What parents need to know about household cleaners

Once you’ve created a warm, loving home for your baby, keeping it clean is the next step. Although there are many great products on the market, making your own stash of green cleaning solutions just might get you excited about ditching the dirty. Plus, it’s more economical, and environmentally friendly. You know exactly what’s you’re putting into the air and onto your belongings, and you’re not buying an endless supply of plastic spray bottles. If you have just a few essentials, you can conjure up just about any kind of cleaner imaginable. Baking soda, vinegar, water, and essential oils top the list. But first, we’re outing a major player in the cleaning world – bleach.

Chlorine Bleach: Not Mom’s Best Friend. Many day care centers use a mixture of bleach and water as their go-to disinfectant. While chlorine bleach is strong enough to kill most germs, it also leaves behind some nasty undesirable effects. When mixed with formaldehyde or very hot water, chlorine emits a carcinogenic gas. In its typical state, it can irritate eyes, skin, nose and throat. Long-term exposure in humans can harm the immune system and increase the risk of developing asthma or allergies, particularly among those who swim in chlorinated pools. But rest assured – Mother Nature has provided us with some nontoxic alternatives.

Vinegar. Vinegar is one of the most versatile home cleaners. A 50:50 vinegar to water mixture will disinfect counter tops, make glass and windows sparkle, remove strong odors from containers, and remove greasy or dirty residue from dishes or clothes. It’s also great for removing odor from the carpet (especially if you’re going diaper-free!). Just spray and let dry.

Essential Oil. Tea tree oil has potent anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. Dissolve 2 teaspoons in 2 cups of water, and spray on areas affected by mold or mildew (but seek out a professional if you suspect the presence of toxic molds!). The scent will be strong for a few days, but the mold will disappear and likely never return, as long as you’ve corrected the humidity.

A few drops of lemon, orange, or lavender oil can be added to a quart of water and squirt of dishwashing liquid or pure castile soap for a clean-smelling counter top spray.

Baking Soda. Baking soda is an excellent deodorizer for just about any household purpose, and is especially helpful in the bathroom. Sprinkle in the toilet, add a half cup of vinegar, and watch as the two react and bubble up. You can add a drop of lemon oil for a clean scent. Then, a quick swish of your brush and the stains should disappear.


This content was trimmed from the vast archive of environmental and child-friendly parenting practices detailed in The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year by Megan McGrory Massaro and Miriam J. Katz.


3 thoughts on “What parents need to know about household cleaners

  1. Thank you for encouraging parents to think laterally about the t both the physical and commercial environment, still I would add consideration of using water and some fibre clothes to clean both inside and outside homes!

  2. People think we’re crazy for making our own cleaners (bathroom cleaners, air fresheners, laundry detergents, dishwasher liquid, etc), but it’s so much cheaper and we know exactly what’s in it! We don’t even own bleach 😉

  3. It’s crazy that people spray cleaners everywhere. Even if they are health conscious in all other areas, sometimes it is easy to forget about the ‘nasties’ in household cleaners. I wish there was more natural methods available in the supermarkets. Even when I’ve found them, they don’t take off, then I have to search again!

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