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Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet: How to Organize and Dispose of Outdated Medications

pink prescription pills

 Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

Before you start, make sure you have everything you need for an efficient cleanout:

  • Trash bag for disposables

  • Sharpie for marking items

  • Ziplock bags and a box for items that need to be returned to a pharmacy or a hazardous waste facility

 Step 2: Empty Your Medicine Cabinet

Remove everything from your medicine cabinet. Yes, everything! Lay it all out on a flat surface where you can easily see each item. This includes prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, herbal supplements and even first aid supplies.


 Step 3: Check Dates and Integrity

Examine each item to check its expiration date. Expired medications can lose their potency and might not provide the treatment you need. Also, look for signs of damage or tampering. Any medication that is discolored, has an unusual smell or shows any other signs of degradation should be disposed of properly.


 Step 4: Review Relevance and Necessity

Ask yourself whether each medication is still relevant for you. Prescriptions that are no longer required or were specific to a past condition should be set aside for safe disposal. Similarly, if you’ve switched brands or found an alternative treatment, consider safely disposing of your old stock.


 Step 5: Organize What Remains

Once you’ve decided what stays, it’s time to organize. Return each item to the medicine cabinet:

- Group similar items together (e.g., all allergies medications in one area).

- Keep frequently used items more accessible.

- Consider using small bins or organizers to keep small items tidy.


 Step 6: Safe Disposal of Unwanted Medications

Do not throw away unwanted medications in the trash or flush them down the toilet as this can lead to environmental pollution. Instead:


Take-back programs

  • In Canada, you can return your unused and expired medications to any pharmacy in Canada any day of the year. In addition, some municipalities and local police forces offer take-back programs. These programs provide safe and easy ways to dispose of unused and expired drugs and health products we have in our homes.

  • In the United States, if you have expired or unneeded medication at home, your community may have permanent drug disposal boxes at the following locations: Pharmacies, including independent stores and chains, Police departments, Fire stations, Hospitals and Municipal buildings. Also, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) sponsors National Prescription Drug Take Back Day in communities nationwide where temporary disposal sites are set up across the nation to collect medication. Many communities also have their own drug take back programs. Check with your local law enforcement officials to find a location near you or with the DEA to find a DEA-authorized collector in your community.

Be sure to use a sharpie to black out your name on prescription bottles or boxes before you recycle the empty containers for privacy reasons.

Step 7: Update Your First Aid Kit

While you’re cleaning out your medicine cabinet, it’s a good time to check your first aid supplies. Replace any used or expired items such as bandages, antiseptics and ointments.


 Step 8: Maintain Regularly

Make a note in your calendar to repeat this process annually. Keeping your medicine cabinet organized and up-to-date is an ongoing task that will contribute significantly to your health and safety.


 Why It Matters


Cleaning out your medicine cabinet is a simple task with significant benefits for your health and the environment. By disposing of medications responsibly, you help prevent misuse and protect your community. Furthermore, an organized medicine cabinet helps ensure that you can find and use your medications effectively when you need them.


This National Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet Day, take the Eco-Friendly opportunity to safeguard your household and contribute to a safer community.



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