Cleaning Your Home: Weapons of Mass Disinfection Not Needed

If you watch an episode of TLC’s “A Baby Story” (I might have watched one, or two, or just about every episode…while pregnant), you might be inundated with commercials for household cleaning products. Yes, after you joyfully and tearfully watch a new life enter the world, Clorox tells you that bleach should be used to clean everything for that perfect little life: clothes, play mats, floors, and slobbery toys. Bleach also sanitizes bottles and sippy cups. Watch a little longer… and a happy, cartoon-like Scrubbing Bubble eats away all things bad in baby’s tub. Munch, munch, munch. So while I grew up cleaning with powerful cleansers (and quick confession: I do use Clorox wipes)…as a new Mom, I am not so sure about those commercials. And I am definitely thinking twice now about the chemicals used to clean our home.

For any green-skeptics or liquid bleach lovers out there (Boomers, especially), I fully admit that our generation has gone overboard with parental paranoia – ThudGuard Baby Helmets? Wet Baby Diaper Alarms? WhyCry Baby Crying Analyzers? (somebody must be buying these ridiculous products, or else they wouldn’t exist!). However, in spite of our insanity, the more research I do on these parenting topics, the more I am convinced that we, the paranoid Gen-Xers, have it right in at least a few areas, particularly in moving towards organic foods and eliminating unnecessary chemicals from our lives. Consequently, I went on a mission to find out just how clean my home needs to be. And what did I find? Many medical experts agree that you do not need to bleach your baby into toddlerhood, nor do you need to annihilate all living organisms in your home with weapons of mass disinfection.

In my former profession, you had to choose the right bomb for the right target. The same could be said for a moderate approach to household cleaning: try your best to reduce overly harsh chemicals in the home, while still striving for cleanliness. If your neglected shower has substances in it that look like they came from a crime scene, then by all means, blast away with a potent cleanser (and let the room air out). However, if you want your house to be everyday fresh and clean, while your kids are safe from toxic chemicals, then try stocking your utility shelves with a few simple ingredients- such as plain soap, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), vinegar (in a gallon jug), washing soda (sodium carbonate), lemon juice, and borax. And use boiling water (or microwave steamers) to sanitize baby bottles and sippy cups. Chew toys and other resilient plastics can be easily disinfected with hot, soapy water, or placed in the top rack of the dishwasher. Of course, you will want to augment your cleaning bucket with convenient (one squirt) cleaning products, too. However, check the ingredient lists and beware of Greenwashing! The labels “Natural”, “Eco-friendly”, “Non-toxic”, and “Environmentally Safe” are marketing buzz words that are undefined and unregulated by government standards; they mean absolutely nothing. In fact, natural can mean anything under the sun, to include chemicals and agents derived from “naturally” occurring petroleum.

“Anti-Bacterial” Side Note:
One final note… while in the midst of a mental drift, I did some snooping on the “Anti-bacterial” soap craze. Does antibacterial soap work better than regular soap? Well, possibly…but probably not. The antibacterial components of soaps typically need to be left on a surface for about 2 minutes in order to work effectively (Are you that patient with soap? I’m not, for sure). Secondly, many scientists theorize that over time the body can build resistance to bacteria reducing agents; and many also argue that our bodies need “good” bacteria to help fight against more invasive “bad” varieties. Finally, many common diseases are viral. Therefore, anti-bacterial soaps are no better at removing the common cold virus than washing with regular soap.

What does everyone seem to agree upon? Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water (while singing a song with the kids!) …can dramatically help you battle germs this cold & flu season.

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