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Disposal of medications safely at home

Before discarding medicines or other health products, consider these tips for keeping kids safe.

WHAT to dispose of:

  • Prescription medicines

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines such as pain relievers, cough suppressants, cold remedies, and sleep aids

  • Other health products such as vitamins, diaper rash creams, and hand sanitizers

WHEN to dispose of medicine:

  • When you have expired medicine. Check the label for the expiration date.

  • When your family no longer needs them

WHY disposal of medication is important:

  • Expired medicines may not provide the treatment you or your family needs

  • Fewer medicines in the home means fewer safety risks

HOW to dispose of medicine safely:

  • For all OTC medicines and many prescriptions, safe in-home disposal is easy. Follow this 3-step process:


Step 1

Mix medicines (do not crush tablets or capsules) with a bad-tasting or inedible substance such as used coffee or kitty litter.


Step 2

Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag.


Step 3

Throw the sealed container in your household trash.

CHPA Educational Foundation. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Other options for safe disposal of medication

Community take-back days
Check out to find out if there is an approved medicine take-back program in your community. Take-back programs can also be sponsored by police departments, municipal buildings, or pharmacies.

Flushing down the toilet (only certain medicines)
There are a handful of medicines that should only be disposed of by flushing them down the toilet at home or through a drug take-back program. provides a list of these medicines and specific disposal instructions.

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Your age, health conditions, and medications may affect your choices

 Medicine Safety for Children

Tips for various stages of your child’s life

Safe Kids Worldwide 2012-2015. Used with permission. All rights reserved.