Spring is a time to renew, refresh, reinvigorate our homes and our lives. One of the customary ways to do this is with the spring cleaning ritual. In many homes this means going beyond the normal surface cleaning — and getting under and behind furniture and appliances, deep clean and oil on woods, and finally cleaning that spot where the cat rubs every-single-day!

On 14 March 2012, The New York Times published the article, Is It Safe to Play Yet? Going to Extreme Lengths to Purge Household Toxins. The article is the story of one family’s discovery of just how many toxins are in our everyday, seemingly-safe household products. At its base, it’s astonishing. But when you really dig into it, it is maddening. The fact that manufacturers think it is just fine to put so many toxins into and onto our body is asinine. The argument of the manufacturers is often that each of the associated chemicals isn’t really toxic to the human body. And that may be true but there are two problems with that line of thinking. One is that the chemicals are only tested on the equivalent of a 180lb adult. It is illegal to test chemical reactions on children (rightfully so) however they have equal exposure and a smaller “vessel” to process the chemical(s). Second is that they didn’t test their product’s chemicals as combined with another product’s chemicals that either are in proximity to each other, mixed in the air, consumed before the body has completely processed the other chemicals, or absorbed together through the skin.

[A couple of great resources on this topic are available via American Lung Association of WA (ALAW) and WA Toxics Coalition]

Clearly we can’t expect manufacturer’s to test all their products against every other product out there to see if the combined products do harm. So, what do we do? We force change with our dollars and demand the manufactures do better. We “ask” them to use less chemicals – and absolutely no known carcinogens or hormone-disruptors. We demand less-processed and more whole ingredients (in everything). We do our homework and take responsibility for our individual and family’s well-being.

So, back to our spring cleaning ritual… There are some amazing homemade cleaners that are easy to make, cost very little, and are time efficient that we’ve been using for years. The products we make are available to download here (pdf) – along with resources to more recipes. ALAW also has a great brochure on their website. So put away the Pledge, air fresheners, and Windex. Get out the essential oils, baking soda, vinegar, and water… and don’t forget a little elbow grease!