Making the Right Choice with Child-Safe Cleaning Products

By: Beth Krietsch Environmental responsibility, Parents

Many of us give little thought to cleaning products beyond whether they get the job done. But when kids come into the picture, our mindset often changes. With children in the home, the urge to be extra careful about product choice often sets in. And rightfully so, as many cleaning supplies pose harmful health risks, especially to our children.

Here’s everything you need to know about finding the right child-safe cleaning products that keep your children safe and your home sparkling.

Health risks associated with cleaning products

Many ingredients commonly found in household cleaning products are associated with childhood health issues, including skin and eye irritation, hypersensitivity to allergens, accidental poisoning, chemical burns, and asthma.

These health issues most frequently arise when kids:

  • Come in contact with recently cleaned objects
  • Touch recently cleaned items and then put their hands near their mouth or face
  • Breathe in the harsh chemicals emitted by cleaning products
  • Ingest or spill cleaning products

Fortunately, many of these issues are avoided easily by using child-safe cleaning products free of these caustic, harsh chemical ingredients. And luckily, child-safe cleaning supplies are increasingly easy to find as parents become more aware of the health risks associated with chemical-laden products.

What to look for and what to avoid in child-safe cleaning products

When shopping for child-safe cleaning supplies, start by looking for products that are labeled non-toxic and environmentally friendly. Some common brands to include on your yes list are Seventh Generation, Method, and Simple Green Naturals.

When it comes to keeping your kids safe, know what ingredients to avoid. Ingredients to stay away from include:

  • Parabens
  • Phthalates
  • Phosphates
  • Petroleum solvents
  • Bleach
  • VOCs
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Triclosan
  • Glycol ethers

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has put together a more comprehensive list of potentially harmful ingredients you can review here. And if a product contains the words warning, caution, or danger, you can assume it’s best to avoid.

Want to dig further? The EWG has created a guide to decoding cleaning product labels.

What to expect with kid-friendly products

For most cleaning jobs, environmentally friendly and child-safe cleaning products are just as effective as their chemical-laden counterparts.

The safer products will still carry a fresh scent, but gentler than the scents you might be used to from antiseptic and artificial cleaners. And this is a good thing—the aromas of many common cleaning products are synthetically engineered by a scientific process that combines multiple chemicals that have been found to be potentially harmful to the health of adults and children alike.

How to find child-safe cleaning products

Many potentially harmful ingredients and products aren’t restricted or regulated by the federal government, so it’s important to do your homework. In addition to reading labels for the ingredients listed above, there are site and apps that simplify the shopping process for you.

Three trusted resources for research include Green Seal, EcoLabel, and the Environmental Working Group. When on the go, EWG’s Healthy Living app can be a particularly useful resource because it allows you to quickly search for a product from a store aisle or even scan its barcode.

Other tips for child-safe cleaning practices

Dilute

Many cleaners can be diluted and still clean effectively. Diluting a product will lessen the severity of the chemical ingredients, and the cleaning agent will likely last longer as well. Always check product labels for dilution guidelines to keep your kids out of harm’s way.

Avoid antibacterial soap

These may contain harsh chemicals and pesticides, and can contribute to antibiotic resistance. Even the FDA recommends swapping out antibacterial soap for soap and water.

Store your cleaning products out of reach of children

Even safe cleaning products can be harmful if ingested or applied to the skin in large quantities. Store all cleaning supplies on high shelves or other places out of a child’s reach.

Ventilate

Open the windows when cleaning so harmful ingredients, pollutants, and irritants are able to escape.

Avoid pine and citrus oil cleaners

These can react with the ozone to produce harmful formaldehyde when the air contains high levels of smog.

Make your own child-safe cleaning products

To have full control over the ingredients in your household cleaners, you can always make your own. Many common DIY recipes simply combine baking soda and water or vinegar and baking soda, often with a touch of lemon juice for lingering freshness.

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