Pregnancy Safe Cleaning Products
What you breathe in, put on your skin, and put in your mouth are all equally important. Although we may consciously eat healthy organic food, drink filtered water, exercise regularly, and use natural skin care products, it’s just as essential to consider the quality of the air we breathe. As mothers (or soon-to-be mothers), this issue is all the more important. From the decision of trying to conceive through to breastfeeding, all mothers are aware of the necessity of ensuring optimal physical and emotional health for both themselves and their children. Something that is often forgotten about in typical recommendations, however, is how to limit our exposure to dangerous environmental toxins.
Although we cannot see them, most of us are inhaling toxins daily - making them a critical health and wellness concern. These toxins abound in the air around us, and while they are often outside of our control - for example, pollution in urban areas via manufacturing, vehicles, and second-hand cigarette smoke - many of them actually originate from within our own homes. Detergents and cleaning products are some of the most common culprits and some of the most toxic products, as they typically contain bleach, ammonia, and other harmful ingredients that we end up inhaling.
Continuous exposure to these countless chemicals makes achieving optimal health difficult, especially for pregnant women and those who are raising a family. Babies are now being born already carrying 300+ different chemicals in their bodies, and breast milk has been shown to be filled with environmental pollutants. This is especially concerning as these chemicals can increase the risk of developing cancer, diabetes, nervous system disorders, autism, and hormonal imbalances.
Young children tend to have a much higher exposure to the cleaning products we use because they are in closer contact daily. Just think about it - babies and toddlers are constantly crawling around, touching surfaces, and then putting their hands in their mouths. While you may think it's best to encourage your children to keep their hands out of their mouths, this is actually a great way for young children to build up a healthy gut microbiome and therefore their immunity. Using non-toxic cleaners is the best way to make your home a safe place for your child to inhabit and to help support their growing immune system.
When purchasing store-bought household cleaning products, it’s essential to study ingredient lists and to opt for ones that are safe and free of harmful ingredients such as triclosan, phthalates, fragrances, and chemicals. (For help with reading labels and deciphering which ingredients are safe, check out the Environmental Working Group’s comprehensive Guide to Health Cleaning database and label decoder. They also have an excellent app, Healthy Living, that you can download and use on the go!) Even better, opt for homemade cleaning products as they’re typically easy to make, effective, and more affordable. Below is a compilation of safe products and DIY ingredients that do their job while keeping both mom and baby healthy.
Safe Products to Use
Essential oils are the concentrated oils of various plants, and they’re popular for a reason. Besides adding natural fragrances to cleaning products, various oils also contain powerful disinfecting properties. Although individual sensitives for pregnant moms and babies should be taken into consideration (always do a patch test on your skin before using any essential oil directly), the following essential oils are generally safe and are great additions to your DIY cleaning products:
Lavender: Can be added directly to cleaning products, is safe and effective, and adds a calming scent. Lavender is also beneficial in reducing anxiety, improving sleep, and alleviating headaches.
Try: Placing 6 drops of lavender oil into a spray bottle filled with white vinegar and using the mixture for cleaning benchtops and bathrooms.
Chamomile (German): Can be used in household cleaning products for a sweet smell. Chamomile is also great for relieving allergies, promoting relaxation, and alleviating PMS symptoms.
Try: Blending this essential oil with lemon and orange blends, as they go very well together.
Frankincense: A safe choice to use with a newborn or while pregnant, it can be safely added into household cleaning products as well as diffused or used topically on the skin.
Try: Making a fresh linen spray. Simply combine 1/4 cup distilled water, 3 tablespoons witch hazel, 20 drops lavender essential oil, and 15 drops frankincense essential oil in a spray bottle.
Additional safe essential oils: Sandalwood, grapefruit, and orange are safe to use during and following pregnancy. Orange is especially helpful for postpartum depression.
Typical Household Items
Baking Soda: Great for removing stains and cleaning as it has deodorizing, soothing, and cleansing properties. Baking soda also kills fungi and mold, and neutralizes acid.
Try: Making the following quick & easy DIY recipes.
A gentle baby clothes cleanser: Just add one cup to your laundry load to clean clothing.
