Which household cleaning products are safe during pregnancy?

Bleach, oven cleaner, detergents and furniture polish - are any of these safe to use when pregnant?

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In a nutshell

Household cleaning products are generally safe, but always check labels and take sensible precautions

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The expert view

Unfortunately, being pregnant doesn’t mean an automatic excuse not to scrub out the loo or engage in a spring clean, as most household cleaning products are actually considered safe to use during pregnancy.

Although there isn’t an awful lot of evidence around on the effects of cleaning products on a developing foetus, it’s generally considered that household products containing ammonia or bleach probably don’t harm your baby during your pregnancy.  

Despite that, it’s still really important to check individual product labels for safety information as some – in particular oven cleaners and carpet cleaners – could be toxic.

There have previously been reports suggesting that there could be an increased risk of asthma in children whose  mums used cleaning products regularly. This stems from a 2008 University of Bristol study, which found that children exposed to high levels of chemicals contained in products such as disinfectant, bleach and window cleaner had a 41% increased risk of wheezing persistently to the age of 7, and slightly lower than normal lung function.

However, the report’s author Dr John Henderson highlighted that it was difficult to conclude whether the association was to do with use in pregnancy, or because of the chemicals irritating the airways of the children after birth.

It’s still worth being extra careful when you are cleaning, though – especially as the smell alone could cause nausea with all those heightened pregnancy senses!

If you are using cleaning products, always: 

  • Open windows and doors
  • Wear rubber gloves
  • Don’t mix products – mixing ammonia and bleach can cause dangerous fumes
  • Try natural products such as baking soda to scrub grease off pots and pans, sinks, tubs and oven, or mix vinegar and water to clean floors and countertops
  • Don’t use aerosols – the fine mist could be more irritating and likely to enter your airways

Deborah Waddell, clinical lead at Asthma UK, says: “Cleaning products are well known sources of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and have been shown to trigger occupational asthma in people, for example cleaners, who work with them. Research into the effects of cleaning products on asthma has identified a clear link between asthma symptoms and exposure to VOCs. Other studies have also suggested that frequent use of other products containing chlorine, ammonia or hydrochloric acid could be also associated with the condition.

“I’m afraid there isn’t such a thing as a list of ‘safe’ cleaning products. Ideally, the areas these materials are used in should be well ventilated to allow any fumes to disperse too.”

Mums on our forum say

“All that I have read about cleaning and cleaning products [in pregnancy] is that they are perfectly safe BUT they recommend you DON’T clean the oven as it is in a confined space and the air doesn’t get to circulate as much. I have put mine off for now as we are getting a new one at any time.” mazncraig

“If you use natural cleaning products you can give it a try, I think. I wouldn’t recommend mr. muscle, but what I have done is mix equal parts salt and baking soda, then add water until it’s a thick paste. It’s a good abrasive and just spread it over the surface to be clean, leave for a few hours and apply a bit of elbow grease.” hedgie

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