After one wicked winter and lots of time spent cooped up indoors, it's time to throw open the windows and get busy with a little spring cleaning. Getting rid of winter's dirt and grime can call for extra precaution when you have a new baby in the house or are expecting one. Here are some tips to help you scrub safely.
Household cleaners are among the most dangerous potential poisons for young children, with bleach causing the most injures. In addition to being toxic if ingested, many cleaning products give off fumes or leave a residue that can harm your baby. Read labels and try to find the safest products for the job. Those that have the words caution or warning on the label are less toxic and much more common than ones that read danger or poison (try to avoid these, if possible), but you still need to use them carefully and be vigilant about keeping them away from your baby. Don't mix cleaning products or use more than one on a particular surface; products that are safe when used alone can become hazardous when mixed with other cleaners. Keep in mind too that just because a cleaning product is considered “green” (think: all-natural, eco-friendly or biodegradable) doesn't mean it's safe for babies.
Out of Sight, Out of Reach
Whatever products you use, make sure you have enough ventilation and keep a close eye on your baby at all times. Never leave a bucket or any container of liquid unattended, as young children can drown in even just a few inches of water. When you're done cleaning, store supplies, preferably in a locked cabinet instead of on or under your countertop. (Babies can reach more than you realize!) The candy colors of some cleaners can be hard for toddlers to resist.
It's All About Timing
Schedule big cleanups for when your baby is napping or not at home. Studies show that unintentional exposure to toxic cleaning supplies usually happens between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., typically hectic hours in a full household when parents can get sidetracked and leave cleaning supplies within baby's reach.
Take Out the Trash
Toddlers are notoriously curious, and trash cans can be a source of unending fascination. Consider the potential hazard of anything you throw away. If you're throwing out dangerous items like spoiled food or discarded razor blades (if they're allowed in the trash in your area), make sure they're in a container with a child resistant cover. Better yet, move such trash out of the house as soon as possible.
Mold Be Gone
Areas that have been flooded or otherwise exposed to water are a breeding ground for mold, a common source of indoor air pollution. To fight it, wash the area with soap and water followed by a solution of one part bleach to 10 parts water. Just use caution with the bleach; it's labeled danger.
Your baby spends a lot of time on the floor, and dust, pet dander and mold are big fans of carpet. If you can, invest in a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter, which can help reduce allergens every time you vacuum. If you're going to deep-clean your carpets, use nontoxic cleaning agents that don't leave chemical residues.
For any poison emergency, call the 800-222-1222 American Association of Poison Control.