If you have a baby or small children, or you’re expecting, or even if you have small people coming over to visit, it’s a good idea to take stock of the cleaning products you use in your home. Many (ok, most) commercial cleansers contain harsh, toxic chemicals that can be especially harmful for little ones. These chemicals are not limited to the active ingredients in the cleaning product; they may also include fragrances, color and preserving agents. The toxins may never cause any problems for adults, but can cause eczema, airway and eye irritation, poisoning and a litany of other known and unknown side effects. Certain industrial cleaners commonly used in schools are linked to an increased rate of asthma.
"Parents need to know that there can be a trade-off between a sterilized kitchen and their baby's health," says Sonya Lunder, MPH, a senior analyst at the Environmental Working Group in Washington, D.C. And she’s not the only expert warning parents about the possible harmful side effects of harsh cleaning products. New research shows that developing immune systems are compromised by strict sterilization routines in the home.
So what can you do to ensure your home is a safe, non-toxic environment for infants and young children? First things first: If you do keep any commercial cleaning products in your home that may contain harmful ingredients, make sure they are stored out of reach of little hands. Put them in a high cabinet, or use cabinet locks if they are stored near to the ground. But it is probably a better idea to just ditch all of those products and use safer, and often cheaper, natural alternatives. When you mop the floor with a toxic product, the residue doesn’t really go away. That means crawling and toddling babies are very likely to come into contact with the toxins. So try these homemade cleaning agents instead:
Use baking soda and water to make a thick paste to clean grime and residue from your sink and shower. For lighter cleaning, you can just sprinkle a little baking soda on a damp sponge.
For toilet bowl cleaning, sprinkle a little baking soda around the inside of the bowl and scrub. Then add a half cup of white vinegar and let sit for a few minutes. (Don’t use too much baking soda, or you’ll get a toilet bowl volcano). After letting sit, scrub again and flush.
This vinegar and baking soda mixture is great for a lot of cleaning applications! The chemical reaction creates lots of little tiny bubbles that loosen dirt and other substances from the surface you are trying to clean. Try it on clogged drains as well!
For cleaning baby toys, pack-n-plays, high chair trays, etc., make a dilution of 1 part white vinegar to 1 part water and use a spray bottle to mist the target. Let the vinegar water solution sit on the object for ten minutes or so, then wipe with a damp sponge or cloth. The vinegar will kill germs and loosen dirt. (The vinegar smell will evaporate within an hour or two.)
Surprise! You can also use vinegar to clean your windows and mirrors!
Tea tree oil is antiseptic and antifungal. Use it to tackle mold and mildew in the bathroom!
As you can see, these safe, green cleaning alternatives can be made for just pennies, and will make your home a healthier place for you and your little ones.