Cleaning and Poison Prevention

Although the number of deaths from accidental poisonings has reduced dramatically over the last 30 years, an average of 30 children in the United States die every year because they got their hands on poisonous medications or cleaning supplies. Keep your home safe and your children alive with these tips.

House Cleaning
Sure, the usual cleaning products you find in the store do a great job of cleaning your home quickly and with little effort on your part. Unfortunately, though, these cleaning supplies are filled with harsh chemicals that can be toxic, both to breathe in and, especially, to ingest. Despite the fact that many household cleaners are clearly labeled as poisonous, few scientists have actually bothered to examine the long-term effects of continuously inhaling and cleaning with these products.

Yet, there are ways of cleaning your home just as efficiently without harming your family. The answer? Natural products. Plus, these can already be found in your home and they are much cheaper than brand name chemical products. So, what are these mystery cleaning supplies? Vinegar, baking soda and a little bit of lemon.

House Cleaning Tips
Use these cleaning tips to make your house sparkle without exposing your children to poisonous chemicals.


  • Combine 1 part vinegar with 1 part water in a clean spray bottle. Use it on any surface (aside from marble) that needs to be disinfected. Don�t worry about the acidic smell vinegar gives off � it disappears once the vinegar has dried.
  • Slice a lemon in half and sprinkle some baking soda on it. Use the lemon as a scrub to scour dishes and other surfaces that have stubborn stains.
  • Baking soda can be used as a gentle abrasive scrub, which makes it great for the bathtub and shower.

For more on how to use these safer cleaning products, read Cleaning Solutions: Natural Cleaning with Vinegar and Natural Cleaning Products.

Common Toxic Items

Of course, cleaning supplies are not the only toxic substance children can ingest. The most common substances that lead to accidental poisonings include:


  • Household cleaning supplies such as bleach, detergents, soaps and toilet bowl cleaners
  • Narcotics and medications, including acetaminophen (i.e. Tylenol), aspirin, ibuprofen or NSAIDs (i.e. Motrin, Advil), and cough and cold remedies
  • Certain plants, flowers, herbs, leaves and roots
  • Cosmetics, particularly nail polish remover, and hygiene products, like mouthwash

Poison Prevention
Use these tips to keep all poisonous products out of reach.


  • Keep all poisonous substances locked up whenever possible
  • Products with "child-proof" packaging still need to be hidden away; some children can open these types of products
  • As soon as you are done using a product, put it away immediately
  • If the phone or doorbell rings, put any toxic substances you are using away before answering or take the product with you
  • Never leave poisonous products unattended
  • Keep all toxic substances in their original packaging if possible; never use an old food or drink container to store these products as children may associate the container with a desired food or drink
  • Do not store household cleaners and other poisonous substances near food

If you suspect your child has been poisoned or come into contact with a toxic substance, call your local poison control center immediately. Signs that your child may have been poisoned include:


  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness or lethargy
  • Appearance of the substance or residue around lips or on teeth
  • Child�s breath smells of product
  • Appearance of burns on mouth or lips

When you call the poison control center, it is a good idea to have the product you know or suspect your child came into contact with. The poison control operator will likely want to know information from the product label as well as how much of the product your child came into contact with. Here is some other information you will need to relay to the operator:


  • Your child�s age and weight as well as any health problems
  • What substance your child came into contact with, how he had contact with it (e.g. was it ingested, inhaled or splashed in his eyes?) and when the contact occurred
  • What, if any, first aid has been performed
  • Whether or not your child has vomited
  • Where you are and your distance to the closest hospital

In the United States, poison control can be reached, toll-free, at 1-800-222-1222, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

In Canada, poison control centers can be reached at the following numbers:

(867)979-7350 (emergencies)
(867)979-7300 (general inquiries)
British Columbia:
1-800-267-1373 or
(204)787-2591 (emergencies)
(204)787-2444 (general inquiries)
Prince Edward Island:

New Brunswick:
call 911


Newfoundland and Labrador:
1-800-667-4545 or
Northwest Territories:
Nova Scotia:
(902) 428-8161 or
1-800-565-8161 (toll free from PEI)