Spring Cleaning Done Right

Tips to keep your home safe, from DIY cleaners to eliminating lead paint and outdated medications!

The weather is gradually warming up, and it won’t be long before kids will be playing outside, the flowers are blooming and the ice cream truck makes that special trip down your block after dinner.

Spring is here and offers a unique opportunity to clean and organize your home, freshen up a room with a new coat of paint, do some gardening or tinker around the yard.

Keeping your home safe and free from germs and other harmful toxins can be challenging. We offer some cost-effective tips to get the job done and still have time to spend with your family.

Consider an Alternative to Chemical Cleaners

Did you know that there are many home remedy alternatives to mass-produced household cleaners? You may have some of these ingredients already! Here are two ideas for healthy alternatives to your favorite cleaners from Women’s Voices (click the link for more ideas!):

All Purpose Cleaner:

  • 2 cups of white distilled vinegar
  • 2 cups of water
  • 20-30 drops of essential oils (optional)

Toilet Bowl Cleaner: 

  • Sprinkle toilet bowl with:
    • Baking soda
    • Vinegar
  • Let soak for at least a half-hour and then scrub with toilet brush.

If you choose to clean your home with store-bought cleaning products, be mindful of where they are stored. Keep them in places where children cannot easily access them to avoid any accidental ingestion or other harmful exposure. Keep them in original containers and buy childproof packaging when available. If you know or suspect your child may have been harmed by contact with household cleaners, call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Look for Lead-Based Paint

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), homes built before 1978 are far more likely to contain lead-based paint than homes built after that year. As a result, exposure to lead from paint or lead-contaminated dust are common causes of lead poisoning.

The EPA warns that lead is still present in millions of homes, and sometimes hidden under newer layers of non-lead-based paint. However, if the new paint is in good condition, then the risk of lead exposure from old paint is low.

The EPA urges families living in pre-1978 homes to look for signs of deteriorating lead-based paint in places where children may frequent, such as walls, doors, windows and window sills, stairs, railings, banisters, and porches.

Common signs of deteriorating lead paint are:

  • Peeling
  • Chipping
  • Chalking
  • Cracking

If any of your home’s paint surfaces show these conditions, be sure to clean the area frequently to prevent any lead dust from harming you or your family members. To accomplish this, the YWCA recommends the following:

  • Wet-wash and/or mop hard surfaces with a combination of water and an all-purpose or lead-specific cleaning detergent. Vacuum cloth surfaces and carpeting.
  • Avoid dry-sweeping on hard surfaces, as this could whisk any lead dust into the air, which then could potentially cause particles to enter the lungs.
  • Wear gloves and clothing that can be easily washed afterwards.
  • Clean any toys or other small objects that were present in the dusty area.
  • Do not let pregnant women, children, or pets into the cleaning area until finished.
  • The YWCA also advises that you install a rug at all of your home’s entryways to prevent others from tracking lead-contaminated soil into your home.

Once you have finished cleaning, remember to store your cleaning supplies immediately and place them out of your children’s reach. Ideas for safely storing cleaning supplies include: high-up shelves in your kitchen cabinets, pantry, garage, shed, or linen closet as well as any lockable cabinet or container.

Safely Dispose of Old Prescriptions

Do you have prescription medication in your medicine cabinet that is expired or no longer needed? Be sure to safely remove it from your home as part of your spring cleaning . As you remove any unneeded prescriptions or over-the-counter medication from your storage spaces, be sure to then re-organize the ones that you are keeping and place them where your children cannot reach them. Place your medicine on the highest possible shelf in the medicine cabinet.

Family Doctor also advises that you educate our children on medicine safety, make sure all child safety caps are locked on pill bottles, avoid telling them it tastes like candy to get them to take their medication, and don’t let them play doctor with empty medicine containers. If your child accidentally ingests any medicine or vitamin, call Poison Control right away.

When disposing of prescription medicine, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises to do the following:

  • Follow specific disposal instruction on prescription labeling or patient information.
  • Take advantage of programs that allow the public to take unused drugs to a central location for proper disposal.
  • Place unused medicine in the care of a Drug Enforcement Agency authorized collector. List of local collectors can be found on the DEA website.

If there are no collectors in your area, the FDA offers guidelines for proper trash disposal of prescription drugs as well:

  • Remove medicine from original container.
  • Mix medicine with undesirable substance (used coffee grounds, dirt, kitty litter, etc.)
  • Place mixture in sealable bag, empty can, or other container to prevent leaking.
  • Scratch out identifying information from your prescription label.
  • Do not give prescription medicine to others to dispose for you.
  • If still unsure, ask your local pharmacist.

On April 29, the DEA is hosting National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day to allow people to safely dispose of prescription medication in a convenient and responsible way. Collection sites will be made available on April 1, 2017.

Spring offers the perfect opportunity to not only clean your home but also beautify it, as well as remove potential risks related to lead exposure and other toxic chemicals. Cleaning and spring projects are a great opportunity to bring the family together and tackle a painting project, garage cleanout and even yard work.

Be sure to take advantage of the warmer weather to improve the health and wellness of your home this spring.

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