Safer Spring Cleaning

by Eileen M. Ouellette, M.D., J.D.

Safer Spring Cleaning

Spring has officially sprung. And for many of us, that means longer days, warmer weather, and, yes, cleaning. Getting rid of winter's dirt and grime can call for a little added precaution when you've got a new baby in the house. Some tips to help you scrub safely:

Be picky about your products

Household cleaners are among the most dangerous potential poisons for young children. In addition to being toxic, many cleaning products give off dangerous fumes or leave a residue that can be harmful to your baby. Read labels, and try to find the safest products for the job. Products 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; stuff that's safe when used alone can become hazardous when mixed with other cleaners.

Use—and store—supplies safely

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 out of sight and out of reach, preferably in a locked cabinet. If unintentional exposure does occur, call the Poison Control Center Hotline (800-222-1222) immediately. You'll need to give them product details (such as the contents and the company's name and phone number), so be sure to keep all household cleaners in their original containers.

Pick the right time to scrub

Schedule big cleanups for when your baby is napping or not at home. Unintentional exposure to toxic cleaning supplies usually happens between 4 and 8 p.m., typically busy hours in a household.

Put the trash out

Toddlers are notoriously curious, and trash cans can be a source of unending fascination. Consider the potential hazard of anything you throw away. Any trash container into which dangerous items like spoiled food or discarded razor blades will go should have a child-resistant cover. Better yet, move such trash out of the house as soon as possible.

Banish mold

Areas that have been flooded or otherwise exposed to water are a breeding ground for mold, a common source of indoor air pollution. To get rid of it, wash the area with soap and water, followed by a solution of one part bleach to ten parts water. Just use caution with the bleach; it's labeled "danger."

Check the alarms

Test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they're working properly. Change the batteries if necessary. Read the instruction manuals for any additional maintenance your particular alarms may need.

Refresh your childproofing

Go from room to room and look for potential hazards. Make sure your baby's crib and other furniture are placed away from windows so there's no risk of him falling out. Replace any blind and drapery cord loops with tassels, and se-cure them out of your baby's reach. Insert plug protectors into all unused electrical sockets, and place gates at the top and bottom of stairs.