17 answers

Need Info. About Safer Cleaning Products for Kids at School

Last month I attended a play in my first graders classroom. After that the family and friends were invited to stay for lunch. The class eats in the classroom due to small cafeteria size. Before the kids eat their lunch they line up to use hand sanitizer. Yuck! And of course, because they are kids they are pumping out way to much then continue on to eat their lunches, with hands of course. After lunch the teacher goes around with what I imagine (because it smelled as such) is bleach and water, sprays the desks, then the children use really thin paper towels to wipe the desks. Not once did any of the kids (except mine, because I was there) wash with soap and water. Does anyone have any advice on how I can approach the school regarding the toxicity of these chemicals on children and info. on safer and affordable cleaning products? This would be much appreciated.

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WOW! Thank you everyone for your responses and advice. I have some work to do here. Honestly, I try not to freak out too much about stuff, but if there is a better way, why not? I will write again later to update. Again, thanks! C.

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Look up the WAC regulations in Washington state on using bleach and hand sanitizer. These are not to be used by children in many situations. I work at a preschool and we are not allowed to put it on children or use bleach around them without cleaning it with water after. Then once you have the info approach the school and tell them that you feel that this is unsafe especially due to allergies. I agree with you these children should be using good old soap and water and the teacher should be doing the cleaning of tables.

I agree - hand sanitizer is pretty gross, but the bleach and water is what we use in a preschool - required by state, with very specific amounts of each to dilute the bleach enough. I don't know that the kids should be wiping, but I guess at ages 7/9 it's not totally inappropriate (if it is the same amount, it is really very little bleach). Why don't they use water and soap to wash hands is my question - I would think that would be better than hand sanitizer.

There are some recipes for "green" cleaners on line - you could look them up and recommend that the teacher use the recipe as part of a lesson - make it, and use it in class...

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You've gotten some really great input, so I won't double-up, except to add that as a former third grade teacher, I did have my students wash their hands before eating in the classroom. One of the big issues with having that many kids wash at the classroom sink is water on the floor. It becomes a safety issue, and that may be why the teacher prefers antibacterial gel.

On another note, besides the chemical exposure to the children, isn't there some concern that over-use of antibacterial products perpetuates the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria like MRSA? If you do go to the principal or schoolboard, that is a community, global concern that your argument for non-chemical products and hand washing supports. Just another thought. :)

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C., as another resource for you I didn't see listed here. I took a natural cleaning course at our local community center in Vancouver, WA put on by Washington Watershed Stewards
http://www.co.clark.wa.us/water-resources/education/stewa...

In that class we learned a ton about natural cleaning products and how to use them effectively. (Vinegar followed by Hydrogen Peroxide or vice versa is an effective sanitizer - and I use it on my son's highchair, our counters, etc.)

They provided us with a very useful booklet on how to make natural cleaning products for just about every need (we use pure baking soda to scrub the tub he baths in). Perhaps you can contact them and ask for one.

The class was very eye opening. It's amazing the toxins we bring into our home and flush down our drains - not to mention that we inhale while we use them to clean, and so do our kids if they are close by.

Chemicals have their place at times, but I think it's best not on our kids skin and up their noses.

I commend you for wanting to make a difference for our kids. That is how any change starts - with people like you!

Perhaps we should all do a little research on the topic:

According to these articles, hand sanitizers are not safe for children to ingest, even a little. http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=1306615

http://www.germstop.net/articles/hand_hygiene/76h26103757...

http://marloelaine.com/2007/05/24/hand-sanitizers-the-hid...
http://safety.lovetoknow.com/Hand_Sanitizer_Dangers

http://biology.about.com/library/weekly/aa022400a.htm

And a blog with some alternative santizer ideas:
http://www.naturemoms.com/blog/2008/03/19/safe-hand-sanit...

At the very least kids should use according to directions - a very small amount and make sure the gel is completely dried before using hands to eat!

Well, this information should be enough to keep all of us busy! :)

1 mom found this helpful

In our home we clean with vinegar and water. Our kids help with the cleaning and, like you, wanted to find a safer method than chemicals. Vinegar disinfects, cleans and deordorizes....and it's all natural. Once the vinegar drys there is no odor. We even use it with our laundry. To get many more ideas and useage ideas just google cleaning with vinegar and you'll be amazed what you get. You can buy it by 2 gallons at Costco for about $4.00, which is so much safer and cheaper than any bleach product out there.

