Child-safe kitchen cleaning is a top priority for anyone with kids. As a parent, you’re probably all too aware of the maintenance required to keep your kitchen in order.
There are some things that need to be done every day, like dishwashing and wiping down counter tops. That said, you should also do a once a week “deep clean” that will keep your kitchen in a perpetually clean state.
Luckily, this takes 30 minutes or less a week. The more times you do it, the easier it will get. Eventually you can shave your kitchen cleaning time down to a mere 10 minutes, unless you’re cleaning the oven that day.
While there is an abundance of kitchen cleaning guides on the internet, there are few that address child and pet safety, specifically.
Take it from a professional cleaning service, there are plenty of ways to clean your kitchen with chemicals that won’t endanger your children. In this guide, we will outline the best child-safe products and safety practices to keep your kids and pets healthy while cleaning.
Child-Safe Kitchen Cleaning For Parents
In case of accidents, save the number for Poison Control in your phone. Just to be safe:
POISON CONTROL HOTLINE: (800) 222-1222
General Safety Tips
Don’t allow your children in the kitchen while you’re cleaning. Especially if you have little ones crawling on the floor, keep them in another area secure by a baby gate or closed door. Better safe than sorry.
Store all chemicals out of reach of children. Ideally, too high for a kid to reach, or with a child-proof lock for the cabinet below your sink.
Keep your kids out of the kitchen for 15 minutes after cleaning. This is plenty of time for surfaces to dry and fumes to dissipate, provided you have good ventilation in the room.
Only use child-safe, natural cleaners like vinegar on the floors. Save the all-purpose cleaners for countertops.
Research chemicals you’re using (see the “Look Up Safety Data for Any Cleaning Product” section below).
The phrase “all-purpose cleaner” encompasses a huge variety of products. They have massive variation when it comes to child safety, because their ingredients vary significantly. We couldn’t possibly go through all (or even most) of the types of all-purpose cleaners on the market, but we can offer our perspective on a few of them.
The Safest Option: Baking Soda + Vinegar
This is the most common DIY cleaner you can find. It’s completely child-safe in any quantity, and you can use it liberally without any fear of health hazards.
Nearly any cleaning blog you can find will mention baking soda and vinegar. That’s because it’s totally safe, inexpensive, and effective for many different purposes.
There are a few ways to use baking soda and vinegar to clean:
- Mix 2 parts vinegar and one part baking soda in a sink or tub. This mixture will fizz immediately and isn’t good for vertical surfaces, or anything that isn’t a basin of some kind. It’ll make a mess on flat surfaces. However, if you dump this mixture in a sink and grab a scrub brush, it’s super effective.
- Make a paste out of water and baking soda. Then, use a spray bottle of white vinegar to activate the chemical reaction. Scrub through the mix to clean the surface.
- A mixture of 2 parts water 1 part vinegar can also be mixed in a spray bottle and used by itself.
- Baking soda can be used by itself to clean up vomit, urine, and other liquids that can get into your carpet. Leave the baking soda for as long as you can (12 hours is ideal) and then just vacuum it up! It’ll soak up and take most of the fluids with it, and deodorizes the carpet in the process.
Take a look at the scale above. See how vinegar and baking soda are on the opposite ends of the pH scale? This is why they work together as a cleaning product.
Vinegar is acidic, and baking soda is alkaline. They are on opposites.
The alkaline properties in baking soda help break down organic matter – think all the gross stuff like fluids the body can produce, and messes from food.
The acidic properties in vinegar disinfect surfaces, and help break down mineral deposits like the lime scale droplets on your shower door.
When combined, they cause a chemical reaction that produces carbon dioxide, which can lift dirt particles up and away from a surface so they can be scrubbed off.
It’s important to note that you don’t want to use and equal amount of both. This will just cause the products to cancel each other out. You want to either use more vinegar, or more baking soda. This will allow either the alkalinity or acidity to do its work. Either way, it’s completely child-safe.
