Cleaning While Pregnant: Tips for Safe Cleaning When You’re Expecting

By Marilee Nelson |

featured image: Cleaning While Pregnant: Tips for Safe Cleaning When You’re Expecting

Pregnancy is one of the most important times in life to take proactive steps to avoid chemicals. And although this may sound like a tall task in a toxic world, it’s a lot easier than you’d think, and Branch Basics makes it so simple. Our Concentrate and Oxygen Boost can replace every toxic cleaning and laundry product in your home!  

One of the easiest ways to reduce your exposure is to toss products with harmful ingredients. This means understanding which cleaning products to avoid. This goes for those who clean their own homes and those who hire professional cleaning services.

Why? Because cleaning products linger in the air, on surfaces, carpeting, bedding and more after they’ve been used. Laundry products are essential to consider as well.

Read on to learn what ingredients are toxic red flags to avoid and how to clean your home safely and effectively during pregnancy and beyond.

Toxic Red Flags To Avoid 

There is no lack of evidence that chemicals in cleaning and laundry products can cause harm to pregnant women and their babies.

Yet, few birth care providers are aware of the need to educate expectant families on this issue. Which means it’s up to you and your partner to do the research and be your own advocates (welcome to parenthood!). 

Here’s a short list of some of the most toxic cleaning chemicals that should be avoided.

Ethylene Glycol 

Ethylene glycol is a type of glycol ester chemical used in various consumer products, from antifreeze and hand sanitizer, to soaps, cosmetics, and cleaning products.

In cleaning products, its role is as a surfactant and solvent. Found in various detergents, surfactants and solvents help loosen and trap dirt on surfaces while acting as a wetting agent. 

Unfortunately, ethylene glycol is highly toxic to pregnant women. It is rated a 6 on EWG Skin Deep!

Studies have revealed an increased risk of congenital malformations in women exposed to glycol esters, and other chlorinated solvents.

Additionally, occupational exposure to chemical solvents, like glycol esters, has been associated with a 3 times greater risk of miscarriage.

Word to the wise: most chemical cleaners do contain some type of ethylene glycol or other toxic surfactants/solvents. Names to watch out for on labels includePEGs of all types, monoethylene glycol, 1,2-ethanediol, MEA, and glycol.

Phthalates

We’ve discussed the health issues associated with phthalates at length in other articles in our Wellness Center, but when it comes to pregnancy these endocrine-disrupting chemicals are particularly sinister.

That’s because phthalates, which are ubiquitous in fragranced products and plastics, interfere with hormonal function and can cross the placental barrier. Also, Dibutyl Phthalate is rated a 10 on EWG Skin Deep. 

Some pregnancy-specific issues associated with phthalates in mothers include:

  • Greater risk of miscarriage and preterm birth
  • Increased risk of pre-eclampsia in mother
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Thyroid issues

Potential harms to the fetus include:

  • Sex-specific changes to childhood growth 
  • High blood pressure
  • Deficits in neuro-endocrine development 
  • Impaired male reproductive health 
  • Developmental toxicity
  • Epigenetic dysregulation
  • Increased risk of adulthood diseases via disruption to the maternal environment
  • Impaired placental function
  • Low birth weight
  • Impaired genomic imprinting via transference from father and mother
  • Reproductive development issues in boys

The best way to avoid phthalates is to go fragrance-free, avoid chemical-based cleaning and personal care products, and steer clear of as much plastic as possible

Learn more in All About Phthalates + Why You Should Avoid Them.

Parabens 

Thanks to the tireless efforts of brave researchers, environmentalists, and health advocates, chemicals in the paraben family are less prevalent than they were 10 years ago. With many personal care products, boasting “paraben-free” labels. 

However, these chemical preservatives are still used extensively in consumer products like cleaners, laundry products, soaps, beauty products, skin care, etc.

The reason is they are a highly effective preservative. Unfortunately, they’re also bad news for pregnant women and their babies (and everyone else for that matter).

