The list of optional kindergarten class school supplies in my school district includes hand soap and antibacterial wipes. Since the skin is the body’s largest organ, I am of the mind not to put anything on it that I wouldn’t want to eat. That includes artificial colors and perfumes. Soap is never tasty, but some soaps are less laden with chemicals than others. If it goes down the drain, it ends up in our water supply, too!

The Mayo Clinic says that antibacterial soap is no better than regular soap. The clinic website article on hand-washing states: “Using antibacterial soap may even lead to the development of bacteria that are resistant to the product’s antimicrobial agents — making it harder to kill these germs in the future.” Doesn’t sound great, right?

So what soap will I get for my child’s classroom? As I always try to do before purchasing skin care products, I’ll consult the Environmental Working Group’s “Skin Deep” database. This amazing resources offers health safety ratings of all sorts of beauty and skincare products. The EWG’s database lists all the ingredients and explains what kinds of negative health effects each one can have, whether they are suspected carcinogens, eye or nose irritants, contributors to respiratory issues, or endocrine disruptors. And yes, the EWG site explains what all these things mean.

Although one pump of soap isn’t going to send most kids into a toxic overload, the concern is the buildup of all these many chemicals in so many different products — in little bodies, and in our water table. I say, if we can do anything to reduce the gunk going into our kids’ bodies, they might stand a better chance of not reacting to the gunk we can’t do anything about.

And this is an environmental issue. The more companies see consumers choosing products that are friendly to our eco-systems, the more they will respond with healthier products. When we set the example of reading ingredients for our kids, they are more likely to be savvy consumers, too.

Although I try to support local merchants whenever possible, the school will get something it can recognize, just the safest version rather than the cutest or most colorful. A few things to avoid include sodium lauryl sulfate and parabens and fragrances other than those derived from essential oils.

For more info, get yourself a cup of your favorite beverage and plan to sit down at the EWG site for a while if you haven’t already (or recently; its undergone an upgrade). You might find yourself heading off to Freecycle or toss out some of the more toxic bottles on your shelves.

When she’s not washing her hands of old stuff she just found out was yucky, Jessica Claire Haney is blogging at Crunchy-Chewy Mama.