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Ask The Green Mama: Alternatives to bleach and anti-bacterial hand soap in schools?

I am the administrator for a preschool in Illinois. We are trying to green our school. I have read your Green Your Classroom article. I want to use a healthier alternative to bleach? What can I do? DCFS says I need to use anti-bacterial hand soap with the kids, but I know it is bad. Are they right?

Green Administrator

Dear Admin

I am so glad to hear you have read the Green Your Classroom article. For administrators and school officials of all sorts, I also highly recommend you read The Green Mama’s Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools. This guide includes some healthier, green alternatives to bleach. There are many commonly available options now for nid%3D403%7Ctitle%3D%7Cdesc%3D%7Clink%3Dnoneschools and daycares, including: Seventh Generation, Benefect, and CleanWell. I’ve also worked with clients who have used: Bio-Based: EPA-certified sanitizer and AHP technology disinfenctants. These don’t replace good cleaning practices, these can replace bleach which is for sanitizing. Bleach can’t clean things that are actually dirty! Make sure you know the difference.

As for the question about your specific health care regulating body and there approach to anti-bacterial hand soaps: This is a great question. The science is clear: anti-bacterial hand soaps should NEVER be used by children. They are not safe for childcare settings. The American Medical Association, the US EPA, and Health Canada all recommend against using antibacterial hand soaps.

Because the science is so clear, I recommend you really research and fight for this issue: make sure this is truly the requirement and not the inspectors erroneous interpretation. You can learn about your state’s regulations in the U.S. here or through Health Canada if you are up north.

In fact I found this in the IL licensing information for childcare centres:“Children’s hands shall be washed routinely and frequently with soap and water. Hand sanitizers or diaper wipes are not acceptable substitutes for soap and running water.”

If you DO find that your state requires by law anti-bacterial hand soap to be used, find an alternative that does NOT use Triclosan (the pesticide used in almost all anti-bacterial products). CleanWell has a more natural alternative.

Thanks for taking good care of our children.

Written by Manda Aufochs Gillespie, The Green Mama. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.