New parents get advice on all sorts of topics, including cleaning: Use disinfecting wipes on every surface your baby touches and she’ll never get sick! Your kid’s hands aren’t washed clean until the soap smell proves it! In the media and at the store we’re deluged with messages on the best way for busy moms and dads to clean homes so that our kids are safe and healthy.
Unfortunately, some of these messages are misleading and end up selling us cleaning products with chemical ingredients that may do more harm than good. We’ve debunked a few common myths to give solid advice on how to keep a clean, healthy home while reducing your family’s exposure to potentially harmful chemicals in cleaning products:
Don’t confuse disinfecting with cleaning.
Fear of evil germs lurking on toys, the highchair, or changing table can make any parent eager to get out the “big guns” hoping to kill bacteria and viruses before they make us sick. Companies selling convenient disinfecting wipes and sprays encourage moms to overuse these powerful and potentially harmful antimicrobial chemicals. The truth is, if your family is generally healthy, the need for routine disinfection is rare. Regular cleaning with plain soap and water along with good rinsing are effective in lifting dirt and microbes away. Common antimicrobial chemicals to avoid include: chlorine bleach, triclosan and triclocarban, and ammonium quaternary compounds (“quats”).
Use fewer products, with safer ingredients.
There are hundreds of cleaning products vying for your dollar. However, you don’t always need a special purpose cleaner for every dirty dilemma. Three examples of single-use products that are the most dangerous cleaners typically found in a home include: drain cleaners, oven cleaners, and acid-based toilet bowel cleaners. All of these products have signal words “Danger” or “Warning” on the label and it’s best to avoid them. Safer alternatives exist – in fact, you can tackle almost any cleaning challenge with combinations of three key ingredients: baking soda, white vinegar, and liquid soap.
Breathe easier without synthetic fragrances.
Do you associate clean with a familiar fresh scent in the room? These associations can be hard to break, especially when it may seem easier to cover up an unwanted odor (think diaper pail) rather than tackling the source (try baking soda in the pail, and more frequently moving diapers to the trash outside). Certain chemicals in synthetic fragrance can trigger asthma and disrupt hormone levels. When looking for safer products, it’s important to avoid unidentified “fragrance” as a listed ingredient, or choose fragrance-free.