My passions: Healthier, greener homes. Cleaner indoor air. Non-toxic cleaning hacks. Safe, transparent ingredients. Low-maintenance design and decorating. Renewables. Open source. Escaping chronic pain, virtually drug-free. And Mike, Environmental Engineer- turned- General Contractor and whole food chef extraordinaire, very much in my life.
Solving pesky cleaning problems— virtually toxic-free
Gotta be toxic to work. Right?
Not in my experience. I owned and operated a health-based cleaning service for thirty years. Soon after starting I ditched virtually all toxic products, while minimizing waste. Without sacrificing effectiveness nor convenience.
Throughout, I researched professional methods, along with non-toxic products and ingredients. And field-tested many on the job, for green-minded clients and skeptics alike.
I never once lost an account due to going non-toxic. In fact, I never announced my switch early on. No one was the wiser.
But clients with environmental allergies or asthma, or chemical sensitivities, took notice. They were breathing easier, while getting the same service quality. So I devoted my service to their needs.
Truth is, health-based cleaning is simply quality cleaning. Without leaving toxic residues. And minus piles of waste.
The trend has steadily grown the past few decades. Not only among among residential cleaning service providers. But also in commercial and institutional cleaning.
Still, unnecessarily-toxic cleaners still dominate store shelves. With many linked to respiratory symptoms, for starters. Oh, and mountains of disposables.
So I’m here to share what’s working on the health-based cleaning front. From leading experts, and from my own experience. Love sharing my discoveries!
For my nitty-gritty story, in present tense, read on.
Launching a health-based cleaning service
After working in pharmaceutical records, I become a Nursing Assistant. But faced with chronic staffing shortages, I’m ready for a less stressful environment.
A friend connects me to a job in high fashion sales. I love the styles, and my regular customers. But I long to return to the health field somehow.
Eventually I start a non-toxic cleaning service, designed to help clients with environmental allergies and asthma breathe easier. That means going beyond cosmetic cleaning, to reducing sources of indoor air pollutants. Without sacrificing quality. Over time I’m calling it health-based cleaning, among the first such services in the U.S. A combination of the following features set my service apart. This is just a partial list.
- Providing highly-personalized customer care, with extensive support.
- De-cluttering for labor-efficient cleaning.
- Delivering deep, detailed cleaning.
- Ditching ingredients linked to acute and long-term health effects, and pollution.
- Researching and field-testing least-toxic solutions. At home and on the job.
- Minimizing waste.
- Switching cat litter with mystery ingredients, to pine litter with transparent ingredients.
- Switching a garment cleaning service a from hydrocarbon method to a newer, least-toxic steam method. Testing the new service for a client, with promising results.
- Switching a lot more, that I’ll be writing about.
- Adding a Healthy Home Concierge Service.
De-cluttering and organizing
Deep cleaning and clutter don’t mix. Labor costs compound, fast.
Minimalists get it. If that’s not you, though, you can still minimize the problem.
To streamline the job I’m adding de-cluttering and organizing services. The more stuff cleared out, the less to move in order to clean in the first place.
We clear out one corner or closet per session. Family members weigh in on what stays and goes. Everything gets pulled out. Deep, extreme cleaning follows. We put back only what the the family uses, then donate the rest.
We start with cleaning closets, a major source of air pollutants. Then master bedrooms. And more closets. Next we’re weeding out home offices, ending with paper shredding and vacuuming. Then pantries.
Coaching DIY clients comes next. Making my services as obsolete as I can.
Developing and conducting non-toxic cleaning trainings
Next I’m coaching college students. On the job, one-on-one, they learn how to run their own non-toxic cleaning services.
Then training founding trainers of four worker-owned cooperatives in professional non-toxic cleaning through nonprofit incubators.The programs transition low-income single mothers from General Assistance to self-sufficiency.
My role is developing and conducting hands-on trainings, and providing consulting for the incubators. In the process I initiate a strategic sponsorship by Seventh Generation brand. And assistance from Non-Toxic Expert Debra Lynn Dadd to write up product specs. No longer are the women exposed to toxic chemicals on the job, nor their customers and families.
The cooperative services grow steadily. Even with sudden competition in their territory from big, national chains rebranding as “green”.
Getting detoured by chronic pain— and escaping, drug-free
Detoxing cleaning operations throughout a big remodel, with pets underfoot
Learning Home Manager and Concierge skills on the job
When a House Manager I work with leaves her job, I’m cross-trained in her duties. Yes, while still cleaning. With a major remodel underway! Plus a hyper dog and two cats to keep safe and loved.
As the client put it, “I don’t care who does what in my house. As long as it gets done. Right”.
Initially, this taking over both our jobs looks daunting. But the Manager whispers, on her way out, “This is not rocket science“.
Easy for her to say, given her management degree. But wait— I’ve got transferable skills now. Plus, I’ve worked closely with several House Managers, so I know what they do. And good at researching. And love scouting for healthy home products, and services that more clients are demanding. And field-testing them on the job.
I hit the ground running, learning more on the job. Falling on my face, yes. But getting back up and dusting myself off. Rinse and repeat.
Laundry, dishes, and vacuuming are still on my plate. Increasingly, homeowners prefer fewer people in their homes, cross-trained.
Indeed, cross-training is a growing phenomenon in the household staffing industry, I learn in retrospect. Not that I’m staff; I’m self-employed. But you get the picture. Plus, more homeowners are bypassing pricey staffing agencies. And instead, scouting for managers from sites like Craigslist, Care.com and more. I haven’t gone those routes myself, but have worked with managers brought in that way.
What keeps me motivated throughout— creating a healthier home, for an awesome family.
At the end of a workday, I can only call my self a Healthy Home Concierge. Got a better name? Leave a comment.
Coaching for House Managers
The Shutdown hits, and with it more awareness about the importance of indoor air quality. And at the same time, homeowners are requiring more tech skills from their Managers.
Now I’m coaching another Manager in sourcing and purchasing healthy home products and services. Plus in project management on the cloud. And basics of internet security and privacy.
Writing my first book, with blog mostly on the back burner