June 16, 2017

4 Tips for Clearing Out Your Medicine Cabinet

When it comes to tidying our homes, many of us take an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach. That is, we’re more likely to keep the areas we use the most — like our bedrooms and living rooms — sparkling clean. Meanwhile, that dust-covered linen cupboard in your spare room hasn’t been opened in years! But arguably, the most neglected area in the average home is the medicine cabinet.

Research shows there are millions of unwanted and expired medicines sitting in homes across Australia. Many of us hold on to these purely because we don’t know how to get rid of them! A recent Griffith University study of over 4300 Australians showed that 80% of people are unaware of the RUM Project and don’t know how to properly dispose of medicines. However, keeping these unwanted medicines can create a significant risk of medicine mix-ups or accidental poisonings.

Read on for our top 4 tips on spring-cleaning your medicine cabinet in a safe and environmentally-friendly way.

1.   Read, remove and return

The best place to start when organising your medicine cabinet is with the RUM Project’s simple three-step process. First, read the labels and expiry dates. While expired medicines generally aren’t harmful, they’re possibly less effective. Once you’ve determined what you no longer need, remove them from their packaging and place them into a container or bag. Then, rather than throwing them in the bin, return them properly by taking them to your local pharmacy. Your pharmacist will put your medicines in a secure bin for safe disposal.

2.  Play it safe

If a medicine is no longer in its original container and you can’t remember what it is, don’t try to play the guessing game. Instead, play it safe and put it in your ‘remove’ pile. The cost of buying the same medicine twice is far less then potentially putting your health (or someone else’s) at risk by taking the wrong thing! In the future, try to keep your medicines in their original containers so they’re easier to identify.

3. Don’t mix and match

While it’s tempting to put multiple medicines in the same container to save space, this is definitely not a safe practise. Not only does it make it harder to locate your medicine when you need it, accidental medicine mix-ups can also be seriously dangerous. If you take the same medicines every day, consider getting a pill organiser to save space and keep your cabinet tidy. Just be sure to label the organiser if you share your medicine cabinet with someone else.

4. Rethink your storage

When it comes to your medicine supply, location is everything. You’ll want to avoid keeping it in your bathroom, as the humidity from the shower can speed up the expiry of your medicines. It’s best to keep them in a cool, dry place — ideally in an airtight container, and ALWAYS out of reach from children.

The Return of Unwanted Medicines Project is a free service that offers a way to dispose of unwanted or expired medicines safely and conveniently at your local community pharmacy. Find out more about the service here.

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