Shelf life of Household Chemicals?
February 18, 2014 11:37 AM   Subscribe

What is the shelf-life of common household chemicals?

I'm cleaning out the garage for my mom and my late father has a ton of household chemicals that I'm not sure are worth keeping. We're talking things like pesticides, fertilizers, oils, antifreeze, solvents, cleaning agents, etc. Some have been opened, some have not. I'm pretty sure most of it is 10+ years old. Is any of it worth keeping?
posted by entropicamericana to Grab Bag (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Ammonia has an indefinite shelf life [pdf]. Household bleach has a shelf life of about one year, stored in normal conditions (over time it degrades into salt water).
posted by jedicus at 12:02 PM on February 18, 2014

Some old pesticides may be things that are now banned.

YMMV as to whether that means you should keep it.

It really depends on what things are as to how long they will keep. I'd discard anything opened in case anything else has been added to the container, and the label may no longer be correct.

The more chemicals that are blended together, the more likely things are to have degraded over time. You might find lists of active ingredients on these products.

Things that are in powder/solid/granular form are likely to last longer.

Get rid of anything that's not in it's original container.

If you have motor oil in containers other than the original ones, you really really want to get rid of it -- it will eat through some plastics and make a huge mess.

Brake fluid that's opened should go to the household hazardous waste center.

For more specific info on what you specifically have, you can google "shelf life item".

You might also want to get rid of anything your mom doesn't know how to use. Even something as simple as antifreeze can be problematic if the antifreeze isn't compatible with her car. Some pesticides require certain protective gear, if she's not prepared and willing to deal with that I'd get rid of the stuff.

If you are disposing of these things they should go to a household hazardous waste collection center. It's far better for the environment than going to the landfill or pouring things down the drains or into the yard.
posted by yohko at 12:03 PM on February 18, 2014

You might also want to get rid of anything your mom doesn't know how to use.

That would mean all of it. I'd like to keep the stuff that is still usable for when I go over to help around her house.

If you are disposing of these things they should go to a household hazardous waste collection center.

Of course, I wouldn't dream of anything else. But thanks for the reminder!
posted by entropicamericana at 3:46 PM on February 18, 2014

Are there any specific things that you would prefer to keep? The shelf life of "miscellaneous chemicals" isn't really an answerable question; various chemicals and products have different shelf lives, and storage conditions matter a lot as well.

If you can narrow it down to a list of just the things that you want to keep, assuming they are OK, then that might give us more to work with.
posted by Scientist at 7:01 PM on February 18, 2014

The Household Products Database has a lot of information about that kind of product. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to include shelf life. Posting it here in case the other info is useful.
posted by bentley at 7:45 PM on February 18, 2014

Real Simple provides shelf life information for some things you may care about.

And has a shelf-life list, too.

I have no idea how good either of these is.
posted by jeri at 10:57 PM on February 18, 2014

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