By Holly M, Contributing Writer
While there are plenty of things that we replace only when they’re worn out or depleted, some household items need to be replaced more frequently. We’ve all got that favorite pillow or mascara that we’ve been hanging on to for years, but it really is healthier to let go. Here’s a handy guide to help you know how often many common household items should be replaced.
For most people, brake pads should be replaced after about 50,000 miles, but it can vary widely. Be sure to consult your owner’s manual to see the recommendations for your vehicle. In general, it’s a good idea to ask your mechanic to check your brakes whenever you have the tires rotated or oil changed. If they begin to make a squealing or scraping noise, replace them immediately to avoid failure.
The average car battery lasts about four years, but this can vary depending on the climate where you live, how you drive, and the condition of your car’s system. If you see corrosion or signs of wear, it might be safest to test or just replace the battery. Also be aware if your battery starts to smell like rotten eggs as this could mean it’s overheating.
The rule of thumb used to be every 20,000 miles, but advances in technology have muddied these waters. Consult the owner’s manual for your car to see how often it’s recommended that you change your oil, and be sure to use the grade specified to keep your vehicle in top condition. Whatever you do, don’t wait for the light to come on to tell you to get more oil. That causes unnecessary wear and tear on your engine and can lead to much bigger problems.
Every 24,000 to 36,000 mil3 years for most drivers, you should change your car’s radiator fluid. This is because dirt and other contaminants can build up in it, causing your car’s cooling system to work less efficiently. If you tend to drive in extreme heat regularly, consider changing it more often, about every 12,000 miles or once a year.
Remember to clean your bath mat regularly, and be sure to replace it every two years to prevent a buildup of germs and possible other nasties.
You should throw out disposable razors or blades every week or two. If they ever begin to appear rusty or corroded, they can lead to big health issues, so don’t chance it. Ensuring that the blade is allowed to completely dry after each use can prolong its life.
If you have a natural loofah, you should replace it every month. Synthetic versions tend to last about twice as long, so every two months will suffice. Either way, make sure to store it in such a way that it can dry completely after each use.
You should replace your toothbrush about once a season, or every three months, according to Oral-B. This keeps them in good condition, and doesn’t allow germs to hang around for long periods. You should also replace your toothbrush immediately after you’ve been sick with a cold or other illness.
This is one of those items where quality of materials and frequency of use can make a big difference. Generally, you can hang on to towels until they begin to lose their absorbency, but you really should wash them every three days or so.
A good quality duvet can last several years with regular washing. Be sure to clean it at least once a season. If you have a high-quality duvet, you can hang on to it for about 5 years on average. Less expensive ones should be replaced after 2-3 years.
We’ve all seen the ads on TV featuring terrifying looking mites and statistics on dead skin build up. These are truly excellent reasons to replace your mattress every seven to ten years, according to Prevention magazine. To help your bed last longer, many experts recommend vacuuming the surface each time you change your sheets.
Because the quality and construction of pillows varies so much, this can be a little harder to pinpoint. A handy trick for most types is to fold the pillow in half. If it springs back to its flat shape, it still has some life left in it. If it doesn’t, it’s time to replace it. Of course, this doesn’t work on foam pillows or some other specialty types. On average, most pillows should be replaced about every six months, but memory foam or other structural pillows can last 18-36 months.
Cosmetics and Beauty Products
Given the price of a decent foundation, it’s good to know that they have a longer shelf life than most cosmetics. Generally, liquid foundation will last about six months to a year. If you start to notice it separating or clumping, or an unusual odor or texture, it’s time for a new bottle.
Since you double dip it every time you use your lip gloss, you really should throw it out after about 6 months, or immediately after any type of illness. You may also notice changes in color or smell, which also indicate it’s time to replace.
You should get a new mascara every two or three months. Because it’s a liquid and used near your eyes, it’s especially vulnerable to bacterial contamination. Don’t risk your eye health by trying to hang on to your favorite tube.
