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Good Clean Family Planning: A Clean Ingredient Guide for Families
Pregnancy is a time for reflection, re-evaluation, and planning. Things that have probably never crossed your mind are suddenly at the forefront of every choice you make. In a quick poll of women we know who are pregnant right now, cleaning products are at the top of their “needs evaluation” lists and how-tos of baby proofing a home. But where to even start?
There’s a lot of information out there, and sifting through search engines can be overwhelming. To make it a little easier, we created our own all-in-one guide to help breakdown everything you need to know about baby-safe cleaning. The more you know, the smarter the decisions you can make — for you and your family. Read on for the not-so-clean ingredients you should look out for and what matters most during each stage.
Cleaning Product During Pregnancy
While you’re in your weeks of pregnancy, the most important thing to keep in mind is the development of your child. Everything you put in and on your body also can affect your infant. When it comes to household cleaning products, it’s important to try to stay away from synthetic preservatives, many of which have been shown to carry safety concerns in their adverse effects on fetal development. Parabens and other synthetic preservatives are added to cleaners to prevent microbial growth. As a safer alternative, look for organic or natural preservatives like grape seed and rosemary extract, or bio-based alternatives like citric acid in your products.
Common synthetic preservatives:
- Methylisothiazolinone (MIT)
- Benzisothiazolinone (BIT)
Baby Safe Cleaning Products
Newborns and infants have far more sensitive skin than older children and adults, and as a result tend to be more vulnerable to product formulas and specific ingredients. Skin irritants and fragrance allergens are almost always the culprits. Contrary to popular belief: natural is not always safe. Essential oils, for example, are natural and they sound safe, when in fact many of them are known skin irritants. For family members with very sensitive skin, you might want to skip the fragrance and opt for a fragrance-free version of a product wherever possible.
Common skin irritants and allergens:
- Sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS)
- Sodium or potassium carboxylic acids (soaps)
- Sodium laureth sulfate (SLS) and sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES)
- Some essential oils such as tea tree, ylang ylang, and clove oil
Refer to the EU listed fragrance allergens for a comprehensive list.
Safe Cleaning Products for Families
Many home cleaning products contain chemicals that pose an immediate threat if consumed or mishandled — skin and eye irritants, for example. Some of the most acute risks come from sanitizers and disinfectants, which can include some harsh ingredients. As a rule for pregnant women and young children, (1) use sanitizers and disinfectants only when they are absolutely needed; (2) apply with caution by carefully following use instructions; (3) always wash with regular soap and cleaners as your first resort for daily cleaning needs.
There are also longer-term ingredient considerations, like carcinogens and toxins that can lead to health issues down the road. Occasionally, these toxins are in the formula and the packaging itself and exposure can come directly from the product while it’s being used at home. Sometimes, these chemicals can enter your local soil and drinking water as they can be difficult to filter out. These won’t have immediate effects on you or your family, but over time, chemicals can accumulate at alarming levels — putting not only your family, but your neighbors and the flora and fauna of your community at risk.
Common ingredients with acute risks:
- Sanitizers and disinfectants
- Chlorine-based bleaches
- Quaternary ammonium compounds such as Benzalkonium chloride (BAC) and other active agents in germ-killing products
Common ingredients with risks from chronic exposure:
- Bisphenol A (BPA)
The California Proposition 65 chemicals list is a great comprehensive resource for parents who are looking to detox their homes of dangerous chemicals and toxins. You can also check out our No List for common ingredients found in cleaners and detergents and their potential risks.
PLUS: Remember to always keep cleaning products and chemicals out of reach of children and pets.