Vinegar and baking soda are certainly on the milder end of all purpose cleaners. They’re fairly weak and won’t completely clean heavy messes. But, they are by far your most child-safe option.
The More Effective Way: All Natural Cleaners
If you’re looking for something a little more powerful and more convenient than baking soda and vinegar, give one of these all-natural, plant-based, child-safe products a go:
Better Life Natural All-Purpose Cleaner
It’s surprisingly strong for a child-safe cleaner! This is a happy middle-ground between home-made products and professional-strength cleaners.
This is a wholly plant-based product that’s safe to use around kids.
It’s primarily recommended for countertops, and doesn’t contain any perfumes, dyes, alcohol, bleach, or sulfates.
It’s made with biodegradable ingredients like corn and coconut and soap bark. It’s scented with pomegranate fruit extracts instead of the chemicals normally used to produce fragrances.
Available on Amazon. This is our #1 pick overall, and could be your primary cleaning tool for your entire home!
Branch-Basics: The Concentrate
This is a really cool product, because you can mix it to whatever strength you need.
Don’t balk at the price, this is a concentrate, meaning you have to mix it with water before use. One $55 bottle can produce ALL the following at once:
That’s a versatile product, and it’s totally baby-safe.
Literally the only reason it isn’t our #1 recommended brand is because not everyone wants to buy spray bottles and mix their own product.
If you need spray bottles, you really don’t need expensive ones. This pack of 4 bottles will give you containers to mix several different concentrations to keep under the sink:
The Most Effective Way: Professional-Grade Cleaners
Here’s the truth about child-safe cleaners in general: most products you could use won’t be in concentrations strong enough to hurt your children, as long as you’re drying surfaces off so there’s minimal residue.
While there are a few red-flag chemicals like bleach and ammonia, your kid would have a difficult time scarfing down enough residue off the counter to affect them.
Floor cleaner is the much more important product to use with caution. That’s where your youngest and most vulnerable children will be spending most of their time (we’ll get to floor cleaners in the next section).
If you decide you don’t want to be ultra-conservative with your choice of cleaning products, here are a couple great products that are regularly used by professional cleaning companies:
Simply Green All-Purpose Cleaner
This is what we at Easyway Maid Service use as our staple cleaning product (along with Barkeepers Friend). It’s safe for use around the home, highly effective, and can be used as-is for really greasy messes in the kitchen, or diluted to half-water half-product for regular use.
While it’s not specifically advertised as child-safe, it’s not harmful unless your kid manages to drink directly from the bottle. The traces amounts of cleaner left behind are not enough to affect a person in any measurable way.3
This is a class of product that is safe to use, but must be stored out of reach from children. It’s unlikely any child would manage to open the bottle and chug it, but you should still follow the safety tips we laid out in the beginning of this article.
This is a professional quality cleaning product, and we highly recommend it! Even if you don’t want to use it as your primary cleaning tool, you can keep it around for really gross messes in the kitchen.
Grove Co. Multi-Purpose Cleaner
Another cleaner concentrate – it’s biodegradable and made with 92% plant-based ingredients. It doesn’t have any parabens, formaldehyde, phosphates, phthalates, synthetic dyes, chlorine bleach or, ammonia. The only fragrances are made with natural ingredients.
The concentrate is sold in recyclable glass and recycled paper, for added eco-friendly benefits.
This concentrate is simpler to mix: just dump a single one of these bottles into a 16 oz. spray bottle and it’s ready to use. No measurement necessary.
Not that you need this bottle specifically, any 16 oz bottle will do, but they sell their own on the Grove Co. website.
This one may come as a surprise, making it one of the most important child safety tips:
Do not use most window cleaning products.
That’s right, almost all the mainstream brands. They contain a product called Butyl Cellosolve, a carcinogen that can cause liver and kidney damage.
Butyl Cellosolve is not safe to interact with in any capacity. It’s a wonder that the FDA still allows products containing this compound to be sold to the general public, particularly in common household products.
