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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

When to Replace Pillows, Mattresses and More

MSNBC has recommendations on when to replace forteen common household items. I have reposted the list for your convenience.

The ritual of deep cleaning doesn't just clear the cobwebs from your ceilings (and your head) it's essential for great health, too. Knowing when to pitch everything from medication to your smoke alarm helps you and your family sleep better, stay safer, heal faster, and more. Our room by room guide outlines some surprising expiration dates.

  • Replace pillows every year. Hair and body oils will have soaked into a pillow's fabric and stuffing after a year of nightly use, making it a breeding ground for odor causing bacteria and allergy triggering dust mites. Using protectors can double the life of your pillows.
  • Toss your mattress after five to ten years. A good mattress lasts nine to ten years, according to the National Sleep Foundation, but consider replacing yours every five to seven years if you don't sleep well. A study at Oklahoma State University found that most people who switched to new bedding after five years sleep significantly better and have less back pain.
  • Change smoke alarms after ten years. After a decade of continual vigilance, a unit's sensors become less sensitive putting you at greater risk from smoke or fire should a blaze erupt. Test smoke alarms monthly and replace batteries with new ones every year. To safeguard your family, install alarms on every level of your home, in bedrooms, and outside all sleeping areas. Scary stat: One fifth of US homes have smoke alarms that don't work.
  • Keep air conditioners until they die. With proper maintenance, including annual servicing, a room or central air conditioner can easily run for up to fifteen years, especially if you don't operate it year round, says Bill Harrison, president elect of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers. Check the filter at least every six weeks, particularly in humid weather. "If dirt covers the filter so you can't see the original material or view light through it, clean it or buy a new one," he says.
  • Replace fire extinguishers every ten years. Portable extinguishers may lose pressure over time and become ineffective whether or not they've been triggered, says Lorraine Carli, national spokesperson for the National Fire Protection Association. If your extinguisher is rechargeable, have it serviced every six years or when the pressure is low. (Look for service companies in the Yellow Pages under fire extinguishers.)
  • Replace vitamins after two years. Independent tests find that most nutritional supplements are good for three years if stored in a cool, dry place, says William Obermeyer, PhD, vice president for research at Consumer?Lab.com. Because the product may have been sitting on store or warehouse shelves for a year, chuck it two years after purchase if there's no expiration date.
  • Keep water filters 20 percent longer than normal. "Filters that make health claims like lead removal are designed to provide a margin of safety in case they're not changed on time," says Rick Andrew, operations manager at NSF International, an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based company that tests filters. (This applies to most drinking water purifiers, including models from Culligan, Brita, and PUR.) Those equipped with expiration indicators (such as trigger lights) last 20 percent longer than their recommended life so a filter certified to clean one hundred gallons actually purifies one hundred and twenty. Filters without an indicator last even longer, cleaning twice the number of gallons claimed.
  • Keep cutting boards indefinitely. How you sanitize the board and not its age is what kills bugs such as E. coli and Salmonella. "The decision to replace one is ultimately based on when you think it looks too beat up," says Brenda Wilson, PhD, an associate professor of microbiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Even a board with deep cracks or grooves is safe if it's sanitized after each use: Wash the board with detergent and hot water; then rinse and flood with a solution of 1 part full strength white vinegar to 4 parts water and let it sit for 5 minutes. Rinse with clean water, pat with a clean towel, and air dry.
  • Discard contact lens solution after three months. "Once the seal is broken, germs can contaminate bottles that are left uncapped or that lack a backflow device, increasing your risk of infection," says Louise A. Sclafani, OD, an associate professor of ophthalmology at University of Chicago Hospital. Get a new case every three months, too.
  • Discard your toothbrush every three to four months. The American Dental Association recommends a three to four month rotation because frayed and worn bristles don't clean as well, leaving teeth more vulnerable to decay.
  • Throw away eye makeup six months after opening. The applicators used to apply mascara, liner, and shadow are repeatedly exposed to bacteria in the air and on your lashes; after six months of everyday use, they can overpower the products' preservatives, says John Bailey, PhD, chief scientist at the Personal Care Products Council. Liquid products that don't touch the eyes, such as foundation, can be used for up to two years; dry face products like powder and lip items are generally formulated to last at least three years.
  • Toss antibacterial cream after one year. Beyond a year, the antibiotic is probably still good, but the chemical mix in the ointment may start to go bad, which may make the product less effective.
  • Hang onto dandruff shampoo for three years: Most medicated shampoos will stay effective at least that long if there isn't an expiration date. Adding water to an almost empty bottle to get the last bit from the bottom dilutes preservatives and makes them less effective. Toss the remainder after several days.
  • Use rubbing alcohol until the bottle is empty. "Rubbing alcohol practically lasts forever," says Abigail Salyers, PhD, a professor of microbiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Even after exposure to air, the alcohol/water solution remains stable for years, if not decades, and the alcohol kills any microbes that might get into the bottle.
CopyRight 2008 MSNBC.com

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