Home Household machines It’s Probably Time To Replace These 16 Household Essentials

It’s Probably Time To Replace These 16 Household Essentials


Nothing lasts eternally. Still, we always try to recommend things that at least don’t break quickly and end up in a landfill, for the good of your wallet and the planet. But there are plenty of items (otherwise good items that we recommend!) around your home that will need replacing from time to time. Some of them trap germs and bacteria over time. Others lose their effectiveness over the years. Here’s a handy guide to when and why you should swap out some Wirecutter picks you (probably) use every day.

Replace every few months

Photo: Rozette Rago

Toilet brush: You should replace your toilet brush every few months or when you see the bristles starting to bend, whichever comes first. Regularly spraying your brush and holder with a disinfectant or bleach solution can prolong its life, but bacteria buildup isn’t the only reason to replace your brush with a new one. As your brush bristles flatten over time, the brush handle may start to scratch the porcelain bowl, providing new places for germs to burrow.

Water filters: Filters keep your drinking water clean of contaminants and impurities. To ensure that they continue to do this job well, the filters should be replaced regularly. Faucet-mounted water filters typically last three to six months, and most pitcher filters should be replaced every two months. (If you’re unsure of your filter replacement schedule, check your owner’s manual.) If you have a refrigerator with a built-in water dispenser, its filter should be replaced every six months.

Earplugs: Depending on how often you use them, universal earplugs (like the ones you wear to a concert) should be replaced every three to six months. Earwax, dust, and sweat can all contribute to the deterioration of earplugs. Typically this means you need to buy a new set of sockets. But if you have a pair of Loop Experience — the top pick in our guide to the best earplugs for gigs — you’ll only need to swap out the tips (which can be purchased separately for $10).

Custom earplugs, on the other hand, are more expensive than universal earplugs like the Loop. But custom plugs are designed to last much longer, if you treat them right. If you wear earplugs every day, a custom pair might be the most cost-effective option in the long run.

Foam earplugs (the kind you get at the drug store that look like tubes or balls) should be washed with soap and water. And they should be replaced every few days or if they show wear, per OSHA guidelines. If you’re only using them for sleep, editor Lauren Dragan says you’re not risking your safety by holding on for a few more days. But she still recommends replacing them after a week.

Mascara: Germs and microbes can become infected inside a tube of mascara after the wand is passed from your eye to the tube dozens of times. It’s a good idea to replace your mascara every two to four months.

Replace every few years

An assortment of surge protectors pictured in a pile on the floor.
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

Surge Protectors: If your surge protectors don’t have an automatic shutdown feature, replace them every three to five years. Otherwise, they will continue to power your devices long after their surge protection wears out, rendering them useless. Also, keep in mind that you should replace surge protectors after any major event, such as multiple outages in quick succession or a nearby lightning strike, regardless of how long they’ve been in use.

Infant car seats: Seats usually have an expiration date of six or seven years from their date of manufacture. Keep this in mind if you’re hanging on to a car seat for future use or planning to give it to a friend. And if you’re involved in a major car accident, you’ll want to replace the car seat immediately, no matter how long you’ve had it.

Plastic cutting boards: Frequently used plastic cutting boards should be replaced approximately every two years. You’ll know it’s time to replace it when a sponge clings to deep cuts or scrapes along the board. Lingering bacteria can become infected and hide in these grooves.

SodaStream Bottles: SodaStream bottles need to be replaced every few years or you run the small risk of exploding the older, weakened plastic. SodaStream helpfully prints the expiration date on the cap, side, or bottom of the bottle, so you don’t have to remember a purchase date.

Solar cream: If you have a bottle of sunscreen left over from last summer, you might want to throw it away. Sunscreen breaks down over time and most bottles are labeled with an expiration date which is a year or two from the date of purchase. And if sunscreen is left in the car or in direct sunlight, it can deteriorate faster. If your bottle doesn’t have a date, the Mayo Clinic recommends discarding it after three years.

Air purifier filters: Purifier manufacturers generally recommend annual replacement of HEPA filters. But these tips can vary from brand to brand, so always check the owner’s manual. Most purifiers also show a “change filter” light when it’s time, but these are easy to ignore, so we suggest setting a calendar reminder as well. That said, we’ve also found in our testing that the HEPA filters continue to perform almost like new after a year of constant use. The world won’t end if you’re a few months late.

Replace every decade

A First Alert smoke detector shown installed on a ceiling.
Photo: Michael Hession

Smart and dumb smoke detectors: All smoke alarms, whether smart or not, should be replaced 10 years from the date of manufacture, not the date of installation. You can find the date your alarm was triggered printed on the device itself. If your smoke alarm does not have a date, it means it was manufactured before 2000, when expiration dates were legally required to be printed on the device. You will definitely want to replace this one.

Convertible car seats and booster seats: Convertible car seats and booster seats typically expire after 10 years, giving them a longer useful life than infant car seats. If you are involved in a serious accident, you will need to replace the convertible or booster seat immediately afterwards.

Replacement time varies, but keep an eye out for these products

Close up view of four bed pillows in a pile.
Photo: Michael Hession

Bicycle helmet: The lifespan of a helmet varies, but you should always replace yours after being involved in an accident, even if you find no surface damage. Once the foam under the plastic shell of a bicycle helmet has been compressed in an accident, it can no longer do its job. However, you won’t always be able to tell what’s going on under that hard shell, so we suggest you exercise caution after a crash and replace your helmet.

Foam roller: It’s hard to say exactly how long a foam roller will last. But if you’re looking to get the most out of yours, go for something firmer in expanded polypropylene (EPP). Rollers made of softer materials can warp over time, especially if used frequently.

Pillows: “There’s no firm lifespan for pillows because people’s bodies, pillow fillings and sleeping habits are different,” says editor Jackie Reeve. “But if you start to notice over time that you have new neck, shoulder, or back pain when you wake up in the morning, or you start to have headaches at night, those are all good signs that your pillow might need replacing.” Still, there are a few things you can do to extend the life of a pillow, like throwing a down or down pillow in the dryer to fluff it up or hit and move the stuffing in a shredded foam pillow.

Mattress : The typical warranty for a mattress is 10 years. But mattresses made with more durable materials, like latex, can have longer warranties, according to senior writer Joanne Chen. However, just because the warranty says the mattress will last 10, 15, or 20 years doesn’t mean it will be in good condition for the entire duration. Depending on the quality of the mattress materials, your weight, your build, and your ability to regularly rotate your mattress, you may notice body impressions within just a few months. These indentations could be deep enough to be bothersome and yet not deep enough to be covered under warranty. Low-density foam mattresses and thick, plush pillow-top mattresses are particularly prone to premature impressions, Joanne says. Sleepers who weigh well over 200 pounds can do better with a 4 or 5 pound per cubic foot memory foam top layer or a latex mattress. You can read more about this in our mattress buying guide.