October 11, 2016
Sonya Fladun – Mum in the suburbs

It’s easy to get obsessive about germs, particularly if you have children in school or childcare, where they are exposed to all manner of ailments. Life can seem like a never-ending battle against those insidious, microscopic terrorists.

With baby number one, I was totally germ phobic. I was positive that if I didn’t wash my hands with disinfectant every time before I touched the baby, if I didn’t use the best-available, dust-sanitising vacuum cleaner or invest in the most-powerful anti-bacterial washing powder and cleaning sprays, my son wouldn’t survive his first year.

Looking back, I now know you can’t put your children in a sterile bubble. Indeed, some germ exposure probably helps develop children’s immunity.

Some of the heavy-duty cleaning products many of us nuke our homes with may well present their own health risks. Cleaning the shower cubicle with a powerful cleaner recently, I had a bit of a turn. The fumes were overwhelming and I was seeing flashing lights and feeling dizzy.

Reading the fine print on the product afterwards, I realised the bathroom window should have been open for ventilation. I also probably shouldn’t have mixed the cleaner with a mould remover in an effort to do two jobs at once!

However, the experience got me thinking about the safety of using these potent products so regularly. Our homes are often awash with chemicals – cleaners, solvents, insecticides – in all sorts of weird and wonderful combinations.

Yet it hasn’t always been like this. My mum swore by the likes of vinegar, eucalyptus oil, bicarbonate soda and good old soap for household cleaning, and would only employ the big guns when a serious clean-up was called for.

I still favour hand-washing and won’t be giving up my hand-sanitisers or antibacterial wipes any time soon. But I will weed out from the cupboard some of the chemicals that could knock out ebola with a single whiff.

So when contemplating spring cleaning, think about if you really need to kill every possible microbe with the domestic equivalent of nerve gas, or whether it’s possible to use a cheaper, healthier, more environmentally friendly and child-safe alternative.

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