eat them before they get too ripe. There’s nothing worse than an overripe avocado. If you feel like your avocados are starting to get too ripe, you can pop them in the fridge to slow down that process.
Bananas hold on to their nutrients better when they are kept out of the fridge. Cold temperatures actually slow down the ripening process (as we saw with the avocados). But there is also a lot of moisture in most refrigerators which can cause bananas to turn brown or even black.
If you really want to keep bananas around for a long time, slice them into small pieces and store them in plastic bags in the freezer. Frozen bananas are perfect for smoothies.
You shouldn’t store basil cuttings in the fridge. Refrigerators are dark and your basil can’t get any sunlight in there. Basil has been known to wilt in the fridge.
Instead, place any leftover basil in a cup half full of fresh water, and then place that cup by a sunny window. Your basil will last a lot longer, and it may even sprout roots, which means that you can replant it and grow infinite basil.
Nothing dries out bread faster than leaving it in the refrigerator. At cold temperatures, bread will turn stale, dry, and tasteless. Also, bread acts as a kind of sponge and it will soak up whatever odors are lingering around your fridge.
To be safe, store leftover bread in a breadbox. This closed-off box will keep moisture from escaping from your delicious bread. If you don’t have a breadbox, you can always store your bread in a microwave. Just make sure you don’t accidentally turn it on.
Carrots can actually rot and become waterlogged and droopy if they’re left in the fridge for too long. You should store your carrots away from direct sunlight in a place with low moisture.
If you’re cutting up a bunch of carrots to serve alongside chicken wings or something, you can put them in a container of water and place that in the fridge, but only if you’re going to eat them within a few hours.
I don’t know anybody who stores cereal in the fridge. I shouldn’t need to tell you this, but the fridge is not a place where cereal belongs. The moisture in there will cause the cereal to wilt and become much less crunchy.
Cereal should always be stored in a cool dry place, like a pantry or a cupboard. Nobody likes soggy cereal. Unless you’re one of those people who like to let your cereal get soggy in the milk before you eat it…
I know a lot of people absolutely love cold chocolate, but the ideal temperature for chocolate is actually between 65 and 68°F, which is much warmer than the average refrigerator.
Only store your chocolate in the fridge if you live in a very warm part of the world and your chocolate is at risk of melting completely. If you really love freezing cold chocolate though, I’m not going to stop you from eating it that way.
Typically, a ripe fruit is a sweet fruit, which means that fruit that’s kept at room temperature will ripen faster and develop more sweetness. Citrus fruit can be rather sour if it’s not given enough time or space to ripen.
Keep fruits like oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes out of the fridge. If you absolutely love cold oranges, store them outside of the fridge, but pop them into the fridge an hour or two before you want to eat them.
You can actually keep coffee in the fridge as long as it’s in an airtight container. This goes for both coffee beans and leftover brewed coffee. Generally, coffee beans need to be in a cool dry place, and a fridge is cool, but not very dry.
Brewed coffee can make everything else in your fridge smell like coffee, and if it’s too hot, it can actually raise the temperature of your whole fridge, which is damaging to all of the meat and dairy you have in there.
Cucumbers do not do well when they’re left in the fridge. They can quickly become waterlogged and lose a lot of their flavor. Instead, store your cucumber on your counter or in a pantry. Just don’t forget that you left it there. You don’t want to find a rotten cucumber in your pantry later on.
If you want your cucumbers to be cool because you want to put them on your eyes or something, then you can leave them in the fridge momentarily or store slices of cucumber in ice water.
In some countries, eggs aren’t kept in the refrigerator in grocery stores or in people’s homes. That’s how it’s done across the pond in the UK. A study recently uncovered there found that it actually makes no difference whether or not you store your eggs in the fridge, so you might as well save yourself some fridge space.
Not so in the US! Please keep in mind that the FDA recommends that eggs be kept in the fridge, however. It’s best to read the full precautionary statement before quitting the fridge on this one.
I haven’t met very many people who store wheat flour in the fridge (I don’t think I’ve met any, actually), but just in case you were thinking about putting flour in the fridge, there is absolutely no reason to do so.
Flour should be stored in a dry place and in an airtight container. You can put it in the fridge if you want, but it’s just going to take up a lot of fridge space.
