You wouldn’t think old pancake mix, spices, or makeup could be a problem – but they have the potential to make you very sick. Remove the dangers from your household with this handy guide.

Off-brand phone chargers

You may be tempted to buy that cheapy model at the airport, but studies show this can pose dangers to your expensive smartphone. Ken Shirriff of How-To Geek took a dozen chargers and put them to the test. He found that most off-brand chargers provided inconsistent power, leading to battery damage.

Old pancake mix

According to experts at, packaged pancake mixes (along with many other cake mixes) can be toxic in certain circumstances. It’s a breeding ground for hard-to-spot mould and bacteria, which can be fatal for allergy sufferers. If it is past the “best by” date on the label, toss that expired box or bag right away.

Dried flowers

Pets tend to chew on things they aren’t supposed to – and that can be dangerous if you have dried flower arrangements lying around. According to The Nest, the issue is twofold: The flowers themselves pose a threat, and so do the materials used to make the flower arrangements. Many plants are toxic to both dogs and cats, and these materials can cause serious intestinal blockages or even acute poisoning.

Expired makeup

Yes, beauty products do go bad. Even worse – they can cause breakouts, skin parasites, infections, and loss of vision if not disposed of at the proper time. While it may be difficult to toss away our precious samples, old makeup can serve as a breeding ground for germs, harbouring nasty bacteria that can wreak some serious damage.

Wire hangers

Keeping your clothes on flimsy metal for too long can damage your favourite pieces. Maeve Richmond, a home organisation expert and founder of Maeve’s Method, tells Well and Good: “Wire hangers truly are too thin. Not only can they cause awkward stretch marks on clothes, but they will bend over time, causing unsightly bunch-ups in our closets, and our clothing to hang at funny angles.”

Old dish sponges

A study published in Scientific Advances reveals that the most bacteria-riddled thing in your house is your kitchen sponge. Their porous nature and liquid-absorbing abilities make them the ideal living space. Even if you’re practicing proper hygiene – soaping and rinsing the sponge regularly – it won’t be enough. Experts recommend replacing your kitchen sponge weekly.

Stale spices

Most people choose to believe spices can last forever – they don’t. A report from the FDA notes that common imported spices are contaminated with salmonella at twice the rate of all other imported foods, including coriander, oregano, basil, sesame seeds and black pepper. If you want to avoid an unexpected bout of food poisoning, make sure to clean out your pantry regularly.

Cheap jewellery

Those bargain deals are too good to be true: A non-profit organisation called The Ecology Centre ran tests on 99 pieces of jewellery that were purchased from 14 different discount stores. They found that over half of the jewellery – all of which cost less than ten dollars – had high levels of toxic chemicals; 27 of the pieces had lead levels that exceeded the safe limit (300 ppm) for children’s products.

Air fresheners

You may be a fan of the way they make your house or car smell, but air fresheners can contain serious toxins called phthalates – and many don’t even list them as an active ingredient. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, those toxins can easily affect hormones and reproductive health, especially in children. Side effects for men included lower testosterone levels, decreased sperm counts, and lower sperm quality.

Plastic containers

Tupperware, Gladware, Snapware, you name it – everyone has a collection of plastic containers. They’re great for storing leftovers, but studies show these can contain high levels of bisphenol-A (BPA), a toxin frequently found in plastics. Even in low doses, it can have a significant impact on hormonal balance and the brain. Make sure to never use plastic containers in the microwave unless they are labelled microwave safe. Try using glass or stainless steel containers instead.

Fabric sprays

While they might protect your couches and chairs from stains, many of these sprays contain questionable chemicals that can contaminate the air in your house. The National Consumer Affairs Centre of Japan found fluorine resin in four of seven major spray brands. The size of the particles was enough that inhaling the spray would pose a significant health risk.

Old contact lens case

If you’re neglecting the case you store your contacts in, you’re risking an eye infection according to optometrist Reecha Kampani, OD. She advises throwing out your solution daily and replacing the lens case once every three months. Using a case for too long can add to pathogen build-up, leading to potential scarring and vision loss.

Old electronics

How many old mobile phones do you have cluttering up drawers? How about out-dated laptops stacked in the closet? You need to get rid of them because they’re chock full of toxic stuff, like arsenic, lead and cadmium, that erode over time. The lithium batteries in old electronics can also burst, creating a potential fire risk. Just be sure to dispose of them safely – they shouldn’t be placed in your bin.

Old bras

Bras shift and stretch over time – and this is more than an aesthetic nuisance: You won’t get the support you need from that worn-out underwire. According to the HuffPost, a bra’s lifespan could be only up to eight months. If the band is stretched and not fitting as well as it should, it may be time for a new one.

Old non-stick cookware

Non-stick pots and pans are made using a carcinogenic chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which starts emitting toxic fumes every time you cook. This kind of cookware is associated with harmful side effects to the liver, thyroid, and immune system in general, according to the EPA. Go for stainless steel, glass, ceramic, or iron pots and pans instead.

Oven cleaner

Most of these cleaners contain highly corrosive chemicals that can cause redness and burns if they come in contact with the skin. Don’t worry, you can always use alternatives like baking soda paste instead. Simply combine baking soda and water to create a safe oven cleaner.

Clogged air filters

Some studies suggest that a poorly maintained A/C system can become contaminated and be harmful to your health. Their findings note that moisture-related HVAC components, such as cooling coils and humidification systems, can trigger symptoms like upper and lower respiratory problems, eye and skin irritation, headaches and fatigue. Older filters are more prone to contamination, so be sure to change them every 30-60 days.