Simple citrus soft scrub for stove tops + sinks: Take 1 cup baking soda, 1/4 cup liquid castile soap, 10 drops lemon essential oil, and 10 drops wild orange essential oil. Mix ingredients together to form a paste, then apply it using a sponge and rinse off with water.
Air freshener: Mix 1 tsp. baking soda with the juice of half a lemon. Put the mixture in small dishes, and place them around your home to diminish odors - you can also add essential oils.
Oven cleaner: Dampen the inside of your oven with water (via a spray bottle), and then apply a thick layer of baking soda to the oven, especially the bottom portion. Let it sit for a few hours (or preferably overnight), then wipe off the paste with a damp cloth - this is truly magic! You can also spray with a little white vinegar to remove any baking soda residue.
Vinegar (white, distilled): A natural deodorizer that has powerful antibacterial properties, vinegar is safe, effective, and economical. It easily removes dirt, odors, germs, and grimy films due to its acidic composition.
Try: Incorporating vinegar into the following recipes.
Shower spray:Add 2 cups distilled water, 1 cup vinegar, and 10 drops of lavender oil (or your choice of other safe essential oils - see the list above!) to a spray bottle. Shake well and simply apply to glass or ceramic surfaces after showering, then wipe away with a clean cloth to keep surfaces sparkling and to prevent soap build-up and mildew.
Window cleaner: Our grandmothers used vinegar to clean the windows for a reason - it’s super effective! Simply mix equal parts distilled water and vinegar for a quick & easy window cleaner that works better than Windex.
All-purpose cleaner: Combine 1 cup distilled water with 1 cup of vinegar for a simple and effective cleaner that can be used on most surfaces. Add about 15 drops essential oils (such as lavender or orange) to improve the scent. Vinegar is completely safe, so if some food falls on your countertop, it will be safe to eat after cleaning the countertop with this cleaner. Be careful not to use a vinegar-based cleaner on marble or granite countertops, however, as it can cause damage - simply replace the vinegar in this recipe with 2 tablespoons of castile soap.
Vegetable wash: It’s always a good idea to wash fruits and vegetables before consuming them, even if you’re purchasing organic. Expensive vegetable washes are unnecessary - you can DIY it by simply soaking vegetables in a sink-full of water with 1 cup of white vinegar added for about an hour. After soaking, simply give the vegetables a gentle scrub and rinse clean with filtered water.
Lemon: Protective against human pathogens such as e. coli and salmonella due to its antibacterial properties, lemon is amazing for cleansing and purification. It also has the added benefit of its delicious smell - it brightens any homemade cleaner with its fresh scent.
Try: Incorporating lemon into any cleaning products that need lightening & brightening, along with a delicious scent.
Wood cutting boards cleaner: Wipe surfaces with lemon after you’ve finished chopping and cooking in the kitchen.
Chrome fixtures cleaner: Keep chrome shower or sink faucets bright & shiny (getting rid of that water / soap build-up) by simply wiping with lemon juice. After juicing a lemon, save the peel part and use this as an environmentally- and budget-friendly option.
Castile soap: This product is exceptional as it’s both powerful and gentle all at once. It’s a concentrated, vegetable-based soap that’s effective in eliminating dirt, grease, and germs.
Body wash: Castile soap can be used to wash your face and/or body, and is safe for babies as well. Simply dilute liquid castile soap with water and apply to a washcloth or loofah for maximum foaming action and the added benefits of exfoliation. You can also add a few drops of any safe essential oil to the mixture for added benefits.
Laundry detergent: Castile soap can be used as a safe laundry soap, without any of the harmful dyes and fragrances typically found in laundry detergent. It’s effective at removing dirt and stains from clothes. Combine 1 cup liquid castile soap with 1 gallon water, ½ cup washing soda, ¼ cup baking soda, and ¼ cup Celtic sea salt (or Epsom salts).
Dishwashing liquid: Make a homemade dishwashing soap by combining ½ cup liquid castile soap with 1 ½ cups hot water, 1 tbsp vinegar, and 1 tbsp washing soda. Whisk until well-mixed, and add essential oils as desired for a fresh scent.
