Annie's Mailbox: Sister-in-law obsessed with bleach

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Dear Annie: My sister-in-law is overly obsessed with bleach. She uses it to wash dishes, and within minutes before she bathes her two small children, she wipes down the bathtub with it.

I have told her that the fumes are not good for anyone. She says germs freak her out and this is what her mother did. I informed her that there are eco-friendly products on the market and even dish soap with bleach, but she is not open to change.

Should I just leave her alone and mind my own business, or should I keep on making the effort for the sake of her kids?

— Just Wondering in Southern California

Dear Wondering: It’s possible your sister-in-law is watering down the bleach sufficiently so it is not hurting her children. Bleach can be toxic if undiluted and swallowed, inhaled or allowed to touch the skin. It also can be damaging to the environment. Your sister-in-law should never use it on items where her children will come into immediate contact.

Try to be understanding of her germophobia, while explaining that she might want to switch to white vinegar for the tub and dishes. Vinegar also kills germs but is more benign. If she refuses, tell her to please be careful and watch her children for signs of toxicity — stomachaches, coughing, irritated eyes or skin. She should never mix bleach with ammonia, and if something should happen, make sure she has the number of the National Capital Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

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