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A lot of times the teachers just use what thy are given by the parents. I would just talk to the principal about your concerns. I think we use way too much antibacterial stuff anyway. If we don't lay off of it we will not have immune systems. Maybe the teachers can start to request "Green" supplies instead of clorox wipes, etc... Talk to other parents I am sure that there are others that feel the same way.They can talk to the principal too.

I am with Watkins www.WatkinsOnline.com You can see their products there. I took some of the cleaners to my daughters teacher and donated them. Yep, I was out the money, but my daughter is not exposed to junk. You mention looking to move onto something else. Have you thought about a home business. My rep number is 381877 if you would like more info.

C.
I carry a full-line of environmental safe cleaning products. I looked for responses but it turns out that you can not see the responses until after you have already sent your response. Anyway, I commend you for seeking environmentally friendly products because not only are they good for the environment but they are good for you. We already get bombarded by enough contaminants in our daily life. If you are interested in finding out about the products you can contact me. Thanks.

Look up the WAC regulations in Washington state on using bleach and hand sanitizer. These are not to be used by children in many situations. I work at a preschool and we are not allowed to put it on children or use bleach around them without cleaning it with water after. Then once you have the info approach the school and tell them that you feel that this is unsafe especially due to allergies. I agree with you these children should be using good old soap and water and the teacher should be doing the cleaning of tables.

Fortunatly the the bleach solution pre-schools use is a very low concentration. It is the recomendation handed down by the CDC (Center for Disease Control). It may not smell the best, but it is quite safe.
As far as the alcohol gel goes. We all know it is a wonderful line of defense against the spread of pathogens. Even in the hospitals the policies now read that we are to use gel instead of and in place of hand washing. That is wash your hands, and in addition afterwords even apply hand gel. It works that well and it is persistant, it can keep working. Once it is dry however, it cannot be passed onto your sons food and harm him in any way. I realize there has been a lot of speculation about the safty of these gels for kids. ie, what if they lick their hand? But I have spoken with the people at Poisen Control of Washington State, and the say that there is little to no risk with these in those cases. Eye contact and flammability are more concerning. So don't worry about this stuff and focus on your future thrift shop, we're gonna need it! =)
A suggestion though. Simple Green cleanser for the tables.

I would ask secretary or principal at school what is going on. Because in my school we are not allowed to use such cleaners. There is only one Kid-safe cleaner that we are even allowed to have in our classroom and the school supplies it. I would take this up with your PTA. (hopefully kids are washing their hands with soap and water after bathroom)

Simple Green is a pretty good natural cleaner that the teacher could substitute for the bleach. She could also use just plain white vinegar instead of bleach. I can understand the convenience of using the hand sanitizer, but agree that it's not the best option. Maybe use baby wipes instead? A box from Costco is about $15 for 700+ wipes. That might even be much cheaper than the sanitizer.

C.,
I completely understand your position. Our boys are hand washers too and this is difficult for them especially our new kinder.
There are a few ways to look at things:
1) Kids are filthy germ factories.
2) You don't want your child sick. Nor does the teacher want sick kids or their families.
3) You have chemical exposure concerns.

As a parent I'm concerned about our boys coming home with an illness. Our boys are rarely ill.(About 1 day per year. Yes, we are blessed)As parents, we provide our kinder teacher with the Clorox wipes. They aren't messy like a spray and only go where you wipe. Yes, there is something to toss out, but again, better than a spray. (Sprays in my opinion irritate the lungs, especially if a child is chemically sensitive. They can also bounce off the tables and get into someone's eyes and face.)
Our boys have grown accustomed to the sanitation gel; with objections.
My view on this is that if they aren't allowed to wash with soap and water, it's better than nothing at all.
The flip side of this is for a teacher, having 20+ kids trying to wash hands at the same time can get messy with water and soap everywhere as well as kids fighting to be first or to finish the quickest. This takes up a lot of time especially if they have limited time for lunch and lesson transitions.
Find out what your child's daily schedule is and perhaps you'll find that they have little or no time for transition between lessons.
DEFINITELY suggest the wipes by donating them to the classroom and e-mailing the principal and teacher that your child has chemical sensitivities to the bleach spray. Costco has the clorox wipes in a 4or5 pack. I don't recommend any other brand. (Price comparison: Even though Clorox is more expensive than Kirkland brand, Clorox gives you more wipes for the price.)

