Go on a household detox | Environment Victoria

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Put your home on a detox diet

Your average home is full of chemicals that are bad for you, and bad for your baby. However there are plenty of alternatives, so cutting the quantity of chemicals in your home is easy. 

Children are more vulnerable to the effects of toxic chemicals because:

  • their immune systems and central nervous system are still developing, which means their bodies are less able to process toxins, and
  • they have more skin surface and breathe more air per unit of body weight, so they absorb more chemicals.

Reducing their exposure to chemicals could help lower their risk of allergies, chemical sensitivities and illnesses.


Do we really need all these anti-bacterials and disinfectants?

Antibacterials can be toxic to most of your organs and are more drying for your skin.

Many ads play on our fear of germs, implying that anti-bacterial, anti-microbial or disinfectant cleaners, sprays and even toys are necessary for a healthy environment for a child. Health experts say this is not true.

The most effective way of limiting spread of diseases carried by germs is proper hand washing – rubbing your hands under running water – especially after using the toilet and before preparing or eating food.

Also, not all bacteria are bad. By killing the beneficial ones, antibacterials actually leave us more vulnerable to the harmful ones we encounter. In other words, exposing children to naturally occurring bacteria helps develop their immune systems.

Tip: Lemon juice is a mild and natural antibacterial, bleach, acidic cleaning agent and deodoriser that you can add to water when cleaning.

More info: A Victorian Government fact sheet on anti-bacterial cleaning products


Buy less toxic cleaning products and use less of them

Try using less of your existing products by simply watering them down or just applying spots where it’s really needed. And when you shop for new products go for ones that are biodegradable, concentrated and can be used for different surfaces. Avoid ones with ‘keep out of reach of children’ or ‘flammable’ warnings on them. Or, like a lot of parents, you may prefer not to use commercial cleaning products at all as it is an easy way to reduce the toxic load of your home.


You don’t need cleaning products to clean

Many commercial cleaning products contain anti-bacterials as well as a lot of chemicals that aid drying, add shine to surfaces or smell nice but don’t actually ‘clean’.


Cleaning is a process, not a product

With a bit of judicious soaking and a dash of elbow grease you can achieve the same standards of hygiene if you follow some simple tips – like drying surfaces with a cloth after you’ve cleaned.


Make your own

Most home made recipes for cleaners revolve around these natural abrasives, solvents and sanitisers:

  • soap
  • baking soda
  • borax (available from the laundry section of supermarkets, and hardware stores)
  • vinegar, and
  • lemon

You can also add essential oils for that nice clean smell! To get more great tips and recipes to make your own cleaning concoctions go to www.back-to-basics-cleaning.com.


Micro-fibre mitts

Many busy parents swear by micro fibre cloths, which work with just water. You’ve probably heard of Enjo but there are also cheaper versions on the market (though they might not last as long or perform as well). You could get a salesperson to visit your house and demonstrate them for you as a lot of their performance and durability boils down to the way you use them. Remember these people are salespeople so think about what you really need.


Carpets, paints and chipboard

Some materials emit toxins into the air especially when they’re new, like carpets, paints, chipboard and plastics. That’s what that ‘new smell’ is. It’s especially important to be aware of this if you’re renovating or preparing a nursery, so you can choose less harmful materials. Expectant mums might also need to stay somewhere else while the ‘new smell’ dies down and certainly shouldn’t be painting or wall papering. Sorry ladies you’ll have to put your feet up – it’s for the good of the baby!

See our safer, greener renovations section for more information.


Tell me more

To find out more about chemicals in the home, head to www.safersolutions.org.au.
To find out about the potential risk of nano-particles in sunscreen, check out Friends of the Earth's Safe Sunscreen Guide.
For all kinds of info on toxics, not just in the home, head to the National Toxics Netork.


other green baby resources

What you really need to buy
Stay comfy, save money - draught proof and insulate

Making big buys?
Safer, greener renovations
Save water, energy and money
Getting around with a baby
Give reusable nappies a go

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