There’s something about the New Year that makes us want to organize and start fresh. Many wait for spring to give their home a good cleaning but we’re not big fans of waiting. Cleaning is good for you. In 2013, The Huffington Post published an article detailing a study showing those who had neat homes tended to be healthier than their messy counterparts. In 2008, an article in Fast Company linked an organized living space to higher productivity levels. Cleanliness is next to Godliness and one does feel somewhat righteous when clothes are in their rightful place and there’s no soap scum clinging to the shower tiles.
One thing that’s not heavenly is the toxins found in the average cleaning product. Similar to the cosmetic industry, household products are not regulated and according to some experts, cleaning agents can have up to 62 toxic chemicals. While we’re beginning to make the connection between what we eat and our overall health, many of us don’t see how our stove scrubber could be responsible for some of our health woes.
Enter in Michelle Boyle, the mastermind behind Tidy Thyme, the 100 percent plant-based home and cleaning product line, made in Altamont, New York. Michelle doesn’t believe one has to compromise their safety to have a germ free home. Before Tidy Thyme hit the shelves she researched for six years to find alternatives that would leave surfaces sparkling and destroy dangerous bacteria like E.coli. When you look at her product’s ingredient list, you find recognizable and pronounceable materials, like white distilled vinegar and thyme essential oil. As it reads on the official website, the “products will leave your home and your conscious clean.”
Michelle showed the makings of an entrepreneur early. In her teens she started cleaning homes to have spending money; a venture that would lay the foundation for her first company Green Genies, a cleaning service that utilizes eco-friendly products and practices. Like many entrepreneurs, she was curious and a natural researcher but it was a childhood tragedy that would set her on the path to create a wellness-based business.
When she was barely in adolescents, she lost Alice, her best friend and the woman who served as her nanny since birth, to cancer.
“It was a huge growing point,” Michelle says of the loss. “I examined the chemicals I was using in my daily life and my overall lifestyle.”
Alice was a smoker and seeing the effect it had on her made Michelle know it wasn’t a substance she was interested in tampering with. Her mother also smoked and in an effort to convince her to quit, Michelle began looking up ingredients found in cigarettes and layering them, along with their side effects, on individual smokes so her mom would have to read them every time she pulled one from a pack. From there she began what she calls “self-induced research” on various substances and what they did to the body. She read up on food and pharmaceuticals. Although only fourteen at the time, she was determined to not take a passive approach to her health.
“I remember not wanting to take any unnecessary pharmaceuticals medications unless I was really sick,” she laughs. “I was probably to the extreme…As time has gone by I’ve found more of a balance.”
In 2008, Michelle began looking into natural cleaning alternatives. Green Genies was in full swing and things were going well until her husband seemed to be allergic to what she was using. When she looks back on it now, she laughs on how she didn’t make the connection sooner.“All I used was bleach and chlorine based products,” she says. “And I use to constantly have migraines and sinus infections… I think I knew they were linked but I didn’t believe a space was clean or a toilet was clean unless I was using a bleach product.”
Her husband’s allergies were proving severe, so she began search for less abrasive solutions. Unfortunately, many companies that brand themselves as green are anything but.
“The quickest way for me to determine how green a product is seeing whether or not it [reads] fragrance on the label,” Michelle explains. “There’s little to no regulation with that and there can be potentially hundreds of synthetic and toxic chemicals in a fragrance. The ingredients can contribute to asthma and allergies.”
With commercial brands no longer an option, Michelle’s experimentation with more holistic ingredients began. She learned that thyme and lavender essential oils (two ingredients common in her products) are antibacterial. So was vinegar.
The first products she made was The Multi-Purpose Cleaner and The Glass and Stainless Steel Cleaner. Although she began using them for her business early, it took till 2014 for her to feel ready to introduce Tidy Thyme to the market.
“I didn’t create the products or line with the intention of launching them as a packaged product,” she says. “I was just trying to fill a need. It was really my husband who said, ‘There is nothing out there that’s pure and effective as [your products]’. It was a slow process of experimenting and [realizing] it was something that the public should have.”
Tidy Thyme offers a variety of cleaners, soy based candles, room and linen sprays, and even yoga mat cleaner. Michelle makes everything herself. Unlike many holistic companies that range on the pricey side, Michelle’s items range from$10 to $24. Nothing contains toxins, dyes, synthetic fragrances or other potentially damaging agents. And everything, from the Natural Stone Cleaner to the Mi Amore Soy Candles come in packaging so lovely that you’ll want to display on your countertops.
In time, Michelle hopes to expand her line further. With the public becoming more conscious about limiting pollutants, the need for products like hers grow. Along with Tidy Thyme, she continues to run Green Genies which also partners with Cleaning for a Reason, the national Not-for-Profit that provides free cleaning services to women undergoing cancer treatment. Obviously, it’s a cause close to Michelle’s heart.
“Alice suffered with cancer for many years,” she explains. “I really saw the overall struggle and there’s not much you can do when your immune system is depleted. [Cleaning for a Reason] felt like such a great partnership; to provide clean spaces that were not further compromising patients’ immune systems. In general, cleaning is gratifying work but its extra warm and fuzzy when we’re able to offer that service.”
You can purchase Tidy Thyme products on their official website or find them at Anchor No.5 Boutique in Troy, NY, Honest Weight Food Co-Op, Spring House Spa in Sharon Springs, NY, Hive, Smooth, and Altamont Vineyard & Winery in Altamont, NY. Michelle also sells her products at a number of marketplaces in the area. Check her website and social media for places and dates.
This story originally appeared on The Mighty Mite.
Hudson Valley based writer.