ACCORDING TO THE WASHINGTON Toxics Coalition, more than 75,000 chemicals have been introduced into the environment in the last 50 years and 74 bodies of water in Washington State are contaminated with persistent chemicals at levels considered harmful. A study by the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, entitled, “Body Burdens of Industrial Chemicals” found a total of 167 industrial chemicals and pollutants in humans. Of these, 76 could cause cancer in animals or humans, 94 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 79 cause birth defects or abnormal development. Add to this the fact that indoor air pollutants can be as much as six times greater than outdoor air quality and you begin to question the widespread use of name-brand chemical cleaners for regular household cleaning.

Founder and co-owner, April Gleason of Clean Green in Spokane, a non-toxic residential cleaning company was looking to start a company a few years ago that made a positive impact on the environment.

“I feel really responsible for leaving this world as intact as possible for my kids and for future generations. I started looking around at the type of cleaners that are out there. The shellac that they use to make things look clean as opposed to things actually being clean, that is when I started putting the idea together of an all-natural cleaning service,” says Gleason.

Gleason began by researching the toxicity of cleaning products on the market and came to realize that there are very few regulations for cleaning products, and a lot of the ingredients are not even listed. As a result, she turned to the basics, vinegar, lemon juice, distilled water and elbow grease. After two years of professionally cleaning homes, Gleason is now convinced that all-natural products clean just as effectively as the chemical ones.

“It takes a couple times of cleaning with natural products-when you use the Pledge and Windex, you get a lot of chemical build-up on all of your surfaces. It takes a while to get through all of that-you need to get it off and break through it before it [natural cleaner] starts cleaning really well. It takes a bit of elbow grease to get through before you start seeing the real results,” says Gleason.

Gleason has found cleaning answers to all of life’s messes. Lemon juice and pumice stones for whitening, “it has to be porcelain or the stones will scratch.” Vinegar for disinfecting and essential oils for smell.

“There are those people that need to have that Pinesol smell, that is a sign of clean for them. There is a solution-Dr. Bronner’s South Suds, they use a tiny bit of Pinesol – one percent. What I usually do, I will scent a vinegar solution with a tea tree oil which is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. It has a nice antiseptic smell,” says Gleason.

Since starting Clean Green two years ago, the business grew by leaps and bounds. Gleason who has a young daughter, wasn’t ready for that. She now works mainly in a consulting position to Clean Green.

“It has never been just a job, we are educating people, we are showing them how natural cleaning works. Hopefully what people will realize is it that it doesn’t take 40 different products to clean your house-one or two good recipes can pretty much handle it all.”

Following are a few non-toxic cleaning services in Spokane: Clean Green (509) 990-2369, Maid Naturally (509) 994-3685, Nature’s Housekeeping (509) 570-4284.

NON-TOXIC CLEANING RECIPES

All-Purpose Window Wash

  • 1/4-cup white distilled vinegar
  • 1/2-teaspoon liquid soap or detergent
  • 2 cups water
  • Combine the ingredients in a spray bottle, and shake to blend. Spray on and then remove with a squeegee, paper towel. Shelf Life: Indefinite.
  • Combine the ingredients in a bowl, saturate a sponge with the mixture then squeeze out the excess and wash surfaces. The smell of vinegar will dissipate in a few hours. Store in a labeled glass jar with a screw top. Shelf Life: Indefinite.

Floor Cleaner with Fragrant Herbs. This recipe is nice to rid the house of the stale smell of winter.

  • 1/8 cup liquid soap or detergent
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup fragrant herb tea (peppermint is great as it adds antibacterial qualities)
  • Combine ingredients in a pail or bucket. Swirl the water around until it is sudsy. Scrub floor with mop or rag.

All recipes courtesy of Living Green with SNAP. http://www.livinggreensnap.org.

APRIL GLEASON’S TIPS FOR SPRING GREEN CLEANING

OPEN YOUR WINDOWS. “One of the first things that people should do as soon as they can is start opening their windows once a day for at least ten minutes. This really helps blow out all the ‘bad stuff’ and bring in the ‘good stuff’.”

WINDOW WASHING. What you will need: two buckets, old towels (“Please don’t use old newspapers because of the solvent power of the inks used in them. When you clean with them, you expose yourself to the smells and residues of those toxic inks.”), a squeegee, aputty knife or razor blade for crusty spots, a sponge or a squirt bottle that can attach to the hose for the rinse, liquid soap or hand-dishwashing detergent (phosphate-free). “I always stick with Dr. Bronners Sal Suds or Castile Soap.” How To Do It: Fill your bucket with warm water and put in a squirt or two of the soap. Try to use purified water as the minerals in Spokane water can get in the way of any cleaning and the minerals will stand out like sore spots on your windows. Then grab your sponge or rag and wash the sills first and then rinse. Then the windows. Soap ’em up and use your putty knife or razor blade to scrape off anything stuck on. Now the Squeegee! Work from top to bottom. Then follow with a vinegar rinse and a second swipe of the Squeegee. Then dry with an old terry cloth rag. It is best not to do your windows on a warm sunny day as everything drys so quickly and can cause a lot more streaking.

WALLS & CEILINGS. “Ceilings are pretty challenging and if you commit and start with them, there is no stopping because once you interrupt that uniform dirt up there, you have to do it all.” What you will Need: A “schmop” (mop with washable terry cloth covers), bucket with warm water and two to three squirts of liquid detergent added or one tablespoon of liquid detergent added to a 16 oz squirt bottle of warm water. How to Do It: Stand at an angle and start “schmopping.” Afterwards you can follow with a scented vinegar rinse. “I love spearmint, it is especially great for people who don’t care for the smell of vinegar.” For this, take a 16-oz. squirt-bottle, fill it half full with vinegar and half with distilled water add 15 to 20 drops of your favorite essential oil. Repeat the entire process for your walls.

FLOORS. What you will Need: Your “schmop” or a rag (if you want to wash them by hand) and your scented vinegar rinse (described above). How to do It: Squirt the cleaner directly onto the floor and wipe clean with your rag or mop. Your can use this on linoleum, tile, polyurethane and finished wood floors. “Vinegar is a natural acid that has quick cleaning power and helps remove dirty, greasy films. If you have smudges and scuff marks, sprinkle a little baking soda and rub then squirt on the vinegar and wipe.”

CARPETS. Steam-cleaning is the best thing you can do for your carpet. The hot water kills fleas, dust mites and any other bacteria that may be causing odors.