24 Things Taking Up Space in Your Kitchen to Throw Out Now

Damaged cookware and dried-out herbs aren't doing you any favors.

David Watsky
Alina Bradford
a smattering of kitchen items that are ready to be tossed
1 of 25Alina Bradford/CNET

It's time to say goodbye

It's spring and our instinct to clean and organize is at odds with our desire to winnow down to zero waste. As much as we encourage compostingrecycling and repurposing, there comes a time in every kitchen item's life when it's time to say goodbye. 

Old spices that have lost their zest, kitchen appliances that no longer function (and are likely not worth fixing) and warped cookware won't do you much good.

Here's a list of items that may be taking up precious space in your cupboards, fridge or pantry and why it's time to toss 'em.

closeup of nonstick surface showing wear
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Old cookware

When nonstick cookware surfaces start to flake and chip, they'll be less effective. You also don't want to ingest too much of that chemical compound. 

If your nonstick skillet looks anything like this, it's time to saddle yourself with a fresh pan. These are the best nonstick frying pans we've tested.

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Warped cookware

If your cast-iron skillet no longer lies flush on the stove, that means it's warped. This likely happened from exposing the pan to drastic temperature changes such as rinsing it with cold water while it was still hot.

Cleaning scorched cast iron is simple but, unfortunately, there's no easy way to unwarp a pan. If your Lodge is wobbly, it's probably time to spring for a new one and begin building that surface seasoning from scratch.

Bottles of olive oil on a supermarket shelves
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An old bottle of olive oil

Some oils last longer than others but fresh olive oil has a relatively short shelf life. Try to use olive oil within three to four months of opening. After that, it's probably time to toss it and spring for a fresh jug. 

cooked rice in a bowl
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Leftover rice

Cooked rice might seem like one of those things that'll last forever, but it doesn't. 

As CNET's Nina Raemont explains in this article, cooked rice can develop bacteria within an hour of being left out at room temperature and cause food poisoning. 

plastic container
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​Plastic storage containers

If your plastic containers are warped, then the lids won't seal properly. A poor seal can lead to freezer burn, spills and other problems. Put them in the recycling bin and stock up on sturdier plastic containers or glass jars and storage containers that will last much longer.

And if you're not sure which takeout containers and boxes can be recycled, we've devised this helpful guide.

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If your sponge has bits falling off or has food trapped in the scrubber you just can't get out, then don't bother. It's time to toss it. Also, give it a toss when it starts to smell funny. A sour smell typically means the sponge is growing bacteria.

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Chipped cups and bowls​

I know it's hard to let go of your favorite bowl or mug, but if it's chipped, you need to say "adios." That broken area can cut your lip or fingers. Plus, if your bowl or cup is an antique, the paint may contain lead. You don't want little flakes of lead in your coffee or cereal.

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​Old ceramics that may contain lead

While we're talking about lead, take a good look at the old ceramic items in your kitchen. Ceramic bowls or cups that have a corroded glaze (it looks like the paint is coming off) or are covered with a dusty-looking or chalky gray residue after they have been washed may be glazed with lead. The lead can leach into your food, so stop using them ASAP.

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​Old spices

If you don't cook a lot, your spices may be past their prime. The older the seasoning, the less flavor it will give your recipes. The best indication of how good a spice might be is the sniff test. If the spice still smells strong, keep it. If you can hardly smell anything, toss it.

Old spices are often a washed-out color and clump up in the jar due to exposure to humidity.

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Old herbs

Use the sniff test on herbs, too. Also, look for faded or grayish colors, which could be another sign of herbs that are long past their use-by date. 

Here's how to store herbs so they last longer.

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Pantry items

While you're clearing out your seasoning rack, head on over to your pantry. Here are 10 pantry items that you should purge.

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​Canning jar lids

Do not reuse canning jar lids for canning. After one use, the seal will no longer work properly. You can use the used lids on items you'll just store in the fridge, but once they're rusty, it's time to toss them in the recycling bin.

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Ripped pot holders

This should be obvious, but I've seen too many people with ripped pot holders in their kitchens. Eventually, these people end up with a nasty burn. Don't be like them! Get some new potholders that will properly protect your digits.

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If your sieves are rusty or have holes, toss them in the recycling. The rust can get into your food, and what's the point of pouring something through a sieve that has a big hole in it? Just let it go.

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​Unused appliances

It doesn't matter if it was a wedding gift or not. Box up any appliance you haven't used in a year and give it to charity. You'll enjoy the added space in your kitchen and someone else will enjoy your donation.

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Rusty pans

Round up your rusty pans and add them to your recycling bin. Rust isn't good for your health, so say goodbye unless they're cast iron. (Rusty cast iron can be fixed with these steps.)

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Plastic bags

No shame here. We all have had piles of plastic shopping bags under our sink. That mass of bags makes a snug home for bugs... and it's just a mess. It's time to put them in the recycling bin and move on to reusable bags.

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Who doesn't have a jar of pickles in the fridge that's been there since 2010? Pickles do go bad, though. Try to find the Use By date on the jar to see if they've expired. If you can't find it, then go by one simple rule: If you can't remember when you bought it, toss it.

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Condiment packets

Saving old condiments can be useful if you, ya know, use them. If the packet is sticky, corroded or discolored or the contents inside are expired. Throw it away.

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If you're an infrequent coffee drinker, you probably have a can of grounds or a bag of beans on your shelf that's been there a while. After three to six months coffee goes bad. If you can't remember how old it is, brew a cup. If it doesn't have a strong smell or it tastes weak, that means it's old. 

If you need resh beans, these are the best coffee subscriptions to try in 2024.

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Expired OTC Meds

A lot of folks have a cabinet in their kitchen dedicated to storing their medicines. Go through yours and toss anything that's expired. 

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Prescription medications

Toss the prescription meds, too. Expired medication may not be as effective and can be potentially dangerous, according to the FDA.

When tossing medicine, check the label to see if there are specific disposal instructions. Also, black out or scratch off personal information on the label. If you live in the States, you can use the US Department of Justice website to find a collection location near you.

frozen meat
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Mystery bags of frozen food

If you don't know what it is or how long it's been there, don't take a chance. Toss it. 

While we're on the subject, here are a few foods that expire faster than you'd think.

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Old utensils

If it's broken, melted or rusty, let it go. You'll be so much happier with a new spatula or whisk. 

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