You can find them in every barn. Somewhere in the bottom of a trunk or tucked away in a dark corner are bottles that have been around for quite a while, but no one knows how long. Is it still good' Can you still use it'
How long a product lasts depends on several factors. One is how chemically stable the substance is to begin with — that is, how “inert” it is. Simple, solid inorganic substances, like salt or a mineral supplement, will remain unchanged for a long time, while man-made or extracted chemicals and organic substances won’t.
However, how quickly a less-inert product will deteriorate depends on how well it’s protected from the environment and other substances with which it might react. If a label directs you to “protect from freezing and heat” or “keep out of sunlight,” there’s a reason for it.
Temperature changes, exposure to air, water, humidity and sunlight can trigger chemical reactions, leading a substance to degrade or change into a form that is either ineffective or even harmful.
Products in metal containers where corrosion has occurred, or in plastic containers that are swollen, shouldn’t be used. Separation, sediment or changes in color, consistency or odor are red flags.
Heed Expiration Dates
If a product’s label contains an expiration date, it’s there for a good reason, usually because it’s required by law. While some reputable companies provide expiration or “best if used by” dates voluntarily, most won’t as it’s not to their advantage to tell you how “fresh” a product is.
Regardless of the type of product — be it a drug, feed/supplement or stall disinfectant — if the expiration date is up, don’t use it. In fact, if the expiration date is illegible, we wouldn’t use it unless you can verify with the manufacturer that the product is still OK.
Avoid the temptation to just open it up to take a look or a sniff. It doesn’t matter whether the risk is from bacterial/mold overgrowth or a chemical change. If it’s significant enough to warrant an expiration date, you don’t want to expose yourself or your animals to it. Properly dispose of the container in its unopened state.
Many barn products are “hazardous household waste.” Outdated products and empty containers should be disposed of separately from regular trash. If the words “flammable,” “corrosive” or “reactive” are on the label, the product is a hazardous substance. Many cleaners, liniments, sweats, paints, and hoof polishes fall into this category. Insecticides/pesticides are definitely on the list, as are any substances that contain the precautions “toxic,” “danger,” “poison,” “warning,” or “caution.” These are catch phrases established by the Environmental Protection Agency: poison or danger means a few drops could be fatal; warning means a teaspoon could be fatal; caution means two tablespoons could be fatal. These amounts pertain to an adult human. Call a local waste-management or recycling center for instructions on proper disposal.
Our chart (see end of story) should help you do a clean out, if you’re in the mood, or at least help you decide what to replace. No one wants to waste money on products they don’t need, but no one wants to risk their own or an animal’s health either.
Use common sense, check for expiration dates and conditions of storage, observe for physical changes and when in doubt call the manufacturer for advice. The more we ask these types of questions, the more likely manufacturers will give in and put the information on the label — where it belongs.