Propylparaben is rated a 9 on EWG Skin Deep.

Methylparaben is rated a 3 - 4 on EWG Skin Deep.

The big issue with parabens in pregnancy is, like phthalates, they are proven endocrine disruptors which cross the placental barrier. They impact the mother’s hormonal balance and baby’s development. Paraben exposure in-utero has been shown to trigger overweight development in childhood, the reproductive health and proper genital development of boys, and impaired testosterone function in boys.

We talk more about parabens, and how to avoid them, in: 3 Tools You Need to Become Your Own Product Advocate.

Bleach

Our mothers and grandmothers likely used bleach without a second thought during their pregnancies.

However, studies now show that exposure to bleach and other disinfectants (which are common in American households) during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of miscarriage and preterm birth.

If that’s not shocking enough, they go on to state that it’s unclear at what concentration they become a danger! You’d think this type of information would be broadcast across prominent news networks. Yet, few people are aware of it.

Further, exposure to disinfectants negatively impacts the maternal microbiome, including the placenta, which can affect the fetus in numerous ways (known and unknown).

In addition, a study published in the British Medical Journal showed that even passive exposure to bleach in the home can cause an increased risk of respiratory illness and other illnesses in children.

Bleach is also one of the top poisoning toxins of children worldwide and is an EPA-registered pesticide.

To top it all off, bleach can become a deadly gas when mixed with ammonia, vinegar, drain cleaners, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, dirty water high in organic matter, and other household cleaning products.

Bottom line: bleach should be avoided, period. But especially during pregnancy and while children are in the home.

Spray and aerosol cleaners

Plenty of studies have found a correlation between use of spray and aerosol chemical cleaners, and an increased risk of adult-onset asthma. There is also evidence that use of these cleaners increases the risk of wheezing and infections in the baby.

The worst airborne offenders are acrylic polymers, alcohol, ammonia, chlorine, glycol, glycol esters, sodium hydroxide, and terpenes.

In addition, experts warn against the use of spray, plug-in, or aerosol air fresheners, because of their concentrated phthalate levels.

Safe Cleaning Alternatives For Pregnancy

Some experts will tell you it’s fine to go ahead and clean with most of your regular cleaning products while pregnant. Just “wear gloves and use good ventilation”.However, we think you and your baby deserve much better. You are not just exposed to these chemicals when you use them. Just having these products under your sink pollutes the air you are breathing in your home 24/7. They should be tossed!

Thankfully, there are so many effective non-toxic effective alternatives. Why risk using a product with harmful chemicals? Here are some of our favorite non-toxic and safe cleaning alternatives during pregnancy (and at any time of life).

Baking Soda 

Baking soda works wonderfully as an all-natural scouring agent. You can also combine it with other all-natural products, like castile soap and water, to create an all-natural creamy scouring cleanser.

We also use baking soda to deodorize a variety of items (carpets, clothing, shoes, etc.), remove fragrance from hand-me-down clothing, on cutting boards, in laundry stripping, for washing machine detoxification, in natural deodorant… the list goes on and on. 

Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is water with an extra oxygen molecule. And it’s that extra molecule that gives it its antiseptic, brightening, and cleaning power.

For non-toxic cleaning, we recommend 3% hydrogen peroxide (in the brown bottle), which can be used for:

  • Disinfecting when combined with white vinegar (stored in separate bottles and sprayed separately. Learn more here).
  • For cleaning mildew on showers (although we’d recommend leaving the mold clean-up to someone else while you’re pregnant).
  • As a safe bleaching alternative.
  • And for stubborn surface stains, cutting boards, and to remove blood from sheets, reusable menstrual pads, etc.
  • Note: peroxide can bleach out colored fabrics, so use with caution.

Learn more in: The Most Toxic Cleaning Products To Avoid And Non-Toxic Swaps.