Nail products like polishes and treatments generally last about a year. Pay attention to shelf life and look for signs of age like separation or clumping. Nail polish that has been kept too long can harbor bacteria or fungus and lead to serious infections. Be sure to ditch your nail tools like clippers or files if they begin to look corroded or rusty.
Powdered cosmetics like blush, eye shadow, and others tend to pose fewer health risks as they’re less likely to harbor nasty germs. Generally, these items last one to two years. You should, however, be sure to regularly clean the brushes you use to apply them.
This may seem like one of those items that you can hang onto until you run out, but most antibacterial creams tend to lose effectiveness about a year after they’re opened. Replace them annually to make sure your first aid kit is always ready to go.
Contact Lens Products
You should replace your lens solution 3 months after the seal is broken, according to experts. For many, this is pretty natural as you use it up in that time, but if you don’t use as much, your solution can become contaminated just by repeated contact with the air each time you use it. Get a new case every three months as well to preserve the health of your eyes.
If you have a stash of vitamins in the cabinet because you don’t take them frequently, or you only use them to treat specific causes, you might want to clear the cache out. Most vitamins lose potency about 3 years after they’re produced. Because there’s often no easy way to tell how long it sat on a warehouse shelf, experts recommend you get rid of them two years after purchase if no expiration date is present.
Portable fire extinguishers are a great safety item to keep in the house, but they don’t last forever. After a while, even unused extinguishers begin to lose pressure, which renders them useless. If you have a rechargeable model, be sure to have it serviced at least every six years. Other models should be replaced once every ten years.
Most people know that your smoke alarm batteries should be tested monthly and replaced at least once a year. But you may not realize that the alarm itself should be replaced once every decade.
Heating and A/C
Heating and A/C filters affect the air quality of your entire house, so it’s important to remember to change them. During peak seasons, check for buildup every month, and be sure to replace the filter every 3 months to keep your family breathing easily.
Refrigerator Water Filters
If your fridge has a built in water and ice system, there’s a filter inside to keep things fresh. You should replace this at least every 6 months, or more often if you use it a lot. Many refrigerators now have a filter replacement warning, but if not, set yourself a reminder so you don’t forget!
Many modern vacuum cleaners come with washable filters. These should be cleaned out every 3-6 months depending on the frequency of use. For models with disposable filters, the same timing applies. Replace them every 3-6 months to keep your vacuum working efficiently.
We know that shopping online can be scary, especially when you hear about cybersecurity and breaches. We have pulled together 4 tips to help you and your financial information stay safe when shopping online.
By Michelle R., contributing writer
1) Protect your identity and your cash
Online shopping has become a go-to for Americans to purchase the items they once bought in the store. It has also broadened shoppers’ horizons by providing access to products and services that may have been unreachable due to distance. As much as e-commerce has its glory, it is also a virtual phenomenon that has wiped many businesses out of their brick and mortar establishments. Not surprisingly, eMarketer recently reported that retail sales would double by 2020, which will surpass $692 billion dollars. With the flooding of shoppers on the web, it has become extremely easy for hackers and crooks to overtake people’s identities. Keep these tips in mind in order to make it tougher for identity thieves to cheat you out of your hard earned money:
- Create complex passwords (these include capital letters, numbers and symbols and aren’t easy to guess)
- Use secure networks
- Be mindful when asked to provide your personal confidential information (date of birth, social security number, and even home address, etc.)
2) If it sounds too good to be true, don’t believe it
There are people who really believe they are masterminds at conning people, and many get away with it. Reports of online shopping scams have involved incidents such as sales of fraudulent merchandise like an imitation Coach bag posed as authentic. The promise of a product or service that is contingent on upfront payment is another tactic commonly used by scammers. In those instances, customers send payment but later do not receive their items. Paying attention to the following tips can prevent you from getting scammed online:
- If the online store/merchant is not popularly recognized, get to know them better by reading online reviews on their website, on sites like Yelp, and asking friends. Googleing the company can also reveal helpful results about previous scams related to those stores.
