Babyproofing the Home

by Serena Ma, ND, MS, LAc

I'm not talking about locking up cabinets and getting electrical outlet covers - I figure I have more time to do that (once he's mobile) - instead, I'm talking about reducing toxic chemicals in the household.

We moved to a 2-bedroom in the Fall to accommodate our growing family, and how serendipitous that our landlord (prior occupant) was also passionate about keeping the apartment toxin-free!  She mentioned using only non-toxic paint (yay, minimal off-gassing) and household cleaners.  :-)

Paint

VOCs in paint is a big concern.  It's that paint smell that you have to air out.  VOCs stand for 'Volatile Organic Compounds'.  Some organic chemicals have been linked to cancer but the more immediate effects are: eye irritation, nose and throat inflammation, allergic skin reaction, nausea, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders, fatigue, and memory disorders.  Long-term exposure (painters) can develop damage to the kidneys, liver, and nervous system. 

We wanted to paint the nursery and other parts of the apartment to make it feel more homey and used:

  1. Benjamin Moore Natura paint which is zero-VOC and zero emissions, available in all the Benjamin Moore colors.  
  2. Lullaby Paintswhich claims to be the safest paint available with even food grade ingredients.

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The bigger topic here is what to use to clean the home.  This actually wasn't a big transition for us, as I've been researching and using non-toxic cleaning products in our home for years now but now I'm doing my research for baby products.

My top resource is the

EWG's Guide to Healthy Cleaning

{EWG = Environmental Working Group}. It rates products based on: 1) whether it contains hazardous ingredients, and 2) whether companies give full disclosure of ingredients.  They are rated letter grades A to F.

Laundry

At home I use

Planet

's Laundry detergent, which is available in liquid and powder versions at an A rating (Planet 2x Ultra Laundry Detergent, For HE & Standard Machines & Planet Ultra Powdered Laundry Detergent, Hypoallergenic).

But others that received A ratings are are easy to find are:

  • Seventh Generation Natural Powder Laundry Detergents (in different fragrances) and their Natural Laundry Detergent Packs, Free & Clear.  Please note that the liquid version of Seventh Generation doesn't make the grade, so make sure to buy the powdered version {this is what my clinic laundry is washed in}.
  • Martha Stewart Clean Laundry Detergent (liquid)
  • Ecover ZERO Laundry Liquid Concentrate (liquid)
  • Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value 2x Concentrated Laundry Detergent (liquid)
  • Ology 2x Laundry Liquid, Free & Clear
  • The Honest Co. Honest 4 in 1 Laundry Pods, Free & Clear

For bleach, the non-chlorine bleaches are the only ones that make the grade:

  • Ecover Non-Chlorine Bleach Powder and Liquid
  • Seventh Generation Chlorine Free Bleach, Free & Clear (liquid)
  • Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda Detergent Booster & Household Cleaner
  • OxiClean Laundry Baby Stain Soaker

Unfortunately the database doesn't have a lot of the baby detergents on it - and the ones there don't rate well.  Right now I'm considering the Honest pods, Dapple, and Eco-Nuts.

Dishwashing

I like to support local companies so I use the following for handwashing - which are NOT rated on the database:

  • common good dishwashing soap - I love this company because I can refill their beautiful glass bottles (I also love to reduce plastic use/waste) and their ingredients are plant and mineral based.
  • At the office I use the Green Depot Liquid Dish Soap.  Again I can bring this for refills at the Green Depot at 222 Bowery, which isn't too far from my office.

For my dishwasher at home, I use:

  • Seventh Generation Automatic Dishwasher Powder, Free & Clear, which scores an A on the database  :-)
  • Ecover Rinse Aid (also scores an A!)

Others that are good are:

Handwashing

  • Babyganics Foaming Dish & Bottle Soap, Fragrance-Free and Citrus
  • Planet Ultra Dishwashing Liquid, Hypo-Allergenic

Dishwasher

  • Earth Friendly Products Wave Auto Dishwasher Gel, Fragrance-Free and Organic Lavender
  • Seventh Generation Automatic Dishwasher Detergent Concentrated Pacs, Free & Clear
  • The Honest Co. honest auto dishwasher gel, free & clear
  • Nice! Dishwasher Packs Single Dose Detergent

Rinse Aid

  • Seventh Generation Rinse Aid, Free & Clear

Bathroom

For the bathroom, I could do better, right now I use the Ecover toilet bowl cleaner which scores a B (not bad but could be better).  Better toilet bowl cleaners are:

  • Seventh Generation Natural Toilet Bowl Cleaner, Emerald Cypress & Fir
  • Earth Friendly Products Toilet Cleaner, Natural Cedar Scent

For Tub & Tile, the only one that rates well is the Seventh Generation Natural Tub & Tile Cleaner, Emerald Cypress & Fir.

All-Purpose

Personally I'm minimalistic and use all-purpose cleaners for the tub & tile and kitchen surfaces.  Do I really need a different product for each room?  Again I use common good all-purpose spray.  Many people make their own vinegar based sprays which are great too!!!  I also use (all A's):

  • Bon Ami Powder Cleanser for tougher spots (like the tub)
  • Ecover Cream Scrub

Other great all-purpose cleaners are:

  • Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds Liquid Cleaner and 18-in-1 soaps
  • Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
  • Earth Friendly Products Orange Plus All Purpose Everyday Cleaner
  • Whole Foods All Purpose Cleaner, citrus; Whole Foods All Purpose Concentrated Cleaner, Pine; Whole Foods Green MISSION Organic All-Purpose Spray Cleaner & Degreaser, Lemon Zest; Whole Foods Market Green MISSION Surface Cleaning Wipes, Minty Fresh 
  • Planet All-Purpose Spray Cleaner

Glass Cleaners

  • Citra-Solv Citra Clear Window & Glass Cleaner
  • Whole Foods Market Glass Cleaner, unscented
  • Ology Glass Cleaner

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I didn't include all the A cleaners, only the ones I see a lot at the market.  Please check the database for others and other categories.