Spring usually means that some massive cleaning will be happening. You can usher in the season by taking one simple step at a time—we recommend washing windows first. For clarity.

One thing you don't want window washing to give you is watery eyes, or skin or respiratory irritation. Yet most conventional cleaners, especially window and glass formulas, contain caustic and irritating ingredients, some of which have been linked to cancers and hormone disruption. Many of these are volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) that easily evaporate into home air and penetrate our lungs.

Ingredients can include ammonia, glycol ethers such as 2-butoxyethanol (a reproductive toxin that's rapidly absorbed through the skin), and dibutyl phthalate (DBP), a chemical that's invaded all our bodies, according to studies by the Centers for Disease Control. You won't see phthalates on labels because they're a component of synthetic fragrances and dispersants, which are "trade secrets" that manufacturers don't have to disclose. And don't.

What's the point of taking out dirt if we make ourselves ill?

An easy and inexpensive remedy is to mix your own window cleaner from household ingredients: Get an inexpensive spray bottle from your drug or hardware store, and fill with ¼ cup white vinegar, a few drops of liquid soap, and 2 cups of water. Shake well, spritz and wipe.

After that, rest on your laurels a bit. Take the rest slow, a day...or two...or every week or even every other. The nice thing about cleaning is that there's no rush, especially if you haven’t vacuumed or mopped for months, like some of us (woops!).

Click these links for more info on body burdens and phthalates.

This article originally appeared in Plenty in March 2008. The story was moved to MNN.com.

Copyright Environ Press 2008

Spring cleaning: Let the sunshine in
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