- When shopping on marketplaces such as Craigslist, VarageSale and Wish watch out for scammers that offer to send checks. Do not cash any check that you receive without first inspecting it very well and making sure that payer’s name and check amount are accurate.
3) Know when to walk away
With prices and taxes continually rising, Americans always try to find a bargain. It’s all about the money for many consumers. Since online stores often cut overhead costs by not having physical locations, prices are usually lower. For this reason, Americans often take the risk of making online purchases from stores with affordable prices. Not surprisingly however, this is how online scam artists reel customers to their sites. As compared to 2015, online scammers have stolen upwards of $16 million dollars from consumers. Paying the lower price now, can cost you more in the long run. Following the steps below can help you avoid becoming a victim of internet fraud,
- Take the time to check out the website’s contact information and purchase policies. If contact information is missing or they have policies that do not make sense, this should a red flag. You may want to walk away from these types of stores.
- In an online marketplace setting, if a seller complicates the sale by drastically changing the agreement or adding several steps, there may be something fishy going on. Don’t give in to save a buck!
4) If you see something, say something
Millions of Americans are defrauded everyday by online scammers because those who experience it often do not know they are victims or they are unsure how to address it. Information is key. The more information that is made available to the public about the scam, the easier it will be to detect those incidences and catch the offenders. Give the following suggestions a try to help share awareness about internet fraud:
- Share your experiences with your friends and family to put them on alert about those scams. At the very least, this will make your loved ones think twice before they click to submit their orders.
- The U.S. government’s online safety department recommends that victims of internet fraud file a complaint with resources such as the Internet Crime Complaint Center, Econsumer.gov, or the Department of Justice.
Mougey, Kate. (2017). Sky’s the limit: U.S. e-commerce sales continue to climb.
The Style Avenue Blog. (2017). How to avoid online shopping scams.
Grant, Kelli. (2017). Identity theft, fraud cost consumers more than $16 billion.
By Holly Melton, contributing writer
If you’ve never really thought about all of the overwhelming sensations that a simple trip to the grocery store or shopping mall contains, you might find Lynne Soraya’s article in Psychology Today, entitled Shopping While Autistic, enlightening. In it she chronicles a trip to her local grocery store.
Ms Soraya is an adult dealing with Sensory Processing Disorder. She has had decades to learn how to cope with the overwhelming sights, sounds, and smells of shopping, and she somehow manages to get through it, but just barely. For children, the sensory experience can often lead to a complete breakdown.
The problem has become so overwhelming for so many that last year the ASDA Living Store in Manchester England has actually instituted a “quiet hour” to help customers cope. During this time, they turned off the music and televisions, and even the escalators in an attempt to help those suffering from sensory disorders be more comfortable while shopping.
Likewise, Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando has created an ER program that offers a separate, quieter waiting room complete with headphones and sensory toys for those who need a break from the chaos of the normal ER experience.
But most public places don’t offer special accommodation to those whose sensory processing can make the whole world feel overwhelming.
If you have a child or loved one who suffers from sensory overload, you likely know that shopping trips can be difficult and stressful at best. About one out of every 20 people is struggling with some form of sensory processing disorder, so it’s important to remember that you’re not alone.
Here are some tips that may help avoid an overload:
1. Plan and Discuss Ahead of Time
As with so many other things, it’s a good idea to plan shopping trips ahead of time. Know exactly what you need to accomplish and where you need to go. It may be best to rank your errands by importance, so that the most crucial get taken care of first, in case the trip has to be cut short.
As a caregiver for someone with a sensory processing disorder, you may find it helpful to keep a journal detailing the circumstances of each episode. Where were you? What was going on around you? How long did the episode last? How were you able to soothe the stress? This will help you spot patterns and avoid places that often lead to overload.
When you’re planning any kind of outing that’s not part of the set routine, giving advance warning can go a long way toward establishing a routine and avoiding stress. Rae Jacobson on ChildMind.org recommends giving as much notice as possible. “Advance warning gives kids a structure they can rely on and get comfortable with. It also allows ample time for you to work together to plan sensory friendly approaches to new activities.”