Windex aerosol, for example, contains both Butyl Cellosolve and fragrances that are harmful to marine life.
If you want to avoid this toxic chemical, check the ingredients on any window cleaning product you use.
Alternatively, you can use our favorite more-effective glass cleaner: Rain X. The nice thing about using Rain X is the bottles it comes in spray with relatively large droplets. This means you don’t get the fumes caused by the wide-spray options on most window cleaning bottles.
It is an incredible product. Windex will leave streaks unless you dry it very thoroughly, Rain X practically dries itself with no streaks left behind.
This is perhaps our biggest not-so-secret weapon when we do house cleaning in Austin, TX.
It does such a thorough job of streak-proofing glass that you can often go several weeks without any window fog, streaks, or spots.
Sweeping regularly is important to remove objects your kids could put in their mouths, as well as dirt and other undesirable residues on your floor.
That’s the simple part, but when it comes to mopping, your options are a little different.
For every but real hardwood floors, just use vinegar and water. All it takes is about 1 shot (1.5 fluid ounce) of white vinegar in a 2-3 gallon bucket or spin mop bucket.
Our favorite home mop is the O-Cedar Spin Mop.
It’s really easy to use, and white vinegar mixed with water certainly isn’t going to harm your kids. Additionally, vinegar makes water evaporate faster, so in a mere 10 minutes your floors will be dry again.
For hardwood floors, you’re best off using plain old water on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, and the vinegar water solution no more than once a month.
A little vinegar isn’t going to strip the finish of your wood floors quickly, but if you’re using it multiple times a week over a period of years, it will.
Luckily, the O-Cedar Spin Mop actually removes 99% of bacteria with just water. You can get by using plain water to keep dirt from building up on your hardwood floors, with the occasional vinegar-water mix for extra sanitization,
This is #1 on the list and needs to be handled with caution: oven cleaner.
Oven cleaner is powerful, effective, and really the only good option for deep cleaning ovens. It is, however, somewhat toxic to kids and pets. It is not child safe at all, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it safely:
To use oven cleaner properly, you need to first heat the oven to 100-200 degrees Fahrenheit (follow the instructions on the can). Next, you turn off the oven, and immediately spray down a thorough coat over all surfaces inside the oven. Hold your breath (or avoid taking deep breaths) while you do this, and close the oven door as soon as you’re done spraying.
You will notice right away that the fumes are highly unpleasant. The heated surface will cause the cleaner to evaporate and waft right into your face. The good news is that oven cleaner is mostly caustic, and only somewhat toxic. This means the real risk of oven cleaner is getting it on your skin and forgetting to wash it off, not inhaling it.
Any time you’re handling this cleaning product, wear gloves and wash your hands and forearms thoroughly with soap and water when you’re done. Unless you’re cleaning your oven every day, inhaling a little isn’t going to harm most people.
However, even if you are fast and shut the oven door quickly, your whole kitchen is likely to fill with a chemical smell. Even if it’s not dangerous for everyone, it might be for your child. It’s also highly unpleasant. You must open multiple windows (or better, doors) to get a draft going through your home to clear out the fumes. We recommend having your kids leave the house while you’re doing this.
While it’s safe for most people, children with asthma could be affected. If anyone in the household experiences skin irritating or respiratory problems, call poison control for further instructions at (800) 222-1222.
If this seems scary, it shouldn’t be. At Easyway Maid Service we take safety seriously, so we’re being overly cautious with our advice. Oven cleaner is a fantastic tool, just use it responsibly. While it’s not strictly child-safe, you can still use it to clean your kitchen.
Oven cleaner is only for use inside ovens, it can damage other surfaces like granite.
In review: when using oven cleaner, it’s extremely important to allow significant ventilation, wear a mask, and avoid taking deep breaths while spraying. Oven cleaners are absolutely incredible when it comes to efficiency, but are toxic in large amounts and should never be mixed with any other chemicals.
