Have you ever discovered a long-forgotten container in the back of your refrigerator, only to find a science fair experiment growing inside? That’s usually a sign it’s time to conduct a thorough audit to find expired food and toss it out.
Conducting a purge like that three or four times per year is a good habit, but it’s important that you not stop with the fridge and pantry. There are all kinds of things with expiration dates, including some of the most common and important electrical and safety devices in your home.
Nothing Lasts Forever
If there’s one lesson to remember from this article, it should be this: smoke detectors expire! Replacing your smoke detector on schedule could someday save your life.
Most smoke detectors have a useful life of ten years, and fire alarm code requires that these are replaced upon expiration. The expiration date should be printed on the back of the module, sometimes under the lid of the battery compartment.
Likewise, carbon monoxide detectors are also stamped with expiration dates. They tend to last between five and seven years. With both types of detectors, it’s also important to test them regularly and replace them immediately if they’re found to be out of order.
And while you’re in fire safety mode, check the expiration date on your kitchen fire extinguisher. The lifespan of a fire extinguisher can vary, but disposable models usually last between five and fifteen years. Non-disposable models need to be recharged periodically, often every five or six years. These extinguishers should have a tag where you can verify and record the date of every recharge service or other maintenance.
Another electrical device that won’t always be there for you is the surge protector you use to protect your computer and sensitive electronics. Except surge protectors don’t go bad after a number of years -- they expire after absorbing a certain amount of electrical surge. If your surge protector has an indicator light that shows whether it’s actively protecting, you’ll know yours is shot when the light won’t come on anymore. Without an indicator light, the safest route is to replace a surge protector after about two years or a major electrical surge event, whichever comes first.
But That’s Not All
Electronics aren’t the only surprising household objects that can expire. Here are some others you should be on the lookout for:
Safety equipment. Child safety seats and protective helmets, durable as they are, have expiration dates that are important to heed. The materials used in these goods can weaken with age and heat exposure, as well as from impact, so you should also replace them after any major accident. The expiration date is usually stamped on the equipment itself – often six to ten years for child safety seats and three to five years for protective helmets.
Bleach. If you have a bottle of bleach that’s been in the back of your cabinet for years, it’s a bottle of salt water by now. Chlorine dissipates faster than you might think, and a bottle of bleach will only keep its powerful disinfecting properties for about three months when stored at room temperature. The shelf life is even shorter if you keep it in a space that isn’t air conditioned.
Sunscreen. You definitely don’t want to lay in the sun all day only to discover that the sunscreen you used to protect yourself has expired. There should be an expiration date printed on the bottle, and most brands last about three years.
But remember, most importantly, your smoke detectors expire! For help replacing or upgrading your aging smoke alarms, reach out to your local Mister Sparky.