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Why To Keep Toxic Products Out Of Your Family’s Home

This article is part of a series of articles about Greening Our Insides.

Last week I wrote about vinegar and its many uses around the house. It is an cheap, non-toxic alternative for all sorts of household needs. In a comment on that post, Kendra wrote about her reasons for using vinegar. I was touched by her story, and asked her to share her story in a guest post – the following is her experience.

It Just Takes a Moment: A Mother’s Story

by Kendra, A Sonoma Garden


While I was doing online research for cloth diapering five years ago, I heard of how you can clean your house using simple products like vinegar and baking soda, and I dabbled with them for a while, but two years and a half years ago something happened that turned me into a complete ‘safe-cleaning’ convert. Though I experimented in using things like baking soda and vinegar, I still had things under my kitchen sink like bleach, Cascade and Comet. But it was all tucked under safely behind childproof cabinets, or so I thought.

Two years ago, when my son was barely two, I was making lunch in the kitchen and my son was playing on the floor with the pots and pans as we frequently did. I was telecommuting from home at the time and had to be active with my e-mails, so while he was playing peacefully I stole away for a moment to run to the office to hit ‘refresh’ on my Outlook.

Just seconds later while I was quickly reading an e-mail, I heard him wail. Now as a mother, you quickly get to know your baby’s cries. Some are just cries of frustration, and others are ones that make your adrenaline start rushing immediately. His was the latter. I bolted into the kitchen to find that he had broken through the childproof locks on our sixty-year-old rickety cabinets with the jar of Comet in his hands and a mouth full of that horrid green powder.

I screamed, he was still screaming and I was just certain that I had poisoned my dear son beyond repair. I grabbed for the nearest dishtowel and started wiping out as much powder as I could out of his mouth. I used water to get as much out as I possibly could. Luckily when my childbirth coach years before had instructed us to put the Poison Control hotline number (which is 1-800-222-1222) on our refrigerators, I dutifully did so and I immediately called it.

The nice man on the other end of the line calmly told me that my son was going to be okay, I had done the right thing by getting it out of his mouth and to call if he started to have trouble breathing. I needed more reassuring so I called our local ER and a wonderful nurse also calmed me and said that he probably didn’t get much, if any, down his throat and that the reason he was crying was because of the awful taste in his mouth. As per her instructions, I gave him a glass of milk to get the taste out of his mouth and put him down for his nap.

As soon as he fell asleep and while my body was still racing with adrenaline, I went through our house like a madwoman, throwing out any and every cleaning product that was toxic. And if we couldn’t live without it, I placed it way up high where he could never reach.

I was lucky. He turned out to be just fine, but it was certainly a call to action. We harbor things in our cabinets that we don’t even realize are poisonous. Did you know that many mainstream body lotions have a warning that if swallowed call Poison Control? And adult toothpaste is all too tempting (and fatal) for a toddler to squeeze into his mouth.

It may be impossible to rid our houses of everything dangerous, but cleaning products are an easy thing to change. And I’ve come to find that baking soda plus a little lemon juice is even more effective at scouring sinks that Comet ever was. You just sprinkle the bottom of the sink with baking soda, squeeze half a lemon over it to moisten and scrub with a damp sponge or dishcloth. For many more ways that you can clean with baking soda, try this site and please do refer back to Melinda’s earlier post on how to clean with vinegar.

Now if my youngest son, who’s now almost two, breaks into our cabinets all he’ll find is a squirt bottle of vinegar and a sealed jar of baking soda. And I never leave them alone in the kitchen! Lesson learned!

More kitchen play

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10 comments to Why To Keep Toxic Products Out Of Your Family’s Home

  • [...] Update: If you’d like to read about how I’m such a horrible mother, check out my guest blog post on One Green Generation. [...]

  • ctdaffodil

    What a horrible scare – thank goodness your son was ok. I would like to know why we women don’t get xray vision or eyes in the back of our heads while we are preggers – we get stretch marks and morning sickness….

  • Wow. Not having kids,I never think about this- Under my kitchen sink is the same toxic wasteland I grew up with. There are metal polishes, drain cleaner- Stuff I don’t use but may so I don’t get rid of. MY med cabinet though is high off the ground were little kids cant get to on the opposite wall from the sink in the bathroom- But a lot of good that does- I keep toothpaste and mouth wash in a cabinet over the toilet! A lot to think about before the next junior citizen pays a visit to my house.Great post!

  • As the mother of a 13 month old this is particularly scary to me.
    My middle son drank Pine Sol water when he was about 2 (don’t ask, long story, he crawled up onto a cabinet!!) and that was a horrible experience. He was fine. But yikes.

  • As a mother of 3, I think all parents go thru some type of similar scare at least once. I have used vinegar and baking soda for years and years – it is the only cleaning agents I use. Great post!

  • Great post indeed. I have a bottle of bleach (several years old, for ultra-cleaning emergencies) but it is on a high shelf in a downstairs laundry room with a squeaky door that is kept closed.

    I had a scare not with my child, but with my dog. He is usually excellent about not chewing things … but one day a couple years ago he decided to snarf down a tissue with hair-remover cream on it. Luckily I saw the tissue and so I knew what had happened. He got shaky and lethargic and we spent a few scary hours with him lying in a blanket trembling while I cried.

    In addition to poison control, should something like this happen, many products have a 1-800 number on the package. I called the number (per my vet’s instructions) and they connected me with a vet who was an expert on the product ingredients who walked me through what to do. (Coax/force him to eat and wait for him to vomit.)

    The episode reminded me that our cat used to LOVE the smell of scouring powder with bleach. She would go crazy and had to be locked outside the bathroom when we used it. So, never underestimate the crazy things your pets might find appetizing, too. (Although vinegar seems to scare ‘em off!) Even with natural products, use closed waste containers, put used rags in unreachable areas and be cautious.

    And yes, we’ve probably not heard a lot of stories of someone having severe repercussions from not using scouring powder … but there are all too many frightening stories of being harmed by these products.

  • There are no children in my house so I don’t ever have to worry about those things but I do worry about my pets. (One of our dogs will eat anything and I have a cat who will lick the insides of bags and anything mint scented or flavored) so this is all just a bit more motivation to get it out of my house.

    Seventh Generation laundry soap turns out to be great! You don’t need much which is nice and it costs the same as Tide.

    Does anyone know anything for stubbornly clogged drains? Tonight I’m just going to get a small bottle of draino (I can’t stand the water in the shower another morning) but if there’s something else I can use in the future I would prefer it.

  • Margaret Cloud

    What a scary story glad it turned out okay. It reminds me that our older son when five drank his bubble blowing bottle, thank goodness my mom-in-law was there and knew what to do.

  • Lola

    to aradia:

    baking soda works for drains too! my mom puts baking soda down the drain and then rinses it through with vinegar to clean it all the way down

  • Correna

    Unfortunately, I just had the scare myself. I have a 17 month old son. Who is constantly trying to get under the sink. And he got in and tried drinking pine sol. Thank god I was right behind him before he got any.

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