Tropical fruits come from tropical places where it’s warm and rainy and the sun is always shining. You don’t want to take a tropical fruit and put it in a cool, dry fridge. That’s the opposite of what it needs.
Fruit like mangoes, plums, kiwi, apricots, and peaches actually ripen at a slower rate in the fridge and they’ll lose flavor and nutrients faster. Just leave tropical fruit in a bowl out on your table or kitchen counter. They’re so pretty to look at, too. Leave them out for everybody to see.
Garlic is another food item that doesn’t need to be stored in the fridge. If you do keep it in the fridge, it can get rubbery and even start to sprout. It can look totally normal, but then when you cut it open, you’ll notice little green sprouts inside.
Leave your garlic in a specialized garlic jar, or even in a pair of breathable nylon pantyhose. You can also peel the garlic and store the peeled cloves in your freezer.
It may seem obvious to you, but you really shouldn’t store honey in the refrigerator. The cold air will cause the honey to crystallize, which isn’t great. If your honey does crystallize, just put the whole jar in a warm water bath to dissolve the crystals.
Honey is a natural preservative, so it doesn’t need to be kept in the fridge or freezer for it to last a long time.
When it comes to any kind of hot sauce, you have to remember that these products have a pretty long shelf life. They’re full of natural preservatives like vinegar and they often don’t contain very many actual fruits or vegetables.
You should store hot sauce away from direct sunlight and keep it in a cool, dry place like a pantry or a cupboard. If you’re a hot sauce fanatic, you might just want to leave it on the table because you know you’re going to use it again with your next meal.
Jam is packed with preservatives, both natural and artificial, and it’s literally built to last. Keeping it in the fridge won’t make it last any longer.
What will make it last longer is taking care not to contaminate your jam jar. If you’re having jam with any kind of cheese (by the way, fig jam, pictured here, goes wonderfully with brie, and basically every cheese on the planet) don’t use the same knife to spread your jam and cut your cheese. If you get any cheese in your jam jar, that will make it spoil faster.
Contrary to popular belief, ketchup doesn’t actually need to be stored in the fridge, even after the bottle is open. That’s why all of those diners can just leave glass bottles of Heinz ketchup out on the tables for hours at a time.
This stuff is chock-full of preservatives. As long as you don’t contaminate it, ketchup can last for a really long time. Now you don’t need to worry when you’re slathering it onto your burger.
There is nothing better than a cool slice of watermelon on a hot summer day, but you really shouldn’t be storing your watermelon in the fridge. When kept at room temperature, melons will keep their natural antioxidant levels balanced.
If you want that delicious cold melon, store the melons at room temp, slice them up about an hour before you’re ready to eat them, put those slices in the fridge, and enjoy an hour later.
You probably have always stored your olive oil in the pantry, which is definitely where it belongs. The fridge is no place for an expensive bottle of olive oil (the king of all oils, by the way. Coconut oil is getting some good press lately, but olive oil is still the king).
The cool temperatures in your refrigerator will only cause the oil to harden and form something resembling butter. That’s not what anybody wants.
According to the US Department of Health & Human services, dry pasta remains fresh for two years in the pantry. If you’ve already opened the package, you should consume it within one year. Eat By Date offers the same estimate.
Because fresh pasta often contains eggs, it only lasts one to two days in the fridge. Cooked pasta, whether dry or fresh, lasts up to a week in the fridge. If you want it to last longer, you can keep it in the freezer for six to eight months.
Packaging expiration dates reflect food quality, not safety. This rule is especially true for eggs, which can last in the refrigerator for three to five weeks. As a general rule, you can safely eat your eggs two to three weeks beyond the “sell by” date.
The US Department of Agriculture offers a more detailed method. “This three-digit code indicates the date of packaging, starting with January 1 as 001 and ending with December 31 as 365…You can store fresh shell eggs in their cartons in the refrigerator for four to five weeks beyond this date.”
Although meat only lasts a couple of days in the fridge, it can stay fresh long after the expiration date in the freezer. According to FoodSafety.gov, whole meat can last up to one year in the freezer, while ground meat can last three to four months.
