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Warning: Spring Cleaning Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

A half cup of vinegar mixed into a half gallon of water makes a safe floor cleaner           Courtesy of: Children's Mercy Hospital
A half cup of vinegar mixed into a half gallon of water makes a safe floor cleaner Courtesy of: Children's Mercy Hospital
May 20, 2013

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Missourians who engage in the yearly ritual of spring cleaning might want to pay attention to how they do it. Health experts say there is a safe way and a not-so-safe way.

Erica Forrest, a licensed respiratory therapist at Children's Mercy Hospital, sees lots of children with asthma. She said it is good to clear the clutter, because that's where all the dust and allergens hide. When starting spring cleaning, she advised, always start with just one room at a time. And that should be a child's room, she said.

"Even if they don't have underlying respiratory issues, start in that child's bedroom, because they are a little more susceptible to some of the environmental hazards," she said.

Forrest said if you start in a child's room and get tired before you get to the rest of the house, at least you know you've accomplished something. She also advised reading labels and always following directions on cleaning supplies. Better yet, she said, make your own. For example, the combination of vinegar and water makes a great all-purpose cleaner that is a lot safer than many you buy in the store, she said.

Forrest also recommended dusting with a damp cloth and using a very light mist on the floors, so you don't stir up tiny particles that can irritate your lungs. And she recommended staying away from highly scented air fresheners and cleaners, which contain volatile organic compounds that can harm people with asthma and allergies.

And there is one item all households stay away from, she warned.

"Incense is the absolute worst," she said, "because as that stick burns it's releasing so many particles. And they're fine particles that we're breathing in."

For vacuums, it's best to use one with a hepa filter, she added, and she urged opening windows and getting fresh air in the house whenever you can.

Children's Mercy Hospital has begun a new Home Healthy Program to help families discover ways to rid their homes of environmental hazards. The State of Missouri asthma fact sheet shows a need for preventive measures. It says that more than 10 percent of the children in Kansas City suffer from asthma and account for thousands of hospitalizations every year.

Information about how to make safe cleaning supplies is available at Information about a healthy home is at

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - MO