As you embark on a spring cleaning mission or a major decluttering spree, certain areas of the house often take precedence: clearing out unused clothes, kitchen items, or even tackling a major space like the garage or basement. But what may often get neglected in a cleanout (and really, really shouldn’t) are your personal care and beauty items. Things like makeup, toiletries, nail items, and the like are used often, and can become a mass of unused items and older products with no clear “expiration date,” which doesn’t mean they don’t have one.

When it comes to nail polish and grooming items, you may likely end up with a big basket, everything tossed in one place (unless you’re particularly organized!), which makes it hard to keep track of how long you’ve had each bottle. A good place to start is keeping your polishes organized so it’s easier to know how long you’ve had each one, whether each is opened, and so you get more use out of them.

How Long CanYou Keep Nail Polish

Really there’s no set in stone date on this, and they do tend to last a while, but experts recommend about two years after opening them your polishes might start to take on different textures and some ingredients will evaporate. This can lead to a lower quality application, making the polish hard to use or look less attractive once dried. 

If you know some of your bottles have been sitting opened for five or ten years, it’s time to toss them and replace them. However, the exception is unopened bottles. If they’re still sealed, experts say they’ll essentially last forever, until you open them and start the clock ticking on quality.

How to Tell if it’s too Old

However, there are also some clues you can seek out to determine if your polish has passed its usable point, if you can’t remember how long you’ve had it.

Polishes separating isn’t uncommon, but if you shake the bottle vigorously to mix the color and it separates very quickly again, this is a sign it’s at the end of its life. As with most beauty products you should also give it a smell test and take a look at the consistency. Odd smells or thick, unusual texture is a sure sign to toss it right away. Any major discoloration is also an important indicator that the polish is no longer good.

And, if you’d like to make sure your nail polish lasts as long as it can, while keeping its best possible quality, store it in a cool dark place (lots of light will age it faster) or add a few drops of nail lacquer thinner to an older bottle to perk up the texture. If that doesn’t help, it’s time to declutter that bottle.

Other Nail Supplies

As far as other nail grooming supplies like nail files and clippers are concerned, these may also need to be replaced or cleaned more often than you do.

When it comes to nail files, if you use standard emery boards, these should be tossed and replaced every few weeks to a few months, depending on how often you use them! So if you’re holding onto years-old nail files, those things are coated in bacteria (from all the shaved off skin and nail cells they’re used to collect!) and are doing more harm than good at this point. Toss it, now.

If you use a glass nail file (and it’s probably time to make this a permanent switch) these can last a long time, as long as you disinfect them very regularly, which is much easier to do with glass.

The same goes with nail clippers. These last for a while too, since metal can be disinfected. But that means you actually need to disinfect them, or they’re just landmines of germs!

If your nail clipper ever starts to rust, smells off, or is too worn down to function properly, you know it’s past time to toss it out and move on. Decluttering doesn’t just apply to big things; get into the nitty gritty of bathroom drawers and even your hands will be better off for it.

About Annie Burdick

Annie Burdick is a writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon, but transplanted from the Midwest. She also works as a community inclusion specialist for adults with disabilities. Previously she's edited and written for magazines, websites, books, and small businesses, on an absurdly wide range of topics. She spends the rest of her time reading, eating good food, and finding new adventures in the Pacific Northwest.

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