Cleaning During Pregnancy: Some Dos and Don'ts
Are you a mama-to-be getting ready to scrub the house? First read this guide to safer housecleaning when you're preggers. Lots of things change when you’re expecting, including how much housecleaning you should tackle — and what’s safe and what’s not. So before you plug in the vacuum or dig out the dustpan, get the lowdown on the dos and don’ts of cleaning during pregnancy.
DO: Read the labels.
If you see the words “toxic,” “danger,” “poison,” or “corrosive” on the label of any housecleaning product — and you’re most likely to on oven, drain, rug, and toilet-bowl cleaners — skip it, even if you used it with no problem before you became pregnant. These days, your defensives are down and the toxic fumes could irritate your eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. Cleaning products that have low “acute toxicity” (most glass and general cleaners) probably won’t bother you, but since no one really knows how these chemicals could affect your baby, experts recommend erring on the side of safety by reducing your family’s “toxic burden” wherever possible. So get a little greener before your baby arrives. Look for products labeled nontoxic and all-natural instead.
DO: Make your own safe cleaning supplies.
Another way to make the switch to more natural products is to DIY. These three are particularly cheap — and effective:
- Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle to make an all-purpose cleaning solution for countertops, tubs, and tile.
- Baking soda makes an excellent hard-water-stain remover in your tub or shower. First, wipe the area with a rag soaked in white vinegar (wear latex gloves ), then sprinkle generously with baking soda. Scrub the tile clean with the same vinegar-soaked rag.
- Use hydrogen peroxide instead of bleach. Soak clothes in one part hydrogen peroxide to eight parts water to remove stains and make whites whiter.
DO: Open the windows.
No matter what kind of cleaning products you’re using, make sure you’ve got some ventilation. Keeping a window open can greatly improve your indoor air quality and effectively remove toxic vapors. Run the exhaust fan in your bathroom, too, while you’re tidying there and for 15 minutes or so afterward.
DO: Wear gloves.
During pregnancy, your skin is much more sensitive than normal. Products that never bothered you before could cause contact dermatitis — and turn your skin into an itchy, irritated, and inflamed mess. Chlorine, detergents, bleach, added dyes, and fragrances — stuff you’ll likely find in many of your cleaning supplies — are all potential culprits. So get a pair of latex gloves and use them every time you clean to protect your hands and arms.
DO: Play the pregnancy card.
Once your baby arrives, you’ll probably be cleaning up something every day for the next 18 years or so. So take advantage of your “condition” to minimize your cleaning chores now. It’s not like you don’t have a good excuse: Pregnancy makes you incredibly tired (most of your body’s energy is going toward growing that beautiful baby). Plus, even mild smells may make you nauseated — and your expanding belly makes it difficult to bend, squat, and get up from your knees, all the moves required when cleaning house. Ask your partner (nicely) to carry most of the cleaning weight for the next nine months, or hire a pro if that’s in your budget.
DON'T: Clean up mold yourself.
While there are no studies showing that women exposed to mold during pregnancy are in danger, mold does produce toxic substances that have been linked to birth defects in animals. So if you’ve got mold in your bathroom, kitchen, or basement, get rid of it immediately. But don’t do it yourself. Have your partner or someone else mix water and bleach (according to the instructions on the bottle) to scrub down moldy tile, glass, ceramic, metal, and plastic. If the mold has spread to more porous materials, such as carpeting, drywall, paper, or ceiling tiles, you may have to discard them entirely. Talk to a professional cleaning service if your mold problem is severe — this is serious stuff.
DON'T: Wear shoes in the house.
A staggering 85 percent of the dirt in our homes gets tracked in from the bottom of our shoes — along with thousands of types of bacteria too. But there’s an easy solution: Remove your kicks and leave them at the door — and tell everyone to do the same. Not only will your house be less dirty (and free of certain toxins, such as lead, that can be found in dirt), but you’ll also find you won’t have to scrub as often. One way to get into the habit: Keep a pair of indoor shoes for all family members right by the door so you can all slip into them as soon as you get home.
DON'T: Move furniture.
In your pre-mama-to-be days, you may have thought nothing of lifting the couch with one hand while you vacuumed underneath with the other, or schlepping towers of folded towels up and down the stairs without even watching where you were going. But now that you’re knocked up, you have to give your superwoman powers a break. First of all, your center of gravity and balance changes as your belly grows, leaving you much more at risk of falls. And pregnancy hormones have softened your connective tissue, ligaments, and tendons, making you more prone to injury. The experts’ recommendation: Reduce the weight of any load you lift by 20 to 25 percent of what you could hoist pre-pregnancy. (So unless you purchased a 25-percent smaller sofa, leave it be if you’re housecleaning during pregnancy.)