Are common household cleaners safe for pregnant women?
Pregnancy is a magical and beautiful time, but it can also be an anxious one.
Some pregnant women worry that being exposed to everyday chemicals and household cleaning products in pregnancy may harm their unborn baby and have concerns about using cleaning products while pregnant.
This can be particularly confusing when your nesting instincts kick in and all you want to do is clean and prepare your home for your new bundle!
Unfortunately, there is no official medical guidance around what household cleaning products and chemicals are safe for pregnant women to use, but there are some do’s and don'ts that should be followed to avoid harm from toxic substances when pregnant.
There are also more natural and traditional alternatives that can be used during your pregnancy.
Are cleaning products harmful when pregnant?
Thankfully, the risk of cleaning products and other household chemicals harming you or your baby is very low.
However, it’s natural to be worried about products that contain chemicals or potentially toxic substances - they’re hidden in things you probably wouldn’t have thought about:
- Glass cleaner, furniture polish, air fresheners, antibacterial sprays
- Laundry powder and fabric softener
- Make-up, moisturisers, shower gels, and hairsprays
- And that’s just to name a few!
It is important to remember that we are exposed to cleaning products and other man-made chemicals in our day-to-day lives, usually with no issues. And research shows that the types of cleaning products we use every day carry a very low risk of causing any complications in pregnancy or impacting on baby’s development as long as they are used and stored safely.
It would be almost impossible to cut out the use of these products entirely so the best thing to do is try to focus on making sure you’re using your favourite cleaning bits safely and correctly. But if you are worried, you could try limiting how often you use them.
What cleaning products should I avoid in pregnancy?
You might be glad to hear that there are a couple of cleaning jobs and products you should try to avoid, or ask someone else to help you with, while you are pregnant.
Let’s start with the thankless task of cleaning the oven. If you ever needed an excuse to pass this horrible job onto someone else, then here you have it! Apart from the fact that in the later stages of pregnancy you’ll probably not be able to bend down that far, most oven cleaners give off fumes from the really strong chemicals required to shift that burnt-on stuff.
If you do have to do this job yourself during pregnancy, then open some windows and doors to create airflow in the room and make sure the area is well ventilated. Read the instructions and the warning labels carefully and use gloves!
You should also try to limit the use of aerosol cleaning products like air fresheners, room sprays and furniture polish while pregnant. These products release chemicals into the air in a fine mist, which you’re more likely to breathe in.
If any fumes make you feel sick while you’re pregnant (or any time!), ask someone else to do the cleaning or try to avoid these cleaning products for the rest of your pregnancy.
Mixing cleaning products is also a big no-no while you’re pregnant. Especially products that contain ammonia and bleach.
Ammonia can be found in things like glass cleaner, bathroom sprays, furniture polish and waxes, drain and toilet cleaner and when mixed with bleach, it creates a chemical called chloramine.
Chloramine releases powerful and toxic fumes which, when inhaled, can make you feel lightheaded, dizzy and cause irritation to your eyes, nose, throat, and lungs.
Natural cleaning products to use in pregnancy
If you’re still really concerned about the impact of chemicals on you and your baby, you could use more natural products and traditional methods to clean your home during this time.
White distilled vinegar is an amazing natural cleaner and is brilliant for cleaning glass on a dry cloth. You can mix it with baking powder or bicarbonate of soda (sometimes called baking soda) to make a brilliant drain cleaner - it also works if you mix it with lemon juice, and the drains will be left smelling fresh and clean!
Just a word of warning though – white vinegar isn’t good for all of your household cleaning – it can damage items such as the rubber seals and pipes in dishwashers and washing machines and it often damages the protective layer of hard wood flooring too.
Bicarbonate of soda. is also a great oven cleaner and deodoriser. You can mix it with a few drops of water to turn it into a paste, which will take even the toughest burnt-on stains away.
And if you have a spare spray bottle, you can dilute it with warm water and add a few drops of lemon juice or your favourite pregnancy safe essential oil to make a fragrant kitchen surface spray that’s also brilliant for shining stainless steel.
Bicarbonate of soda can also be used sprinkled on things like carpets and mattresses to remove smells and freshen them up. Leave to sit for a few minutes and then simply hoover it away. You can also pop a few spoonful’s in a bowl and place it in fridges, microwaves and cupboards to remove food smells.
How to use cleaning products safely in pregnancy
Not everyone has time to DIY, and there’s always jobs around the house that can require more cleaning power than natural alternatives offer.
But as long as you follow some simple safety steps, most cleaning products are perfectly safe to use in pregnancy:
- Don’t breathe in fumes
- Wear gloves when cleaning
- If a cleaning product is irritating you in any way, stop using it and consult a doctor
- Clean in a well-ventilated area - open windows and let in fresh air
- If possible, allow others to help with the cleaning during your pregnancy
Speak to your midwife about any concerns
If you are concerned or are ever unsure about what cleaning products are and aren’t safe to use during your pregnancy, then it’s always a good idea to speak to your midwife who will be able to give you the most up-to-date advice for you and your baby.