“Food poisoning bacteria does not grow in the freezer,” reports the US Department of Agriculture, “so no matter how long the food is frozen, it is safe to eat. Foods that have been in the freezer for months may be dry, or may not taste as good, but they will be safe to eat.”
Since most coffee creamers contain a lot of preservatives, they usually last weeks after their expiration date. Liquid creamers usually last two to three weeks after opening, regardless of the printed date. The USDA recommends tossing it out after three weeks.
Half and half is one of the freshest creamers out there, so it only stays fresh for three to four days. However, you can keep it in the freezer for up to four months. Non-dairy creamer can last up to two years if they are stored at room temperature. Once you open it, store it in the fridge for one to two weeks.
Although many people think their spices are indefinite, that isn’t always the case. McCormick & Company, an American spice seller, says that the only indefinite spices are salt and vanilla extract. Other extracts will become rancid after two to three years.
Although old spices won’t harm you, they will grow stale. Ground spices last up to three years beyond the “best by” date, while whole spices (such as whole peppercorns and bay leaves) last for up to four years. You can revive the flavor of some spices by cooking them in hot oil or gently toasting them on a skillet.
Not all vegetables come with an expiration date, and these usually last around one to two weeks in the fridge. Those that have a date — like carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, celery, and spinach — often last longer than their date suggests.
Once vegetables go bad, they develop a slimy texture, brown spots, and rotten smell. Many don’t reach this point until a couple of weeks beyond the “best by” date. However, prepackaged greens often go bad around their expiration date since they’re chopped.
While there are several different types of cooking oil, they all have similar shelf lives. The USDA agrees that most cooking oils are safe to use for up to one year after opening. Coconut oil will remain fresh for up to three years.
Storing cooking oils in a cool, dark pantry is the best way to keep them fresh. Since oxidation causes the oil to decay, tightly seal the lid after each use. If the oil smells or tastes rancid, it’s gone bad. Some oils also grow dark and flavorless once they’ve expired.
Because cheese is made through molding, it often lasts beyond its expiration date. The USDA claims that soft cheese lasts one to two weeks in the fridge, while hard cheese can be consumed up to six months in the fridge unopened. If you’ve opened the package, it’ll last three to four weeks.
In general, you can tell when your cheese goes bad through smell. If some areas have molded, you can cut them off and eat the rest safely. Some mold colors, such as orange, blue, and green, are not edible.
Milk’s life span depends on its fat content. In general, most dairy milk can last five days beyond its printed date. Non-fat milk stays fresh up to ten days, while whole milk can last up to a week. If the milk looks discolored or smells rotten, it’s spoiled.
While non-dairy milks keep up to a month if they’re unopened, they usually last around a week after opening, according to FoodSafety.gov. Spoiled non-dairy milks will taste sour and have a thicker texture than fresh milk.
Contrary to popular belief, most alcohol won’t last forever on your shelf. According to researchers at Bacardi, glass bottles make alcohol more prone to spoiling. While this research isn’t peer-reviewed, it does suggest that light, warmth, and air accelerate alcohol’s decay rate.
According to FoodSafety.gov, white and red wines remain fresh for one to two years. Beer only stays good for six to nine months after its expiration date. Hard liquors, such as whiskey, tequila, vodka, and brandy, will last for many more years. Once you open the bottle of any alcohol, it’ll only stay fresh for a couple of days.
How long fish stays fresh depends on the type of seafood and how it was prepared. In general, raw fish lasts longer in the freezer but less long in the fridge. Raw cod, salmon, and halibut stay fresh one to two days in the fridge and six to nine months in the freezer. Smoked fish can stay in the fridge for five to seven days, but only three to six months in the freezer.
Some canned fish, like tuna, can last two to five years past its printed date. And air-packed smoked fish can last two to three weeks in the fridge, according to FoodSafety.gov
While most labels recommend refrigerating condiments, you can keep them in the pantry, according to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. Similarly, the expiration date on these condiments is only quality-based. How long they stay fresh depends on the condiment.
Mustard can stay fresh up to one year after opening, while relish remains good for nine months. Ketchup and chili sauces remain edible for six months after opening. You can safely eat commercial mayonnaise and horseradish within two to three months after opening.
Butter can last beyond it’s “best by” date if you store it correctly. If you keep butter at room temperature, it’ll only stay fresh for one to two days, according to the USDA. When the butter is anywhere above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the oils inside of it begin to decay.
