7 Ways to Use Expired Spices

uses for expired spices illo

Treehugger / Ellen Lindner

Before you chuck that jar of spice that’s been sitting in your cabinet for longer than you can remember, consider these tips. Spices that aren’t worth eating may still have some use around your house and garden.

Is it really expired?

woman in sweater smells jar of dried spices to make sure it's still fresh

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

The good news is that spices don’t spoil in such a way that will make you sick, but they can lose their flavor. Different spice sellers offer different timelines for shelf life. Spice Island gives ground spices two to three years and whole spices three to four years. However, the best way to know if the spices on your shelf are still good is by color and smell. If either has faded, it may not be worth cooking.

1. Brewed potpourri

hand stirs pot of warm water and expired spices to make a fragrant potpourri on stove

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Even if a spice doesn’t smell as strong as it once did, heat can release the last of its volatile oils, giving off a lovely aroma. Boil a pot of water on your stove and add whichever spices you want your house to smell like—cardamom, cinnamon, cloves or ginger. You can also throw in some citrus peels.

2. Spicy soap

amber-colored bars of soap stacked on wooden cutting board with sharp knife

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

The granular texture of ground cloves and pepper can act as a gentle exfoliator in your next batch of homemade soap.

3. Deter animals

hand dumps small bowl of expired spices near outside plant to deter animals

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Spicy peppers like cayenne or chili are good for keeping critters away from bulbs. Just sprinkle the spice on the bulb itself or the topsoil around it. Black pepper can also be used to fight ants. Keep in mind that older spices may be less potent, and you may want to pepper plants lavishly.

4. Nontoxic fungicide

hand sprays diy mixture of cinnamon and water on houseplants as homemade fungicide

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Cinnamon is an organic way to fight fungus, particularly on seedlings and houseplants. It’s easy to apply as spray, just mix the cinnamon with warm water.

5. Sachets

hands make DIY lavender sachets with dried herbs and sage on wooden table

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Many spices have deodorizing effects. Sage, thyme, oregano and clove are particularly powerful. You can put this power to work in any musty parts of your home by making spicy sachets.

6. Homemade ornaments

various homemade christmas ornaments made out of expired spices displayed on tan towel

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Another good-smelling option is to make some cookie-like ornaments, which use cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg.

7. DIY paints

hands paint on white canvas with old spices turned into DIY paint

Treehugger / Sanja Kostic

Deb of the mommy blog Learn with Play at Home came up with this kid’s activity. She used spices and water to create a paint pallet of autumn colors.

View Article Sources
  1. Should You Keep—Or Toss--Those Older Spices in Your Pantry?.” Cooking Light.

  2. Herbs and Spices Have an Expiration Date.” Iowa State University.

  3. Should You Keep—Or Toss--Those Older Spices in Your Pantry?.” Cooking Light.

  4. Allen, A. “Effect of black pepper exterminating ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae).” INSTARS: A Journal of Undergraduate Research, vol. 3, 2017.

  5. Kowalksa, Jolanta, et al. "Cinnamon powder: an in vitro and in vivo evaluation of antifungal and plant growth promoting activity." Eur J Plant Pathol, vol. 156, 2020, pp. 237–243., doi:10.1007/s10658-019-01882-0