Indy expert goes green with house cleans
Lee Skidmore Shields, owner of Clean Slate Cleaning, started in the house cleaning business nearly 20 years ago. As her client list grew, so did their special requests — including those asking for chemical-free or eco-friendly practices, which she now offers. “I’m a big fan of using environmentally friendly products,” she says. “Not just for the environmental benefits, but they’re often also more practical and economical.”
How can house cleaning be more eco-friendly?
Shields: There are all kinds of vegetable-based name-brand product lines such as Method and Seventh Generation that have become available to consumers. When a client requests nonconventional cleaning methods, I make my own cleaning solutions from recipes I find online. I typically experiment and mix natural ingredients such as vinegar, borax, lemon juice, baking soda or olive oil. I also like to go the extra mile and add some essential oils like rosemary or lavender, which are a delight to clean with because of the pleasant smell and can also act as an antiseptic. These are what people used for generations before chemical-based products became more common.
A lot of it comes down to buying things you can reuse, rather than disposing of it after one use. Instead of using paper towels, I often use cut-up T-shirts. Instead of using an aerosol furniture polish, using a lightly moist rag can do the same thing. Instead of using a disposable duster, use a piece of lambs wool. Sometimes, when you're using natural products, it comes down to using a bit more elbow grease to achieve the same effect as a conventional cleaner. But it can be about good judgment, too. Instead of using a whole bottle of cleaner to cut through soap-scum buildup on something like shower doors, I use a straight razor to cut through it.
There are circumstances when it makes more sense to use a conventional product; mold and lime are some of the hardest things to tackle without using chemicals. Using a conventional product may give me more time to focus on other things, rather than spending an hour on one small area. Cleaning more often can also be more environmentally friendly, because you're less likely to use a conventional product to deal with built-up dirt.
I encourage people to ask potential house cleaners about their green cleaning experience and methods. Ask what products they use and if they're willing to use the client's products. Most of my clients who request nonconventional methods do so because of their environmental awareness or their health, such as people who have severe allergies. Every situation and request is different, so eco-friendly cleaning is really about listening to the client.