Keep your butter in the fridge, and you can enjoy it up to one month later. In the freezer, it’ll last for six to nine months. Fortunately, you can easily tell when butter goes bad; it becomes too soft, too hard, or develops mold.
According to Eat By Date, chocolate lasts for months beyond the printed date. In the pantry, chocolate chips and bars last two to four months, and they last for six to eight months in the fridge. Truffles and Belgian chocolate stay fresh for one to two months after the expiration date.
If you see a white film on your chocolate, don’t fret. That’s called “chocolate bloom,” when the cocoa butter melts and re-solidifies. You can still eat it. If you see white dots on the edge of your chocolate, that means it’s getting old. However, you can still use the bar in cooking.
Whether or not it’s refrigerated, nut butter can last up to a year unopened. Commercial peanut butters will last longer; you can eat some peanut butter up to two years after buying it. Natural butter, such as natural peanut, almond, or cashew butter, last up to three months after opening.
You’ll know when your nut butter goes bad when it tastes rancid. To keep them fresh, store your nut butters in a cool area such as a shaded pantry or fridge. Contrary to other butter types, Nutella only stays fresh around two to three months after the printed date.
If you keep your cereal box unopened, it’ll last for six to twelve months on the shelf, according to FoodSafety.gov. After you open it, you can keep it for two to three months. Breakfast cereals don’t go bad in the same way that fresh foods do.
“There is not that much of a quality issue,” Emily Broad Leib, director of Harvard Food Law & Policy Clinic, told TIME. “If you leave your cereal box open, it can get stale, but you are not going to get sick from it.”
Yogurt doesn’t go bad as quickly as other dairy products do. Both Greek yogurt and low-fat yogurt last around one to two weeks in the fridge, regardless of the printed date. If you freeze yogurt, you can eat it for up to two months later, according to Eat By Date.
Drinkable yogurts and yogurt with fruit don’t last as long. Both will stay fresh for up to two weeks. If your yogurt produces extra liquid, develops mold, or smells sour, throw it out.
If you store your canned food in a cool, dark location, it will last years beyond it’s “best by” date. Cans containing meat, vegetables, or potatoes will are safe to eat two to five years in the pantry. Highly-acidic canned foods (such as pickles, tomato soup, and sauerkraut) last for a year and a half.
If a food can appears rusted, dented, or swollen, it’s gone bad. And after you open them, they’ll only stay fresh for a couple of days in the fridge. Acidic food remains ripe for a week, while canned meat and vegetables stay fresh for up to four days in the fridge.
Most of us tend to toss food into the freezer and forget about it. But some frozen treats, such as fruit and vegetables, will go bad within the year. Regardless of its “best by” date, frozen fruit will last for six to nine months. Frozen vegetables remain safe to eat for eight to ten months.
To tell if frozen produce has gone bad, wash off the ice crystals. If the fruit or vegetable maintains its color and texture, then it’s safe to eat. Spoiled frozen produce can also shrivel or lose color.
How long food lasts in the freezer depends on what it is and whether it’s cooked. Most pre-made meals are already cooked, so they’ll go stale within three months. However, frozen food never produces a health risk as long as it’s kept frozen. After a while, the flavor will disappear.
Frozen dairy products like ice cream usually last two to four months. Grain-based dishes, like pancakes and waffles, stay fresh for two months. Most TV dinners will remain tasty for up to three months in the freezer.
Have you ever found a bottle of salsa shoved way to the back of the fridge and wondered what to do with it? Maybe you’re preparing Mexican food, or maybe you’re throwing a party and just need some dip. In any event, relying on the best-by date isn’t always best.
When it comes to salsa, you can safely eat it up to two weeks after the best-by date. However, the greatest sign is the appearance. If it seems to have a film on it, throw it out.
Unopened, chips can last for months. Once the chips are opened, they still can last for a very long time. The issue is whether or not they are kept in a truly air-tight environment. Chips that haven’t been opened are less likely to be exposed to oxygen, which enables bacteria to grow.
However, since chips are often doused in salt, the likelihood of them developing a substance that can harm you is slim. The real issue is simply quality. They’ll eventually get stale.