If you prefer to purchase products, there are chemical-free, natural products out there. These 2 brands are safe and trusted, and some of the absolute best you can find
Dr. Bronner’s has a mild baby soap (unscented) and liquid cleaners. Its liquid castile soap is one of our favorites, and comes in both unscented and lovely scented varieties.
Seventh Generation has popular laundry detergents, dishwasher detergents, and other cleaning products that are super safe.
While not cleaning products per se, the following products can help to clean the air in your home, actually removing pollutants from the air and purifying your environment.
Plants Stagnant indoor environments with poor air circulation and ventilation allow pollutants to accumulate and to stick around in greater amounts than humans, especially pregnant women and mothers, should be breathing in. The pollutants are released into the air from furnishings, upholstery, synthetic building materials, pollen, bacteria, molds, outer air contaminants, and cleaning products. In homes and offices, they can emit a variety of toxic compounds such as formaldehyde. Enter the most natural solution of all: plants! Plants purify the air as they absorb carbon dioxide and release clean oxygen for us to breathe. Certain plants are also especially helpful at reducing the amount of air particulates. Here are some great options to include in your home:
Garden mums: One of the best air-purifiers, this plant removes ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, and xylene from indoor air. It is popular and inexpensive at garden stores, and can be moved outdoors and planted outside after they're finished blooming.
Spider plants: Spider plants are an easy houseplant to grow, making them a great choice for beginners or forgetful owners. They enjoy bright, indirect sunlight and will send out shoots with flowers that eventually grow into baby spider plants or spiderettes.
Eucalyptus: Great for oil stains, it acts as an emulsifier that helps to dissolve oils. Drop a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil on a stain, rub it in with a toothbrush, then let it sit for a minute. Rinse out with hot water and soap. Eucalyptus also helps to clean the air and has a beautiful, fresh scent.
Areca palm: Also referred to as “butterfly palm,” this is an upright houseplant that’s somewhat vase-shaped. An areca palm can reach 10 to 12 feet in height, so plan accordingly! It prefers a humid area to avoid tip damage and requires pruning. When selecting an areca palm, look for plants with larger caliber trunks at the base of the plant. Plants that have pencil-thin stems tend to topple over and are quite difficult to maintain.
Peace lily: This relatively small plant packs some major air-cleaning punch. Peace lilies can remove ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene from the air. They’re easy to grow and will flower for much of the summer. Just be aware that these flowers (like all flowers) do add some pollen and floral scents to the air, so you may want to avoid having a room full of them if you’re prone to allergies. Put peace lilies in a shady spot and keep the soil moist without overwatering.
Beeswax candles: Not only do they smell absolutely amazing, beeswax candles actually help to cleanse and purify the air around you. They remove indoor air pollutants due to the magic of negative ions. When beeswax candles burn, they release negative ions into the air, which bind to pollutants in the air (such as dust, dirt, pollen, pet dander, and so on), all of which carry a positive charge. The beeswax candles’ negative ions neutralize the pollutants’ positive ions, causing them to drop to the ground where they cannot affect you. If you or your children suffer from asthma or allergies, beeswax candles are an absolute must.
Candles made from conventional materials such as paraffin should be strictly avoided, as they release dangerous chemicals into the air. Soy-based candles are relatively safe, but do not have the air purifying effects of beeswax. Make sure to purchase 100% pure beeswax candles.
Himalayan salt lamps: Like beeswax candles, salt lamps release negative ions into the air, which bind to and neutralize positive ions from air pollutants. They’re a great way to help purify your indoor air, and they’re beautiful to look at as well - they emit a soft, glowing, natural light.
Indoor air filters: If your home is not already equipped with a high-quality air filter such as a HEPA filter, consider installing one as it’s a great way to remove pollutants from your indoor air. Make sure to regularly change the filters for maximum effect, and to purchase high-quality filters.
Safe, effective cleaning IS possible - it just takes a bit of thought to select safe brands or to make simple DIY products. By adding plants and other beneficial air-cleaning products to your home, you can reduce pollutants and contaminants, making it is a safer place for everyone.