I’m already hearing some, “Gee, Thanks” from the kids. However, herein lies one of the biggest perks for me with DIY house cleaning: not only are most homemade green cleaners safe to use around children, it is also safe for children to use.
Prior to my switch to natural house cleaners, my house cleaning was more of a covert operation. I didn’t want my kids breathing the fumes while I was cleaning and I didn’t want them coming up behind me and getting ahold of a spray bottle. (Yep, that happened once. My first call to poison control. Just so you know, one spray of 409 in the mouth isn’t considered a problem. At least not to them.) And so I was left to cleaning late at night while they were in bed, or during those precious few nap hours.
But with cleaners mostly made from things meant to go in or on the body, kids can help clean the messes they help make, even if a wayward spritz goes on their hand. Or if the needed 3 spritzes turns into 20, because there’s just something so satisfying about squeezing that spray trigger.
It takes a little bit of pretense on my part to make housecleaning sound like great fun, but anything they can do is one less thing that I have to do. One of my kids really likes the squeegee, so that one “gets” to do mirrors and windows, with a spray solution of diluted vinegar or pure club soda. My 5 year old likes spray bottles and a bright, child-sized scrub brush I found, so that means bathroom sinks and counters, using the spray Sal Suds or the antibacterial Castile soap spray. Maybe things aren’t quite as sparkly or streak-free as if I did it myself, but you know what they say about practice and perfection.
When the kids clean with these solutions, it’s OK if they accidentally leave some of the solution on the surfaces. The residue isn’t harmful. There aren’t any fumes to worry about. If any of the spray ends up on – or in – my kids, there is no need to call poison control. (I am not recommending drinking castile soap or Sal Suds. It will probably cause a slight tummy ache. And I would wait until a child has enough coordination to direct a spray bottle away from his or her face.)
I still prepare the solutions myself because there are a few ingredients that go into my natural house cleaning solutions that are very potent full strength, such as essential tea tree oil.
This realization – that these cleaning solutions are safe enough for kids to use – has been a long time in coming. And now it has really changed how we, as a family, do housecleaning. Otherwise, I don’t know how long I would have waited before I was comfortable cleaning with my kids in the room, or even how much longer beyond that before they themselves could start learning how to clean a house. Now, I am hoping that since they are cleaning up the messes of their own making, perhaps they might be a little more conscientious about not making the messes in the first place. We’ll keep our fingers crossed on that one.
Lisa Bronner is a prolific writer, consumer advocate, and speaker on health and green lifestyle issues. She is author of the blog, “Going Green with a Bronner Mom,” and granddaughter of Dr. Emanuel Bronner, founder of Dr. Bronner’s.