It's one of the great ironies of parenting: You want a hygienic environment for your family, but you're concerned about the potential hazards of cleaning supplies. Children, and babies especially, are highly sensitive to harsh chemicals, since their skin is extra irritable and their nervous systems still developing.
To complicate matters, conventional household cleaning products—e.g., bleach, drain cleaners, and glass sprays—"on the whole accounted for 11 percent of poison control center calls for children younger than 6" in 2015. So on top of airborne risk, there's the potential risk of internal consumption for little ones.
Similar worries apply to pet parents; after all, more than one four-legged companion has been known to eat off a freshly-washed floor. On the flip side, you don't want to be "that" pet owner whose house smells like wet dog.
The good news? There are plenty of products and ingredients proven to be effective without being dangerous. Here are our recommendations for products and ingredients that are safe to use around kids, cats, and dogs:
As cheap as it is powerful, this liquid is known for being equal parts economical and effective.
Parents laundering cloth diapers can safely reduce ammonia smells by pouring 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar into the rinse cycle. To treat baby acne, mix equal parts apple cider vinegar with water, gently apply the concoction to baby's face with a cotton ball, then wipe and rinse clean.
Want to get knots out of your kids' hair using ingredients you can actually pronounce? With just apple cider vinegar, water, and lavender essential oil, you can whip up this DIY detangler.
And forget conventional veggie wash: The antibacterial benefit of vinegar also applies to produce. Mix three parts water with one part vinegar in a bottle, spray six squirts onto soft-skinned fruits or veggies, and rinse with water.
There are some wag-worthy benefits of vinegar, too. Dogs Naturally recommends applying a 50/50 mix of apple cider vinegar and water to any itchy spots on your dog (take care to avoid open wounds). Equally beneficial? A teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in your dog's water bowl—it'll freshen his breath, and most pups actually like the taste.
2. Baking Soda
An effortless air freshener that costs next to nothing. After cleaning your fridge, leave an opened box of baking soda inside to absorb odors. Replace the box every three or so months.
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The Bark recommends cleaning your dog's fur with baking soda: Simply rub it in and brush it out for an easy "dry sham-pooch."
Fresh coffee grinds provide so much more than your morning java fix. Like baking soda, they make a wonderful fridge freshener—just place a heaping handful in an open bowl or breathable container.
4. Castile Soap
Speaking of repellents, gentle Castile soap can effectively remove garden infestations. To get rid of mites, aphids, or other plant pests, mix a tablespoon of the liquid soap with a quart of water, and spray the infested areas thoroughly.
Unscented varieties of Castile soap also make a great pet-friendly bath staple.
You've likely heard certain houseplants clean the air. But which ones are safe for homes with pets and kids?
Gerber daisies, variegated wax plants, and lily turfs are all gorgeous, non-poisonous, and air-freshening picks. Of course, many plants are dangerous if ingested, so keep them on upper shelves, safely out of the reach of little hands (or paws).
6. Puracy Carpet & Upholstery Shampoo
As the dog-sitting, pet-loving experts at Rover.com put it, Puracy "gets it right and smells good doing it. Use this pet-safe shampoo on carpets, furniture—anything your dog can and will pee on."
7. Coconut Oil
It's even healthy for pets: Use it to coat pills to help dogs swallow them, or apply a small amount topically to freshen your dog's fur.
Coconut oil can also be used as a soothing, 100% natural nipple cream (bonus: it's totally baby-friendly).
8. Natural Sprays
The problem: Conventional air fresheners for the bathroom are rife with potentially harmful VOCs. But lit candles and flammable matches pose an obvious threat when you have kids. And essential oil diffusers can easily be knocked over and lethally ingested by cats or dogs.
Your best bet? Stick with a air freshener that's not easy to spill (or light on fire!).
Alone or paired with an all-purpose spray, these small, effective multitaskers are total cleaning powerhouses. Use them in lieu of disposable floor mats, which typically contain chemicals and solvents. (While not fatal, such products are thought to contain health risks for pets). Microfiber cloths also work wonders on windows, kitchen areas, and bathroom surfaces.
The best part? Since they're reusable, you save money on paper towels. Launder them regularly, as you would any other cloth.
10. Plain soap and water
The best soap for little hands? A sulfate-free cleanser that removes dirt gently and effectively.
11. Safe labels
When shopping for house cleaners, look for products that are marked "petroleum-free," "biodegradable," "phosphate-free," "VOC-free," or "solvent-free."
Try experimenting to see what works best for your human and furry family members. It might take extra effort at first, but these safe, natural choices will go a long way.