Balance is necessary when cleaning in homes with babies and toddlers. On the one hand, surfaces and floors need to be kept as clean and sanitary as possible for toddlers. Small children eat off the floor as well as scoot and crawl across that surface. Curious hands that touch the floor are constantly going into mouths and touching eyes.
On the other hand, homeowners and house cleaning services must be very careful about introducing harsh chemicals, fumes, and residues. An infant’s or toddler’s eyes, airways, and skin are extremely sensitive and susceptible to irritation from harsh cleaning chemicals. Much is still unknown about other health risks such as endocrine disruption or cancer risk that may result from frequent exposure to certain chemicals.
Poisoning is another risk of which should always be top of mind. Poisoning could result from the direct ingestion of harmful solutions stored in an unsafe manner or from repeated contact with cleaning chemical residues. Especially at risk are curious toddlers who are on the move and not always able to be supervised.
A scientific theory known as the hygiene hypothesis suggests that making an environment too clean and free of germs may be a factor that precipitates the onset of allergies, asthma, and other autoimmune disorders.
These concerns deserve ongoing attention and monitoring. Numerous measures can be taken to ensure that a home is clean and safe while also minimizing risks to babies and toddlers. Here are 8 tips to make and keep a home safe and clean for infants and toddlers.
Tip #1: Adjust the cleaning model
A popular model for cleaning was devised in 1959 by Dr. Herbert Sinner, who worked for a German detergent maker. Dr. Sinner’s Circle Cleaning Model identifies four key variables to control cleaning results:
- Chemical strength/complexity
- Time duration
- Mechanical energy (pressure and intensity of scrubbing)
When decreasing one variable, such as chemical strength and complexity, it can offset by increasing one or more of the other variables. Allowing a surface to soak for a little longer than usual, using hotter water, or adding more elbow grease to the scrubbing action would be examples of offsetting variables.
Tip #2: Clean more frequently
The longer dirt, grime, soils, oils, stains, and scum are permitted to remain untreated, the more complex and difficult to clean they become. Harsher and more complex chemicals may be needed to clean effectively. By cleaning often, a mild, baby-safe cleaning solution will usually be all that is required.
Tip #3: Keep outside dirt outside
In addition to increasing house cleaning frequency, adopt practices such as removing shoes at the door and grooming pets outside to prevent dirt, grimes, and germs from entering the home.
Tip #4: Invest in reputable, name-brand products
Reputable cleaning brands may cost more, but these brands typically make substantial investments in science, safety research, and testing to ensure the quality and safety of their products. This investment in product integrity may not be true for less expensive, off-brand options.
Tip #5: Read product labels
Avoid using cleaning products with labeling containing such terms as hazard, toxic, and poison or poison control. Some specific ingredients to avoid include phosphates, phthalates, petroleum-based compounds, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), and fragrances. Avoid anything claiming to be antibacterial, which typically contains triclosan, a suspected carcinogen. Terms such as natural, green, and enviro-safe should not be interpreted to mean a solution is safe for use around babies and toddlers. On the other hand, if something is biodegradable, it is reasonable to assume that it is a safer option. Many baby-safe cleaners use either baking soda or olive-oil-based Castile soap as the primary cleaning ingredient.
Tip #6: Avoid exposure to harmful chemicals and their fumes
When harsh chemical use is unavoidable, consider having a partner, relative, or friend remove babies and young children from the home while the house is being cleaned. Ventilate well. Give fumes plenty of time to dissipate before the children return to the home.
Tip #7: Follow the label instructions
Use only the recommended amount of a cleaning solution. Always dilute and rinse according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Many cleaners inform users to rigorously rinse surfaces upon which the cleaner has been applied. Re-seal cleaning solution containers as quickly as possible after use to avoid unnecessary release of fumes. Clean or dispose of rags, sponges, and clothes promptly after cleaning.
Tip #8: Expand the regular cleaning task list
Finally, living with babies and toddlers requires the weekly or even daily cleaning of additional items.
These include stuffed animals, toys, security blankets, teething rings, pacifiers, and anything else that goes into a baby’s mouth. Also included in this expanded cleaning list is the diaper-changing area, the diaper pail, the feeding chair, and the surrounding floor area.
A homeowner or maid service that follows these eight tips help make the home cleaner and safer for infants and toddlers. Using safe practices today can prevent a serious accident or reaction in the future.