You don’t need to use bleach or bleach-based products in the kitchen. Save it for the bathrooms. It’s totally unnecessary for the kitchen. Bleach is safe for bathrooms because you aren’t eating off the surfaces. Not to mention showers and baths can be thoroughly rinsed with ease, unlike a stove or countertop.
Bleach is probably the most hazardous product to children and pets. It’s toxic when ingested, and can severely irritate the skin – even in very small quantities – when left on there for a long time.
Keep bleach far away from your kids, it’s certainly not child-safe. However, if you make sure to thoroughly rinse the surface clean, it can absolutely be used in baths or showers. You just can’t be careless and leave a tub with bleach solution coating it.
If you use bleach for your bathroom, only use 1 part bleach and 10 parts water in a spray bottle. Thoroughly rinse your hands and make sure the nozzle is tightly closed on the bottle when you’re done.
Never pour 100% bleach on anything, always dilute it with water. Do not mix bleach with any other cleaning products or chemicals, either.
Here’s another definitely child-safe product.
For child-safe cleaning, use Barkeepers friend and water to scrub the counters. Barkeeper’s has a great safety profile and is the go-to product for kitchen cleaning. In fact, it’s registered with NSF International as being safe to use on food surfaces.
It comes in both powdered and semi-liquid form. If using powder, mix quite a bit of water into it with a sponge. It’s the perfect product for everything from sinks and faucets, rangetops, and stainless steel fridges. It’s totally safe, as long as you take care to thoroughly wash it off surfaces.
Barkeeper’s Friend is 100% water soluble, meaning it will completely wash off with water alone.
Please not that this is NOT the same as Comet and other alkaline cleaners. Barkeepers is much more child-safe and risk free.
Look Up Safety Data for Any Cleaning Product
Take child-safe cleaning into your own hands. Unfortunately, resources where you can search for safety info by product names are hard to find.
The one’s that do exist aren’t perfect (in that they don’t contain info about every household cleaning chemical), we we highly recommend searching here:
Environmental Working Group (EWG) Cleaning Product Database
You can search for cleaning products (listed by company name) here on the NSF website. They have exhaustive details on just about any registered product. Be very wary of any product not listed on their website. Do your own research to find child-safe products.
On the NSF website, you have to search by company or brand. The EWG database is a little easier if you’re searching for certain chemicals (like bleach or ammonia) instead of brand-name products.
Things To Avoid
There are a few kitchen products that are certainly not child-friendly. We’ll list the biggest offenders below:
- Anything containing bleach
- Anything container ammonia
- Lye (often in drain cleaners like Draino)
- Most window cleaners (that contain butyl cellosolve)
- Use Rain X as an alternative. It’s much more effective anyway
- Using oven cleaner outside the oven
Wiping and Drying Off Surfaces
With all-purpose cleaners, its still important to not carelessly leave residue on countertops. Always thoroughly dry any surface you’re cleaning.
While the amount of residue left behind from cleaning products is almost certainly not enough to cause harm, it certainly won’t taste pleasant.
We know this is a lot of child safety info to absorb at once.
However, it’s important to mention that the child-safe product industry makes its money by preying on the anxiety of parents. At the end of the day, there are much more common things, like refined sugar, that will harm your kids more than small quantities of cleaning products.
It’s easy to get lost in the weeds of child-proofing your home, but simply avoiding things like ammonia on the floors will go a long way.
Use common sense, use this article for reference, and use less abrasive products, and you will be fine.
If you want to outsource the arduous task of home cleaning, communicate with your local maid service beforehand about child-safe options!
Check out the recent Redfin article we were featured in:
Kitchen Cleaning 101: Experts Share Their Favorite Tips
“Of all the rooms in a house, kitchens usually require the most cleaning. Messes build up after every meal, dishes are left in a pile, and your compost fills up faster than you can take it out.
Cleaning can seem like a daunting task. However, it doesn’t have to be. With the right know-how, you can take simple, everyday steps to keep your
kitchen clean and fresh without any complicated tools”