ByMegan Winkler

May 14, 2014

Window grime. You know you hate it, and it seems like any time you try to remove that foggy, gross film from your windows, you’re breathing in ammonia fumes and really just streaking them up even more. I’m a person who is blessed (cursed) with a sensitive sense of smell. So for me, the ammonia fumes in classic blue Windex and similar sprays just about run me out of the room. Plus all the streaks that so many products can leave behind drive me insane, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. I’ve turned to other options in the hopes that the nasty chemicals in the window cleaner I typically use can be replaced with a better option. And for a while, I thought I’d found one.

I remember the first time I stepped into my friend’s house and smelled the soothing lavender scent of Mrs. Meyer’s cleaner. I fell in love immediately. Not only does it smell like flowers—or lemon, basil, or rosemary—it’s also ammonia free. It’s touted as 99 percent naturally derived and you can find it at places like Whole Foods, Sprouts and independent natural grocery stores. It must be great for the environment, right? Maybe not.


If you’ve read some of my articles on cleaning products, you know that I do actually jump on a product’s website and research exactly what’s in it before discussing it here. I was disappointed by some of the ingredients in Mrs. Meyer’s Glass Cleaner. There are a few things with absurdly long technical names on the ingredient list that I did not immediately recognize, so I did a bit of digging.

The first, sodium caprylyl sulfonate, is listed right after water on the ingredient list. This intimidating sounding chemical is described simply as a “wetting agent.” Apparently this allows the chemical to evenly coat the surface. Awesome, right? Turns out it’s not all that awesome for the watery parts of our world. The Environmental Working Group has it listed among the chemicals that pose a potential ecological concern for “chronic aquatic toxicity”, which, in short, means that it poses a threat to aquatic lifecycles. Oops.

I continued reading. Methylisothiazolinone (what a word!) may be a neurotoxin—as in, it affects the brain and the nervous system—but scientists are not sure yet. Benzisothiazolinone is also in there. This bad boy has been determined to be toxic under certain circumstances—and in certain amounts—by the European Union. It should be noted that the amount of benzisothiazolinone used in each bottle is small enough that even the EU says it’s okay. However, I was surprised to find that Mrs. Meyer’s Glass Cleaner isn’t all flowers and butterflies. So if you’re looking for something more organic, look elsewhere.

Better yet, make your own. I know I talk a lot about vinegar in my DIY pieces, but there’s a good reason behind it: the stuff works! Mix two tablespoons of cornstarch with ½ cup of vinegar, ½ cup of rubbing alcohol and four cups of water. Pour it all into a spray bottle and shake it up. You’ll have to shake the concoction before you use it because the cornstarch will settle, but apparently this stuff is magical. I’ve also heard you can mix a tablespoon of lemon juice with a quart of warm water to get the same effect. Lemon is great for stain and film removal, plus it has natural antimicrobial properties, you know, if licking windows is your thing.

And as you know I’m always open to new ideas, so if you’ve tried something different, comment below and tell us about it.

By Megan Winkler

Eco-nerd, solar power enthusiast, DIY diva and professional coffee drinker, Megan has written everything from courses in healthcare and psychology to interior design and cooking advice. She has a master’s degree in military history, owns two chainsaws, is a collector of strange trivia and a world renowned Pinterest pro. She is constantly looking for better ways to do things.