What To Do With Old Spices After They Expire

You go to cook dinner and grab the dried bay leaves.  Then you notice they expired 2 years ago.  Do bay leaves go bad?  What about all those other dried herbs and spices in your spice rack? Do dried herbs go bad right after the ‘sell by’ date?  And if they can’t be used for cooking anymore, what do you do with them? Wondering what to do with old spices after they expire?  Definitely don’t throw them out! We all have a few old herbs and spices in our kitchen, right?  Since old spices lose flavor after time, you may not want to cook with them.

How long should you keep herbs and spices? In general, three years is about as long as ground spices last. After their shelf life has passed, find new uses for them instead of throwing them away. They are amazingly handy around the house and yard. Here is a list of the top ways to reuse old spices after they expire.

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Spices on a spice rack with text overlay 'what to do with old spices'


Freshen carpets

Mix expired cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, dried thyme, rosemary, or lavender with a little baking soda. Add a few drops of essential oil for added scent. Sprinkle on carpets with a stainless steel shaker and let sit for a few minutes before vacuuming it up

Keep cockroaches away

Old spices make great bug repellants. Old bay leaves keep cockroaches away. Simply place the dried leaves in areas where roaches might be living or coming from to keep them away.

Mix of spices nutmeg, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, cardamom

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Make DIY Potpourri

Homemade Potpourri is a great way to make use of old spices that are about to expire. Expired spices like cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, whole nutmeg, and other large aromatic spices can be stored in an air-tight container or sealed plastic bag.

Mix them with other ingredients, such as dried flowers, leaves, seedpods, pine cones, or acorns.

Place them in a shallow, decorative bowl and add a few drops of essential oils for added smell

Make a nontoxic fungicide for plants

Certain herbs have anti-fungal properties. Use old cinnamon to make a DIY anti-fungal spray. Stir some cinnamon into warm water and allow it to steep overnight.

Strain the liquid through a coffee filter and pour it into a spray bottle. Spray garden plants regularly to combat fungus naturally

bars of homemade soaps with cinnamon and anise near it

Make homemade soaps

Powdered spices and dried herbs are wonderful additions to homemade soaps. Combine dried mint with lavender or old rosemary with lemon. Homemade soaps make great Christmas gifts

Repel insects

Certain herbs have natural insect repellent properties. Sprinkle some of these dried herbs around the house where pests have been found

  • Mint
  • Basil
  • Bay Leaves
  • Dill
  • Lavender
  • Rosemary
  • Garlic
  • Thyme

If you want more info on using herbs and spices to repel bugs, check out my post on herbs that keep bugs away for further reading.

Spices (cinnamon, chili pepper, flax seeds, star anise, olive oil infused with rosemary) on the table

Infused oil

Dried herbs and spices make for great ingredients in DIY infused oils. Old, expired, or leftover items can be used to create a custom blend of flavors.

Try adding cinnamon sticks with a few drops of vanilla extract to a jojoba oil base for homemade massage oil.

Use olive oil and cayenne pepper to give your recipes a bit more heat.  Oils with spices can be used for beauty or cooking  

Natural cleaning products

Many dried herbs and spices can be used in homemade cleaning products. Add ground ginger to a homemade dish soap for an added scent.

Add dried lavender or thyme to some white vinegar for an all-natural, homemade cleaning solution.  Just spray on counters and wipe clean  

Mothball alternative

Cloves, cinnamon sticks, and whole nutmeg can be used in place of mothballs. Old spices have natural insect-repelling properties that are perfect for keeping moths at bay!

Scented Laundry Vinegar

Dried lavender and rosemary can be used to add a light aroma to vinegar before adding it to your washing machine. 

Using vinegar in the laundry is a great way to reduce static cling and soften clothes so you can skip using dryer sheets.  Check out my post about natural alternatives to dryer sheets for more laundry tips. 

Dyeing Easter eggs natural way with turmeric for mustard - yellow color. Selective focus.

Beautiful Easter Eggs

Different spices can be used to dye eggs. Old cinnamon sticks, cloves, or cardamom pods are perfect for a red hue. Old turmeric and curry powder will make beautiful golden-orange eggs.

How to make egg dye from spices

  1. In a small saucepan, heat water and add three tablespoons of white vinegar.
  2. Add one tablespoon per desired color (turmeric or curry powder for golden-orange eggs; cinnamon sticks for red).
  3. Bring to a boil.
  4. Drop the egg into the boiling solution and cook until it’s cooked through.
  5. Remove it carefully from the liquid and let cool.

DIY spice paint

Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, paprika, turmeric, or many other spices can be used to create a colorful DIY paint.

If you have plain, white paint, pour it into a series of small bowls. Add spices to each bowl and stir. Then, hand your kid a paintbrush and paper and have fun!

homemade playdough using pumpkin pie spice

Spicy homemade playdough

Take your basic homemade playdough recipe and divide it into several batches. Add a different expired spice to each one. Now you have different colors AND amazing aromas! 

Use Old Spices to Deter Animals from Your Garden

Certain old spices can help keep animals out of the garden

This works best if you sprinkle it around the base of plants that are vulnerable and where animals tend to gather.

