There are far too many stories about kids being poisoned by common household cleaning products. According to the National Capital Poison Center (NCPC), children younger than six years old make up nearly half of all poison exposures, and 99.4% of them are unintentional. Cleaning substances are the second-leading cause of poison exposures in kids under six.
Parents do their best to protect their children from the hazards of traditional cleaning products; yet, Live Healthy Every Day claims, “Every day, parents unknowingly expose their kids to at least one of 49 potentially toxic chemicals in the home.” Kids are more vulnerable to toxins than adults, and they can be exposed to them in unique ways including breathing and through the skin. With the danger impacting kids of all ages, parents must understand the hazards of traditional cleaning products and how to go green to protect their kids on a daily basis.
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What You’ll Find in This Guide:
- Cleaning Products to Avoid
- Green Cleaning Tips for New Parents
- Green Cleaning Tips for Existing Parents
- Additional Reading on Green Cleaning for Parents
Cleaning Products to Avoid
This section includes some of the most hazardous chemicals in cleaning products.
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Practically all traditional cleaning products are dangerous to children because of the chemicals they contain. There are some that you should avoid using at all costs, including those containing:
- Organic mercurial
- Aluminum complexes
- Alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs)
These ingredients cause various health hazards for everyone, but they are especially harmful to children. Some cause immediate issues for kids including skin irritation, respiratory issues, watery eyes, or chemical burns. Other chemicals are known for causing chronic or long-term health issues including cancer.
Among the most dangerous cleaning products are corrosive drain cleaners, oven cleaners, acidic toilet bowl cleaners, chlorine bleach, and ammonia because they cause severe burns or produce irritating fumes that put kids with asthma, lung problems, and heart problems in even greater danger. It’s important to note that many cleaning products also are harmful to kids because they contain fragrances that cause respiratory irritation, headaches, sneezing, and watery eyes.
Green Cleaning Tips for New Parents
This section includes advice specifically for new parents, including pregnant women.
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New parents worry about dirt and germs because infants have fragile immune systems. While your baby-proofing efforts likely include securing cleaning supplies and switching to unscented soaps and detergents, it needs to go a step farther and begin sooner.
Parents points out that pregnant women need to be wary of harmful cleaning products and avoid any that are labeled “toxic.” Do not use oven or window cleaners containing glycol ethers because they increase the risk of miscarriage. Also, avoid mildew removers containing phenols because they increase the risk of birth defects or fetal death.
Here are some safer cleaning options for new parents:
- Green baby wipes: Green cleaning extends beyond your home to your baby. Instead of using commercial baby wipes containing toxic chemicals and perfumes, SheKnows recommends making your own by combining a teaspoon each of aloe vera gel and olive oil with a tablespoon of liquid castile soap and a cup of water in a spray bottle. Spray onto a soft cloth and wipe.
- Green infant baby wash: Baby bath and skin products often contain toxic chemicals in addition to artificial dyes and fragrances that cause hormonal changes, allergies, and health issues in infants. The answer is choosing products featuring the USDA Organic seal and avoiding those that contain parabens and other chemicals.
- Green methods for cleaning and sanitizing baby bottles, pacifiers, and other equipment your baby will come into contact with: You can effectively clean baby bottles, pacifiers, and toys with hot water and baking soda. First, clean your basin before washing baby items. Then, add the items to the clean basin and fill it with hot water and half a box of baking soda. Soak items overnight. With clean hands, scrub the items using a clean brush. To clean bottle nipples, fill a large pot with water and three tablespoons of baking soda and then boil for at least three minutes.
Green Cleaning Tips for Existing Parents
This section covers the hazards of bleach and includes natural alternatives to bleach to keep your home and your kids’ white clothing clean.
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Parents of older children need to continue to be concerned about the hazards cleaning products pose to your children. One study shows that children do not have to ingest a cleaner to experience health issues; in fact, kids with passive exposure to chemicals at home have a higher chance of childhood respiratory illness and other infections. Specifically, kids living in homes using bleach more frequently have the flu, tonsillitis, and other infections.
Here are two ways to protect your children:
- Alternatives to bleach: Parents should not use bleach as a disinfectant because it can damage the lining of lung cells, cause inflammation, and enable infections. Stop using products containing harmful chemicals and opt for using baking soda to clean dirty floors and vinegar mixed with water to clean glass.
- To clean white clothes, mix 3/4 cup 3% hydrogen peroxide with 1/4 cup lemon juice, 10-15 drops lemon essential oil, 3/4 cup baking soda, and 7 cups of water, and use one cup per load of laundry along with hot water.
Additional Reading on Green Cleaning Tips for Parents
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The following are resources for more information about green cleaning for parents. You will find tips and advice for green cleaning in addition to green cleaning products, which will prevent your kids from being exposed to toxic chemicals. Please note, they are listed in alphabetical order by source.
Baby Begins’ Green Kitchen Cleaners
Better Homes & Gardens’ Green Cleaning Tips
FamilyCircle’s 10 Green Cleaning Tips
One Crazy House’s 15+ Housecleaning Tricks Every Parent Needs to Know
Today’s ‘Green’ Cleaning Products
You can protect your kids from the toxins in traditional cleaning products by knowing which products to avoid altogether. Opt for cleaning products that are labeled as being safe and that don’t contain the harmful chemicals that are especially hazardous to kids. Or, make your own natural products using baking soda, water, and vinegar. The greener your cleaners are, the safer your family will be.