By Stacy Whitman
Even if you aren’t using harsh chemical cleaners when your tot is around, the products can leave behind fumes and residue that could irritate her eyes, skin and lungs (not to mention contaminate the groundwater!). Fortunately, you may not need to do so to keep your house sparkling clean. Natural cleaners, both store-bought and homemade, can be effective at removing dirt, and some can help disinfect surfaces, too.
These days, store shelves are lined with green cleaning products. But before you run out and buy one, be warned: Unlike commercial cleaning solutions, “alternative” cleaners aren’t regulated by the government, and terms like “nontoxic,” “green,” and “environmentally friendly” aren’t independently verified. To confirm marketing claims, you may need to call the manufacturer to determine a product’s exact ingredients and do your own research. Or, look for cleaners that are certified by Green Seal, a nonprofit organization and first environmental certification program that helps shoppers find truly green products.
It’s true that green cleaners tend to be pricier than commercial brands. To save money, consider making your own cleaning products instead, notes Maja T. Castillo, MD, a pediatrician in private practice at Tribeca Pediatrics and a clinical instructor at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. Most DIY recipes rely on a combination of baking soda, borax, lemon juice, and vinegar (we love Care2’s tips on how to make your own green cleaning kit).
If you’re worried about germs, undiluted vinegar has the greatest antimicrobial effect on E. coli and salmonella. (You can also lower the contamination risk by handling food carefully and frequently wiping down counters and other surfaces.) But whether you even need to launch a full-scale attack against them at home is debatable, since a growing body of research suggests that exposure to some amount of germs can actually help babies and kids stay healthier.