Some good ones for this purpose include black pepper, chili powder, cloves, garlic powder, red pepper, and onion flakes.

Mix these spices with water in a  garden spray bottle for an easy way to apply them over your garden bed or around individual plants.

Old spices work as great as deer prevention if you’re noticing them coming into your garden at night. 

Mouse repellent

Have a problem with mice in the house? Use old spices to repel mice and keep them from nesting in your house. Old spices have natural properties that will deter rodents.

Peppermint and cinnamon are both scents that mice seem to dislike.  Sprinkle liberally around any areas where mice are apt to nest or gather.

DIY spice sachets for drawers

Scented sachet bags are often hung in a closet, or kept in drawers to add a pleasing scent to small spaces. Old spices can be used to create your own sachets using reusable tea bags. Old coffee filters, old socks, or other fabric items may also serve as the sachet material

Put a few teaspoons of dried herbs in the cloth bag and seal it carefully. Then place in a drawer or closet to freshen your clothes.

cinnamon salt dough ornament hanging on tree

DIY Christmas ornaments

Cinnamon salt dough makes great homemade Christmas ornaments. You can also use old nutmeg, ground cloves, allspice, pumpkin pie spice, or similar scents.

To make DIY spiced salt dough, combine salt, flour, and spices in a bowl. Make sure each spice is finely ground before adding it to the dough—ground cloves should be as fine as possible.

Add enough water until you have a wet mixture that can easily hold together (a little more or less than ¼ cup) and then knead into a ball with your hands. Roll out to about ¼ inch thickness and cut into shapes.

Use a toothpick to create a hole at the top to hang them with a string. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour, flip over before the end of cooking time so they are evenly baked on both sides.

Let cool, then paint with egg white and cover with glitter if desired. Allow these to dry completely before you hang them on your tree.

Homemade Spice blends

If you have a spice you don’t use much of, consider making it into a spice blend that you WILL use.  Many individual spices go into things like ranch dressing or cajun seasoning. 

You might find just the seasoning blend you need and the less than potent flavor won’t be quite so noticeable. 

Homemade candles

Use your old spices to make homemade candles. Melt and pour candles are probably the easiest to make and add your own spices right before pouring.

To make homemade candles with herbs and spices, you will need old spices, beeswax or soy flakes, and essential oils of your choice. Follow the directions on your candle kit for the best results.

Best Herbs and Spices to use for Homemade Candles

  • Lemongrass gives a light, citrusy scent
  • Lavender looks beautiful and promotes relaxation.
  • Rosemary has a fresh, woody, and pungent smell.
  • Thyme has a slightly spicy aroma to it.
  • Nutmeg and Cinnamon are warm, familiar holiday scents.
  • Mint gives a wonderfully refreshing and eye-opening scent.

DIY laundry sachets for dryers

Make your own laundry refresher out of dried herbs and spices. You can use any combination of herbs, but I like to mix lavender with thyme for a fresh and herbaceous scent.

Plant them in the garden

Did you know that those dried seeds may actually grow into new plants? Try planting your old spices in the garden and see what happens. You may get some interesting new results!

Coriander is the seed from the cilantro plant and mustard seeds may also grow as well once planted outside. This is a great experiment for your kids. Hand them a few fennel and caraway seeds and see what happens!

Revive them in the oven

Warming old spices and herbs in the oven may give them a boost of flavor. This will not work with all herbs, but it is worth a try for things like fennel and caraway. Just put them in an oven-safe dish or pan and heat them on low at 300 degrees Fahrenheit until they are warm to the touch (about 20 minutes).

All Natural #DIY Pain Relieving Salve for Sore Muscles

DIY pain-relieving rub

Certain herbs like cayenne pepper are wonderful in a homemade DIY tiger balm recipe.

  • Combine a few tablespoons of cayenne pepper, olive oil or coconut oil, and beeswax.
  • Stir over low heat until the wax melts.
  • Pour into jars and cool when hardened for use on sore muscles and joints.

Refrigerator deodorizer

Get the smell of food out of your fridge with a homemade refrigerator deodorizer.

  • Combine dried spices in a small mason jar with baking soda. Use a few teaspoonfuls of your favorite herbs and spices for each 1/2 cup of baking soda.
  • Add a few drops of essential oil if desired.
  • Use an elastic band to cover the jar with a paper coffee filter or small scrap of material.
  • Leave the open jar in the refrigerator to absorb odors and give your fridge a nice clean scent.

While it is fun to find new ways to use old spices, learn how to make spices last longer in your spice cabinet before you have to toss them out.

Over time, spices expire. Sadly, there is no way around the fact that they lose potency over time.  Do spices go bad?  Well, they aren’t going to make you sick but they won’t taste as good as they did when you first opened the jar. Whether they are whole spices or ground herbs, check expiration dates regularly.

How long do dried herbs last once opened?  That varies depending on the type of herb but check the bottle for the best by date. Try to use them in your food before they expire, but if you can’t, there are plenty of creative ways to use them around the house instead! And check out my post on how to reuse an old spice bottle before you toss them in the recycling bin! And if you need to restock your spice rack, check out Penzeys Spices.  

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