You know that clean, fresh smell after you’ve just cleaned the bathroom with Pine Sol or some other chemical cleaning product? Sorry to ruin the moment, but it’s not actually the smell of clean. And, it’s certainly not fresh. Nope, it’s the smell of chemicals. Chemicals that we’ve come to associate with clean despite the harm they can do to our families.

When I was in third grade, my Mom was diagnosed with cancer (thankfully it was caught early and she is now over 30 years cancer-free). At the time, there seemed to be a higher than normal incidence of cancer in young people (she was only 25 at the time) in our community and many blamed it on water contamination from a creosote plant. I’m pretty sure that’s my earliest awareness of the link between environmental factors and illness. (And, probably what sparked my interest in what each of us can do to maintain and improve our own health.)

Since then, study upon study has supported that link. A recent Telegraph article reported that research “findings suggest that it is modern lifestyles and pollution levels caused by industry that are the main cause of the disease [cancer] and that it is not a naturally occurring condition.” Earlier this year, the President’s Panel on Cancer released a report which urged President Obama “to use the power of your office to remove the carcinogens and other toxins from our food, water, and air that needlessly increase health care costs, cripple our nation’s productivity, and devastate American lives.”

What can you do to reduce your family’s exposure to harmful chemicals? Household cleaning products are an easy place to start.

There are plenty of cleaning products in stores that claim to be eco-friendly, green and safe. The problem is that there is no regulation regarding the use of those terms–thus you and the manufacturer’s may not share a definition of “safe.” Additonally, manufacturers aren’t required to list all ingredients, so many choose only to list the ingredients consumers will find least offensive.

These were major factors in my quest to make my own cleaning products, but my biggest inspiration was the cost of the “green” products. I wasn’t willing to trade Grace’s college education for safe cleaning products.

So, I started thinking. Most of the chemicals used in household cleaning products were invented during and after World War II. Clearly people cleaned their homes before then. What did they use?

I asked my grandparents and parents, and I researched online and at the library. What I found was that with a few simple–and inexpensive–ingredients you can get your house spic and span–without risking your family’s health or spending your kids’ college fund.

Seriously, these things work at least as well as the products I was buying and, in some cases, better.

I’ll be sharing the best recipes I’ve found and tweaked (some took a fair amount of tweaking to get right) in classes over the next couple of months. The first class is scheduled for Wednesday, November 10 at Moe Bodyworks (watch my Classes & Events Page for details about future classes).

In the meantime, this recipe for furniture polish will get you started:

1/2 tsp vegetable oil

1/4 cup vinegar or lemon juice

Mix ingredients in a glass jar. Dab a soft rag into solution and wipe wood surfaces.

Seriously, how easy is that? Be well!


DIY Safe & Effective Cleaning Products

Wednesday, November 10 6:00-7:30pm Moe Bodyworks $20

Traditional household cleaning products have been linked to allergies, asthma, birth defects, cancer and psychological abnormalities, not to mention the damage they can do to the environment. Eco or Green products tend to be very expensive and, because there is no regulation of those terms, not necessarily safer for your family. Find out how you can make your own safe and effective cleaning products with inexpensive, easy-to-find ingredients.

Visit for directions and registration. (Click on classes. You’ll find this one under the workshops tab.)