Keeping the house clean is one of the primary jobs of any house wife and mother (or house husband and father). Of course, this can be challenging when children are around – and not just in the way you think! Aside from keeping up with the mess that kids make, cleaning with children around also presents the challenge of making sure that all cleaning products and processes are child-friendly and kid-safe.
The dangers lurking in the cleaning cupboard
You might not think your cleaning bucket can be any threat to your children but take a closer look at many of the cleaning products you are using and you might be horrified. Unless you are completely “green” and only use natural, environmentally friendly products, many of the common household cleaners contain very powerful chemicals which can pose a risk to your children’s health.
Remember, although they usually carry a toxic warning, cleaning products often do not list all the harmful chemicals they contain in detail on their labels. Here are some of the ingredients to be treated with caution and avoided if possible:
- Bleach – also known as “hypochlorite”, this corrosive acid causes more poisoning cases than any other household substance. In fact, research suggests that prolonged exposure may cause endocrine, reproductive and immune system disorders. It is toxic when it comes into contact with the skin – and also when its fumes are inhaled. It can also cause a dangerous chemical reaction and release a toxic gas if it is accidentally mixed with either ammonia or vinegar.
- Formaldehyde – often used as a preservative in many household products, formaldehyde is a suspected carcinogen and it is particularly provocative to people with asthma. It is also believed to be a “sensitiser” which means it can increase your chemical sensitivity with repeated exposure.
- Phenols – another common ingredient in many cleaning products, this substance can be absorbed by the lungs and skin and cause kidney and liver damage, as well as hyperactivity. Direct contact can also lead to caustic burns.
- Ammonia – high levels of ammonia can be extremely irritating to eyes, throat, skin and lungs – causing strong bouts of coughing and possibly even burns. Again, asthma sufferers will be more sensitive. Ammonia splashed into the eyes can even cause blindness.
- D-limonene – although it is produced from orange peels, this oil can act as a sensitiser and can also trigger irritation in the skin, eyes and respiratory system if inhaled by sensitive individuals. It is often used as a solvent in all-purpose cleaning products that have “citrus” on their labels.
Cleaning products safe for use around children
Nowadays there are many safer alternatives to the traditional chemical cleaners. Not only do these protect your children’s health, they are better for the environment too. Look out for products which are:
- Made from natural ingredients
- Formulated without dye or chemical preservatives
- Made without the use of chemical solvents, chlorine, ammonia, , phosphates, alkalis, nitrates, borates acidsor volatile organic compounds
Aside from buying “green” cleaners, you can make many safe and effective household cleaners simply by raiding your own pantry. These include baking soda, white wine vinegar, salt, lemon juice and washing soda. Vinegar, for example, is a mild organic acid which can kill 99 percent of bacteria. Sprayed neat around the house, it makes a fantastic all-purpose cleaner and deodoriser. Similarly, baking soda is great at absorbing odours and makes a fantastic non-abrasive cleaner which works on even the toughest stains.
Although they are sometimes criticised for not being as effective as commercial chemical cleaners, these pantry items can actually be just as effective if used correctly and at the right times. Best of all, they pose no danger to your children when used around the home.