Best of luck to you:)

Find out first if the district determines which cleansers and soaps to use. If they don't, you do need to work in common with the teacher to find solutions. Being a former teacher I hope that you don't come in with solutions in hand, but ask if you could help find a solution to a problem that you noticed.

I do think that first graders are capable of doing a science project to find a good non toxic cleanser. But ask the teacher if is with in her classroom curriculum guide lines. Things for teachers are so tight now that it might not be possible.

I don't really have advice - however, I do have some comments. I used to swim in chlorine when I was little and now chlorine to me is toxic. When I swim in chlorine, I feel like I have the bad flu for 2 weeks! When my daughter uses Purell, her skin peels right off her hands. So the school has been told not to use it. She washes her hands without soap at school because the soaps that are antibacterial also cause her hands to peel!

Everyone seems to have forgotten that our bodies are FULL of beneficial bacteria. If you keep killing that beneficial bacteria - immune system deficiencies and problems start to develop, mainly because yeast (Candida) takes over when the bacteria dies. We all have beneficial bacteria in our skin, throughout our bodies and in our digestive tract. In fact a healthy person has a couple of POUNDS of healthy bacteria in their digestive tract alone. These can become too low quickly by inhaling and using anti-bacterial things. I and a friend have had terrible chronic fatigue due to too much anti-bacterial stuff and too many antibiotics. Fortunately I have gotten over mine after being sick for 12 years (MDs telling me I'm well - I just need Prozac), followed by 8 years of treatment by a naturopath, but she is still dealing with hers.

As a result probably of my sensitivities, my daughter cannot use Purell. I believe all these chemical things are ruining our kids and our immune systems. Kids are supposed to get dirty, and everyone is going to share germs. There are also beneficial things that happen as a result of sharing germs. They found that people when they are extremely social and interact more (without Purell) they actually get healthier! Microorganisms in the earth are also extremely beneficial to people. I will not have anti-bacterial soap in my house for anyone. I believe the harm outweighs the benefits. By the way, bacteria learn to change so eventually they no longer are harmed by the antibacterial stuff. Just look at those "super bugs" in the hospital! The immune system needs to have germs to fight, or later it will attack itself! I've known several people with Lupus and Schlera Derma. These illness are MUCH WORSE than the occasional cold or flu.

I occasionally use Comet cleanser when I want to disinfect since it has some bleach - but I use it very sparingly, once in a while in the kitchen, and once in a while in the bathroom.

I wish I could communicate this stuff to the school, but I don't think anyone would listen, because it's the MDs who have taught them to do this. So far, my older daughter seems to be fine the way they are doing things. However, I make sure that she never gets antibiotics - she goes to naturopathic medicine instead - so we don't have a problem at this point. So it hasn't been an issue enough for me to do anything. However, maybe more of us should object.

