There are healthy and safer options of common "green" and organic products available at stores and co-ops to keep young children's areas clean. Homemade products made from natural based items are also available.
Choose safer household cleaners. Look for household cleaners that are less caustic and friendlier to both the environment and the body. Look for green and nontoxic cleaners or products that are petroleum-free, biodegradable, phosphate-free, VOC-free, or solvent free.
Less is more
ANDEREGG, MACALADY, FOX, HETRICK, KATERS
Many household cleaners can be diluted with water, still clean quite effectively, and be safer for children.
Skip the antibacterial soap. Plain old soap and water will surround dirt and get the germs off when rinsed.
"It's like dipping your kids' hands in penicillin constantly," according to Harvey Karp, MD a pediatrician and author of "The Happiest Toddler on the Block."
Minimize spray-on carpet cleaners. Chemical carpet cleaners contain ingredients that can become trapped in a carpet. For child safe cleaning, steam clean with water and no detergent.
Make your own cleaning agents
You can make a good kitchen and bathroom cleanser out of baking soda and a little soap. Diluted vinegar which has been used for 3000 years is good for cleaning surfaces, and toys. Clean and deodorize urine on a mattress with a vinegar and water solution. Then sprinkle area with baking soda and let dry. Vacuum the residue when dry. See Vicki Lansky books "Vinegar", "Baking Soda", and "Another Use For" for more cleaning recipes available in libraries.
Make sure others understand your cleaning regimen. If you have help at home like a babysitter or a cleaning service, make sure they understand your approach to child-safe cleaning. Show them the household cleaners you use and how and when you would use them.
Stop dirt from getting in the house. Everyone can wipe their feet as they come in the house. It will keep out dirt as well as any contaminants from outside. Better yet, take off shoes when entering and wear socks or slippers. Wash off pet's feet and clean pets often. The floor won't get as dirty and you can clean less frequently.
Don't clean with the kids in the room. It's tempting to multitask, to spray cleaner on the table while your baby is having snack. It's much better to use household cleaners without children in the room. Make sure to ventilate it before they come back in.
Open a window. On a nice day close the room's doors and let in fresh air for an hour.
Some childcare facilities and homes are now changing to organic food and green cleaning supplies. If you wish more information from two providers Nicki Lahti and Jen Sebbas who have gone green, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor's note: This column is penned by retired Marquette Area Public Schools teachers Iris Katers, Jean Hetrick, and Cheryl Anderegg. Esther Macalady is from Golden, Colorado. Tim Fox currently teaches at Superior Hills Elementary. It's supported by Northern Michigan University Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship, the School of Education, U.P. Children's Museum, U.P. Association for the Education of Young Children, and U.P. Parent Awareness of Michigan. Their book "Learning Through the Seasons" is available at area stores and www.grandparentsteachtoo.org. Their mission is to provide fun standards based activities that adults can do in the home to prepare children for school and a lifetime of learning and reduce the stress of child care.