For some, taking a virtual tour of the shopping area you’ll be visiting may be helpful. Some store websites offer 3D walk throughs of their stores. For others, it might be useful to take photos and video with your phone so that your loved one can familiarize themselves with the store before ever setting foot in it.
2. Have Open Communication During the Trip
Communication during the trip is also important. If you notice your loved one is beginning to exhibit signs of overload, it’s a good idea to calmly speak to them before taking their hand. This way you can avoid escalating the situation by startling them. When trying to calm them down, try to stick with short, simple questions that can be answered with a yes or a no. These are often easier to respond to during an overload.
Some of those who suffer from sensory processing disorders may not be able to verbally communicate about what triggers them. Lucia Murillo of Autism Speaks notes “one child might be able to simply say “I need a break.” Another might need to learn a sign – such as hands over ears. Picture communication systems are yet another option.“
If, on the other hand, your loved one is able to discuss this, you may find it helpful to employ a safe word. When they begin to feel uncomfortable, they can just use their safe word, and at that point you can both retreat to a calmer, more comfortable environment. In addition to providing an escape, this can help your loved one feel some control over the situation, which in turn may reduce anxiety about the trip before you even leave your home.
3. Avoid Overwhelming Areas
Of course, some areas of your local shopping center are likely to be more difficult than others. It’s often best to avoid those areas entirely. Or, if you have to go to a shop that you know often triggers an episode, consider bringing along a friend or relative who can wait with your loved one in a more comfortable area while you shop.
It’s easy to notice that places like arcades, with all of their noise and flashing lights, can be a problem for someone with a sensory processing disorder, since these can be a little overwhelming for the rest of us at times too. But in addition to sights and sounds, scents can cause big problems too. Avoid perfume counters and heavily scented stores like candle shops. You should also stay away from busy children’s play areas, and stores with busy light displays or (for some) rows of televisions, showing dozens of active pictures.
If possible shop at a low-traffic time, so as to encounter fewer crowds. This could mean hitting the mall during the day on a weekday, or avoiding the crowds on Black Friday or other big shopping days. If you know there’s a big event going on at the local mall, it may be best to wait until it’s over before venturing in.
4. Bring Along Helpful Aides
There are also things you can bring along with you to help your loved one cope with the stimulation of a busy shopping trip. Start out with allowing him or her to pick out their own clothing. This way you can be sure they are as comfortable as possible before you even set out.
Many have found that earplugs or noise cancelling headphones can help drown out overwhelming sounds that could otherwise lead to an episode. Amy at Aspified notes “I still wear [noise cancelling headphones] to reduce overstimulating noise even when I leave the house to go the store or wherever.”
For visual stimulation caused by the glare of too many fluorescent lights, Lisa Emrich, a health guide on HealthCentral.com, recommends polarized sunglasses or a hat with a brim such as a baseball cap.
With children, it may be helpful to bring along a soft stuffed toy or other favorite item which they can try to focus on when they need to cool down. Adults may find a small sachet filled with a soothing scent like lavender or chamomile to be helpful.
5. Keep Your Trip Short
One important thing to remember is that these stimuli build up over time, and the more time spent in unfamiliar or uncomfortable surroundings, the more likely you’re heading for an overload. Keep trips short, gradually working your way up to longer adventures or busier areas. It’s better to do a few quick trips with breaks in between than to try to cram everything into one longer outing.
Above all, you’ll need to remain calm and patient, and be flexible. This can often be easier said than done, but a bit of patience and understanding may go a long way toward helping your family member or loved one feel more comfortable and supported.
If you’re interested in learning more about sensory processing disorders, you might find the following books helpful:
“The Out-of-Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Integration Dysfunction“ by Carol Stock Kranowitz
“Sensory Overload” by P.A. Morris
“Why Does Izzy Cover Her Ears? Dealing with Sensory Overload” written and illustrated by Jennifer Veenendall