Vinegars 

Distilled white vinegar is one of the least expensive and more versatile non-toxic cleaners. However, It comes with an important caveat - acetic acid in vinegar is a lung irritant. This becomes an issue when vinegar is sprayed.  Use good ventilation and hold your breath to avoid smelling aerosolized vinegar. 

You can dilute vinegar with water and use it to clean surfaces, mirrors, floors, glass, to dissolve soap scum, and more. 

Plus, vinegar can be used with hydrogen peroxide (vinegar and peroxide stored in separate bottles please!) for a totally safe and natural disinfectant. Learn how to do this safely here.

For more, check out 12 Ways to Use Vinegar in Your Home.

Branch Basics 

Our Branch Basics Concentrate is perfect for pregnant women because it’s completely natural, non-toxic, and can replace all your other cleaners.

For example, Concentrate can be diluted and made into:

  • An All-Purpose cleaner for surfaces, baby items, stain removal on clothing, furniture, carpets, rugs, etc.
  • A Bathroom cleaner for toilets, shower, sink, surfaces, or anywhere that needs a sudsier clean (it’s also great for hand-washing dishes).
  • A Streak-Free cleaner for glass, windows, and dusting. 
  • A Foaming Wash for hands, face, make-up remover, cleaning jewelry, washing your pet, etc.
  • A Laundry Soap for all types of clothing and washing machines.
  • A floor cleaner for various types of hard floors.
  • It can also be used in various dilutions for carpet shampooers, cleaning your car, as a fruit and veggie wash, as an oven cleaner, to wash cloth diapers, to clean your deck, pool filters, grill, humidifier, baseboards, walls, doors, molding, dentures, pacifiers, humidifiers…almost anything! For the full list of how-tos, check out our User Guide.

In addition, our Oxygen Boost is a great alternative for chemical-based laundry boosters, brighteners, and stain removers. It can also be combined with our All Purpose or Bathroom on surfaces, sinks, showers, toilets, etc.

We also offer Dishwasher Tablets that are free from caustic chemicals and plastics. And yes, non-toxic dishwashing is extremely important during pregnancy and when you have little ones on the move!

Check out our Starter Kits to learn more.

How To Vet Cleaning And Laundry Products The Easy Way

Keep in mind, just because a product is labeled “all natural”, “eco-friendly”,  or “organic” doesn’t mean it’s truly non-toxic. For example, many cleaning products marketed as “green” or “earth-friendly” still contain toxic surfactants and synthetic fragrance (phthalates). 

When searching for pregnancy-safe cleaning products, we recommend only using products with all ingredients rated a 1 or 2 in EWG Skin Deep.

Their database rates every ingredient on a scale of 1 (least toxic) to 10 (most toxic). So you can just enter in the ingredientto learn how safe it is. Toss any product that has ingredients rated a 3 or more.

You are empowered when you use tools that enable you to be your own product advocate! So be sure to use the EWG Skin Deep resource   to screen ingredients when choosing yourcleaning products.

Get Ready To Toss the Toxins!

Pregnancy is such an incredible time of transformation. A time that really forces us to rethink and scrutinize everything we put into our bodies and bring into our homes.

You, your baby, and family deserve a safe haven to call home. And that means having a home that’s as toxin-free as possible.

Today, we talked about how to clean while pregnant to avoid toxins. But this is equally important when raising babies and children, who are more susceptible to the effects of chemicals.

We hope you’ll take this opportunity to learn more about how to create a healthier body and home by tossing the toxins.

To learn more, check out our free Online Toss The Toxins Course, our articles on pregnancy and childbirth, and follow us on Instagram @branchbasics.
Marilee Nelson

Marilee Nelson

Marilee Nelson is an Environmental Toxins expert who has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the chemically-sensitive and chronically-ill. She is a Board Certified Nutritionist, Certified Bau-Biologist and Bau-Biology Inspector and specializes in Food As Medicine. She has helped thousands of families and individuals identify, heal and recover from toxic exposures and is on a mission to revolutionize the way American families view their health.