The kitchen is the beating heart of any home. It gets the most foot traffic, is the center of most gatherings, and is the source of some (hopefully) delicious meals. But as the most used room in the house, it can take a beating.
From cleaning supplies to your hard-working appliances, everything has an expiration date, and there comes a time when your kitchen items need to be replaced.
“Maintaining your kitchen and ensuring it is properly kept is highly recommended to avoid unwanted safety or health hazards,” says Rusty Wise, owner of Mister Sparky of Cherrville in Charlotte, NC.
Not sure when your commonly used items should be repaired, replaced, or tossed altogether? Read on.
You use sponges to clean up messy spills, scrub your pots and pans, and wipe down dirty counters. As such, those sponges get icky fast.
“Because of their water retention, sponges function as a breeding ground for mold and bacteria growth, and can start to smell and look pretty dirty in a short amount of time,” says Lauren Bowen, director of franchise operations at Two Maids & a Mop. “While you can make a sponge last a few weeks by cleaning it thoroughly with soap after every use, you should fully throw out and replace your sponge every two to three weeks, regardless of if you’re making efforts to sanitize it in between uses.”
Many people use dish towels as sustainable alternatives to single-use paper towels. But dish towels harbor germs and should be laundered often.
“Dish towels see a lot of wear and tear, from wiping up spills to drying glassware and everything in between, which is why they need to be washed so regularly—as often as every other day,” says Leanne Stapf, chief operating officer of The Cleaning Authority. “But once spots and stains become visible following a wash, that’s when you know it’s time to toss it or use it as a rag to clean unpleasant messes around the house or garage.”
Watch: Surprising Things You Can Put in the Dishwasher—and What You Can’t
Plastic food containers
Grandma always raved about how miraculous plastic food containers can be for storage, but with repeated use they get banged up, become discolored, and need replacing. How often?
“Every three years,” says Bowen. “Because each type of plastic container is made differently, it’s tough to nail down a set time frame, but relying on this rule of thumb will help protect you from any plastic chemical breakdown and keep your food storage pieces looking clean.”
Bowen says the life span of plastic kitchenware also depends on how well it’s cared for.
“If you invest in glass food containers, you can avoid the costliness of buying new ones every three years, as these will only need to be replaced every 10 to 15 years or so,” says Bowen.
Any wiz in the kitchen has a fully stocked spice rack. But over time, your oregano, cumin, and turmeric can start to lose flavor.
“As a general rule of thumb, you can keep whole spices for just about four years, ground spices for around two to three years, and dried herbs will stay fresh for one to two years,” says Stapf. “To extend the shelf life of these items, keep them in a dark and dry cabinet to avoid any sunlight or outside moisture.”
You chop away at your cutting board when preparing meals, but frequent knife use can damage boards over time, so experts say they should be replaced once a year.
“Whether it is plastic or wood, your cutting board won’t last forever,” says Bowen. “Sharp knives that you use with the board are constantly creating microgrooves and small indentations in which bacteria grows.”
Be sure to keep cutting boards clean by sanitizing after every use with soap and water.
“After about 10 years, a garbage disposal can begin to clog more regularly, and the motor might slow,” says Mike Mushinski, president of bluefrog Plumbing + Drain. “At that point, talking to your plumber about replacing your disposal would be a good idea, though regular maintenance can prolong the unit’s life.”
Keep it going strong by running it often, using cold water when using the disposal, and grinding ice cubes once a month.
Refrigerator water filter
That water filter inside your refrigerator improves the water’s taste and smell, but the filter needs to be changed regularly to maintain freshness.
“Start by looking at the manufacturer’s recommendations as to when you should change the filter in your refrigerator. Typically, you can expect to do it every six months,” says Mark Dawson, chief operating officer at Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, Mister Sparky, and One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning. “However, the water quality in your home will affect the amount of use these filters get, and how often they need to be replaced.”
He says if you use your ice maker and water dispenser often, then it must be replaced more frequently.
“To replace the filter in your fridge, turn off the water supply. Remove the current filter and insert the new one. Turn on the water supply, and that’s it! It’s a simple yet important step in ensuring the health of your family at home,” says Dawson.
You may like your cafe lattes in the morning, but the quality of your brew is largely affected by how well you maintain your coffee maker.
“In general, you can expect a good coffee maker to last around five years. To extend its life span, you should decalcify your coffee maker every one to two months. You can also gently clean it every week to help this appliance last longer,” says Stapf.
And, as you may have heard, a little water and vinegar work great as a cleaner.