Hi C.,

I am right with you on keeping those chemicals away from our children and our house is as chemical free as I can possibly get it. I found an all-botanical cleaner that kills 99.99% of all germs including TB. HIV, fungus, bacteria etc. It is pet and child safe, doesn't even require rinsing, but it is expensive. It is made from thyme and comes by the gallon. But it lasts me a really long time. I ordered a gallon 2 years ago and still have most of it left. I get it mail order from householdtraditions.com and it is about $40 plus shipping. To me, it is totally worth it, because the long term affects of chemicals on my child far outweigh the cost of it. But for a school, it is not financially feasible. Not when you can get a gallon of bleach for just a few dollars. No I don't believe bleach is safe, it's origins were from the germans looking for an easier way to exterminate large groups of people faster. And I don't agree with those hand gels either and I don't believe they are as effective as soap and water and I wouldn't want my daughter bathing her hands in it day after day either. Soap is naturally antibacterial and those antibacterial soaps add nasty chemicals to make it so, many of which have caused cancer in laboratory rats. But schools are under extreme pressure to stay within ever shrinking budgets and teachers are under time constraints. Everywhere you go you see antibacterial soaps or gels and all they are doing is creating superbugs and providing a place for chemical companies to get rich at our health's expense. I have a hard time believing that schools can get that hand gel cheaper than just plain liquid soap and water, but I haven't inquired either. As others have stated though, institutions don't like to change, it is a lot of paperwork involved. Just look at school lunches, they are provided by the lowest bidder, often are all fast food, and nutritionally just junk. But what can you do? My older child just always packed his own lunch, and still does, even in high school. And don't think for one minute that just because "everyone is doing it" that using the cheapest products is healthy or even safe. I try not to get too frustrated, control what I can, and help my children the best I can by keeping them informed. Let them know that using those products isn't good for them, and they have the choice of using soap and water. Talk to their teachers if need be, maybe provide a jug of a natural cleanser. Yes children aren't the cleanest, and a lot of bugs get passed around by them, but the really nasty bugs you would find in a hospital, like TB or HIV, are not going to be present in your son's classroom. So a green cleanser in the place of bleach is more than adequate. So my advice is always to trust your instincts. You don't want to ostracize you child either, but you want to protect them as best you can. Good luck

Vinager and water! Safe and cleans very very well!

First..I pulled this from the Clorox Company's website. It is from the Material Safety Data Sheet for Clorox Bleach, undiluted....
DANGER: CORROSIVE. May cause severe irritation or damage to eyes and
skin. Vapor or mist may irritate. Harmful if swallowed. Keep out of reach of
children.
Some clinical reports suggest a low potential for sensitization upon exaggerated
exposure to sodium hypochlorite if skin damage (e.g., irritation) occurs during
exposure. Under normal consumer use conditions the likelihood of any adverse
health effects are low.
Medical conditions that may be aggravated by exposure to high concentrations
of vapor or mist: heart conditions or chronic respiratory problems such as
asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis or obstructive lung disease.
FIRST AID:
Eye Contact: Hold eye open and rinse with water for 15-20 minutes. Remove
contact lenses, after first 5 minutes. Continue rinsing eye. Call a physician.
Skin Contact: Wash skin with water for 15-20 minutes. If irritation develops, call
a physician.
Ingestion: Do not induce vomiting. Drink a glassful of water. If irritation
develops, call a physician. Do not give anything by mouth to an unconscious
person.
Inhalation: Remove to fresh air. If breathing is affected, call a physician.

Everything natural is not safe.

yes, this is undiluted...watering it down may make it less toxic, but it is still toxic.
Studies have been done in Holland, Australia to name a few..all have found direct links in higher levels of VOC in the environment and Asthma.

Yes, there is a natural cleaner that nukes germs..thank-you the Melaluca Company. I may hate their political and religous views..but I love some of their products. They have the studies to back up their claims.

To the post that said you should not single her out this way..that by not soaking her hands in chemical soup all day, the kids would make fun of her..ummm excuse me but I think her hands peeling!!! could be the source of teasing at the hands of her peers!!!

The only chemical cleaner I use in my home is small amounts of bleach, all rinsed well..with ventilation. I also can't tolerate many chemicals. I use Bio-Kleen laundry soap and dish soap. I use Eco-over for my other cleaning needs.

If she could bring her own hand soap??? Clearly Natural makes a hand soap with iodine.

Your daughters school also must have a Material Safety Data Sheet for every chemical cleaner. Ask to see them.

I understand, my skin doesn't like the tricslocan stuff for germ killing in soaps..it eats up my hands.

Insist your daughter use enough paper towels that her hands don't get wet? I can't see why grade school children should have bleach on their hands anyway.

Are there other parents with the same issues at her school?

Just some thoughts...good luck on working this out.

I agree - hand sanitizer is pretty gross, but the bleach and water is what we use in a preschool - required by state, with very specific amounts of each to dilute the bleach enough. I don't know that the kids should be wiping, but I guess at ages 7/9 it's not totally inappropriate (if it is the same amount, it is really very little bleach). Why don't they use water and soap to wash hands is my question - I would think that would be better than hand sanitizer.

There are some recipes for "green" cleaners on line - you could look them up and recommend that the teacher use the recipe as part of a lesson - make it, and use it in class...

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