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Cleaning medicine cabinets

Many people have a tendency to hang on to medications far longer than they are needed, and the result is crowded medicine cabinets. Home and garden experts suggest getting rid of things like empty boxes and bottles to make cabinets more organized. -- Special photo

Have you ever opened your medicine cabinet to find it’s overflowing with outdated prescriptions, syrups, antiseptics, cotton swabs or even first-aid kits that have yet to be opened?

A guest may go to the bathroom cabinet to get a Band-Aid or cotton ball or just to snoop around, so it’s best to have the cabinet look neat and organized instead of a reservoir of junk. Home and Garden experts recommend getting rid of things like empty Band-Aid boxes, rubbing alcohol bottles or old nail files.

“Most of us are pack rats,” said Lori Carroll of Lori Carroll & Associates in Texas. “Go through the medicine cabinet every six months and throw out stuff you don’t use.”

Home and Garden writer Alice Daniel said dispose of any expired medicines.

“Pour drugs down the toilet so children and pets can’t get to them,” Daniel said.

Swift Drug Co. supervisor Kay Swift said it’s important to store medicines away from heat and moisture.

“Some medicines, if not thrown out can turn into something that can harm you,” Swift said. “The main one is Tetracycline, which is used for acne and infections.”

Swift said checking the medicine cabinet often is ideal.

“People should check at least twice a year to make sure (there’s) no out-of-date stuff,” Swift said. “Don’t keep in bathroom … or over the stove … where moisture sits or where humidity is. Shelf life isn’t as good and medicines can deteriorate. If medicines get wet, they won’t last at all.”

Daniel and Swift give tips on the dos and donts of medicine storage.

4Get glass surgical jars to store things in. Medical supply stores have great glass surgical jars for storing cotton, swabs and bandages. The jars keep items dry and within reach.

4Only keep items you regularly use in the cabinet. Store other items like lotion or extra tubes of antibiotic creams in drawers or linen closets.

Decide what you want to keep in cabinets and don’t deviate from the plan. Don’t be tempted to cram miscellaneous items into the cabinet when you’re in a rush to clean up.

Consider putting drugs somewhere else. High humidity and heat can cause some medicines to lose their potency. Make sure all medicines are out of reach of children.

Keep first aid supplies together. This helps in the case of emergencies if you need to get something quickly. You might consider reserving one shelf for emergency supplies like aspirin, cream and gauze.

Take advantage of removable shelves inside cabinets. Organize items by size with taller items on bottom shelf. Use small plastic organizers to store tweezers, combs and nail files in separate, upright compartments.

Store medicines in their original containers. The label provides important information about the medicine such as who it’s prescribed for, and the date it was dispensed.

Keep track of how many pills you have during the course of treatment.

Discard medicines you no longer need or have expired. Don’t leave medicines in places that are easily accessible to children.

Don’t share medicine with someone it is not intended for.

Don’t repackage medicine in unmarked containers.

Don’t take medicines in front of children as they can often mimic behavior.

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