Chemical Free Product Guides:
How to Choose Chemical Free Cleaning Products for Baby Toys & Gear
When my son was a baby, some of the moms in my neighborhood would get together for playdates on a regular basis. It was always good to chat and watch the little ones play, but I worried about all the germs on the toys the kids played with. I’m not a germaphobe by any means, but let’s face it, a sick baby wreaks havoc on the whole family. At first, I used a conventional all-purpose cleaner on the toys after a playdate, but then I realized that the germs probably should not have been my biggest concern. After just a little research, I learned that the toxic chemicals from my cleaners were probably a bigger risk to my kids’ health. Diseases like cancer, asthma, and central nervous system disorders are all linked to the toxic ingredients in cleaning products. And so my hunt began for chemical free cleaning products.
Natural ≠ chemical free cleaning products
I made the shift to the natural options thinking they were toxic chemical free cleaning products, but after some research, I realized even the natural brands often contain toxic ingredients. How was this possible? I soon learned that there are no federal standards dictating criteria for cleaners labeled as “natural”. Not only that, but cleaning product manufacturers aren’t required to list all their ingredients on their labels. As a result, many of the natural products I had thought were chemical free cleaning products, actually contained dangerous allergens & irritants. My son & 2 of his best little buddies suffer from allergies, so I researched common allergy triggers in cleaners and learned that natural cleaners can be packed with them.
My hunt was on for toxic chemical free cleaning products that were safe enough to use on my son’s baby toys & gear (I can only imagine what’s festering in my carseat & pack & play!). Besides the obvious dangerous culprits like ammonia & bleach, here are the other less obvious but nefarious ingredients to avoid.
The 8 Ingredients to Avoid in the Products You Use to Clean Baby Toys & Gear
The problem is that it is nearly impossible to know the ingredients that actually make up a fragrance, because the word “fragrance” on a label often hides a toxic cocktail of multiple ingredients. In fact that one word can actually hide more than 100 different chemicals! Plus, many “natural” fragrance ingredients are as dangerous as the synthetic ones. The safest approach is to avoid cleaners with fragrances and beware of any ingredient that ends in “oil” or “extract”.
2. Methylisothiazolinone & Methylchloroisothiazolinone
These are preservatives to watch out for because they are very common in even natural cleaning products. Health concerns include causing skin irritation, skin allergies (contact dermatitis) and even possible neurotoxicity. They are also extremely toxic to aquatic life.
Dyes that make a cleaning product look innocently blue, yellow, orange, green aren’t doing anything other than attempting to give you the perception that the product is effective. They don’t actually make the performance of the product any better, and in fact introduce significant health risks into a cleaning product. If it’s not colorless, it’s likely not safe enough to use on your baby’s toys & gear.
These can cause a host of health concerns including reproductive issues and developmental problems in unborn children, as well as asthma and respiratory problems. If a product is fragrance free, you won’t have to worry about these. Ditching the fragrances is one of the biggest things you can do to make the shift to chemical free cleaning products.
I had assumed this botanical sounding ingredient was safe because it’s in several “natural” brands, but learned that it’s actually a known toxic allergen that is also toxic to aquatic life.
6. MEA (monoethanalomine), DEA (diethanolamine), TEA (triethanolamine)
Health concerns for these include cancer, reproductive function & bioaccumulation (skin absorption).
7. Quaternary Ammonium Compounds
Research has shown that Quaternary Ammonium Compounds or QUATS may reduce reproductive potential in both males and females. And they can cause asthma as well as skin irritation. QUATS are also a public health concern because they can promote the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
This isn’t one you’ll find in cleaners, but it’s included here because it’s in a lot of hand sanitizers. It’s not uncommon for moms to use hand sanitizers to clean off pacifiers when they’re not near a sink. Triclosan is a synthetic pesticide with a bad reputation as a carcinogen & hormone disruptor. It’s also known to cause liver damage and the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Learn More about Chemical Safety in Your Cleaning Products
A great resource for researching chemical safety in cleaning products is www.ewg.org, where you can find out how 2,000 household cleaning products rate in terms of health & environmental safety. Another tip is to always check a product’s safety data sheet (SDS). These contain a wealth of safety information, can be found with some simple searching online and can make you realize that the safest sounding product actually has some serious safety risks. Another option is to go with the shortest, simplest ingredient list possible. An great example is Force of Nature, a tiny appliance that uses electricity to turn salt, water & vinegar into an all-purpose cleaner as effective as bleach. It’s completely non toxic & safe to use on baby toys & gear with no need to rinse. You can learn more here.