Regina’s Story— Cleaner Solutions for Healthier Homes
Last updated 2021-06-14. Last edited 2021-08-11
Starting out in the medical field
My earliest job, at fifteen, is in a pharmacy. Typing prescription records, my touch-typing class kicks in!
Soon I’m a Nursing Assistant in a hospital and nursing home. The nurses I work with urge me to go on to nursing. And true, I love caring for patients. And get it about emergency care. But wonder if the chronic conditions we’re seeing can be prevented.
In a few years, when researching household hazards for my cleaning service, clues start coming in.
Launching a toxic cleaning service
I get on-the-job training in detailing homes and small offices. From none other than my big sister in the business. Awesome trainer! When she starts a new business I set out on my own.
The easy part is getting customers, and keeping them. Just be a good listener. And be thorough where it counts. Plus, nothing’s about me— it’s all about the job. That’s the core of it.
The tricky part— dodging toxic sprays that can injure skin or eyes. And fumes that can lurk long after the job’s done. My strict policy — we’re opening windows! Here’s what comes out later, in 2018.
Feb. 16, 2018─Women who work as cleaners or regularly use cleaning sprays or other cleaning products at home appear to experience a greater decline in lung function over time than women who do not clean, according to new research published online in the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.American Thoracic Society
Then there’s water pollution. What am I pouring down drains? I later learn that hormone-disrupting chemicals slip through water treatment plants, building up in our rivers and streams. A river in my home town has not been spared. We floated down that river as kids, in tire tubes. Too close to home!
Returning to the basics— with simple, non-toxic products
“It has to be toxic to work”, right? That’s what I’m thinking.
But wait— why can’t non-toxic products work too, if the chemistry’s right?
My new holistic mindset: Find the simplest, healthiest approach that works, and generates the least waste.
First I try castile soap we’re using at home on almost everything. Plus baking soda, Bon Ami, and vinegar. Surprisingly they all work on the job too— with the right tools and techniques, as with any toxic cleaning. Check out Clean Like a Pro with Organic Ingredients, to get you started on the chemistry part.
For researching specialized products, starting with dish liquid, I tap the experts. First up is Debra Lynn Dadd, the first to speak about toxics for a consumer audience. Read my review of Toxic Free, Debra’s final book related to toxics.
Specializing in environmental allergies and asthma— replacing services that don’t
Homeowners with these symptoms find me through word of mouth.
Here’s why they’ve searched in the first place. For many, getting their service to use least-toxic products — consistently— is like pulling teeth. I hear this over and over.
I’m glad to help! But families face lost income.
Fortunately a better solution arrives!
The City of San Francisco launches Pollution Prevention campaigns related to water and household waste. I contribute many non-toxic cleaning tips.
Cleaning services get special outreach.
Low-income single moms are now launching their own non-toxic cleaning services. I collaborate with non-profit business incubators to help.
Seeing these women increase their income, with safer working conditions— even becoming homeowners— is transformative.
I’m asked not to conduct trainings elsewhere, to prevent competition. But I grant them non-exclusive rights, as there are other ways to stay ahead of non-toxic competition. For that I’m affectionately referred to only as their “Industry Expert”.
Creating conditions for safe, labor-efficient cleaning
Toxic hazards and inefficiencies plague homeowners and cleaning services alike. So I’m now delivering the following.
- Customizing health-based cleaning kits for clients’ exclusive use. The kits are separate to prevent cross-contamination. Mainly kitchen kits, bathroom kits, “other tooms” kits. Actually I added this feature years ago but it fits better here.
- De-cluttering to streamline cleaning. Working on one small chunk per visit, maintaining de-cluttered areas regularly.
Adding a new skill— Daytime Home Manager
When Managers leave the job, I back-fill most of their duties. Hitting the ground running, teaching myself new skills as I go.
I’m discovering something new here. Clients prefer to hire cross-trained people when they can find them. And fewer of them.
COVID Shutdown projects
My main client suddenly must work from home, in a tiny space during a remodel. So suddenly I can’t work onsite. I provide all the support I can virtually.
For another client I’m working in her city home, while her family stays in their country home. The city home is an old Edwardian with five bedrooms, two studies and three bathrooms, on two floors.
COVID-safe practices are front and center. It helps that the client’s family is away. Still, I’m adding more masking, gloving, hand-washing, hand-sanitizing, disinfecting, and more.
I spend several days per visit de-cluttering and organizing. Plus deep cleaning. And developing inventory / ordering tools. We’re planning and reporting via Google Docs.
This is it— taking a holistic approach to clean, healthy homes. And building my road as I’m traveling it, with help from many experts.