PGM Kids: Good Clean Toys

TEXT by Celine MacKay | PHOTOGRAPHS by Lauren Kolyn


When it comes to toys, as a mother doing my best to make sustainable and smart choices, it's not easy. The availability of toys on the market today is vast and overwhelming—a topic I plan to delve into in more detail on another day—for now, a super simple DIY to maintain the toys your kids play with on a daily basis.

If you are like me, disinfecting your kids' favourite playthings is more of an afterthought than a regular routine, and in order to get it done I need a quick solution. The commercial market is flooded with disinfectant sprays, which certainly appeal in terms of convenience, but most regularly available, grocery-store varieties have no place on your kids toys and yet it's common practice to regularly spray them, allow them to dry, and then place them in right back in the toy box. This is especially true in daycares, schools, or other public places such as churches or libraries (maybe consider petitioning to change this).

Sprays such as these often contain high-levels of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) that offgas into the air around you and transfer from toys onto your kid's skin (and into their bloodstream) and into their mouths. They also may contain ammonium hydroxide, which is thought to be a respiratory toxin, and triclosan, an antibacterial agent and preservative that functions in the body as an endocrine disrupter (plays havoc on your hormones)—this is especially scary in children's immature bodies, a fact made even more serious by the fact that it bioaccumulates, meaning it builds up in your tissues and is very hard to get rid of. 

The solution at home is really easy with these two recipes that you can whip up in minutes and use as often as you like, even on wooden toys.


50/50 Vinegar Spray

In a spray bottle, combine 1 part purified water with 1 part natural vinegar (avoid regular, petrochemically produced vinegar and try to find one made with plant-based ingredients). Mix and use for light maintenance: simply spray and allow to air-dry. Great for regular use and mild cleaning.

More Intense Disinfectant Spray

  • 6 drops organic rosemary, thyme, lavender, cinnamon, or clove essential oil (you can also blend one or two of these for a custom scent you like)
  • 2 tbsp vodka
  • distilled water


  • a funnel (not necessary but helpful)
  • 100 mL spray bottle (preferably glass)


In a small spouted measuring cup, pour in vodka and add essential oils. Mix slowly with a spoon until the oil droplets have disappeared and the vodka appears uniform in appearance. Using your funnel, pour into spray bottle. Fill the remainder of the bottle with distilled water. (While I'm not a fan of distilled water for drinking, it's great for this purpose because it removes any impurities in tap water that could affect your spray, such as chlorine.)

Spray the toys when they are in need of a deeper clean (such as after a bout with a cold or flu), and either wipe down or allow to air dry. 


LAUREN KOLYN, Photography: Lauren is a lifestyle and editorial photographer based in Montréal and Toronto, Canada. With a documentary approach to her photography, Lauren is a visual storyteller with a unique ability to capture the essence of the moment. Drawing much of her artistic inspiration from the natural environment, Lauren's photographic work explores the modest yet powerful beauty of her surroundings. She is also currently part of the Pure Green editorial team. View her work, follow her on Instagram.