I am often asked to interview for publications or clients are curious about what it means to be a Green Cleaning Company!
I really love taking the time to answer these frequent questions.
If you have any other pertinent questions or would like to talk about specific formulas or problem spots please feel free to email me at:
What is your philosophy or mission statement when it comes to being a “green company”?
My mission is to use products that honor the environment, personal health and wellness and the natural ecological balance. I also do not use any products that have been tested on animals or those that have any animal bi-products in them.
What sets you apart from other cleaning companies when it comes to green cleaning?
Beside the fact that I do not use any harsh chemicals like ammonia or bleach, I also do not produce as much waste. My bottles are re-usable; I use micro-fiber cloths and mop heads. My mop itself is Eco-friendly- it has a cylinder that holds the water and dispenses it through the mop head. There is not any ‘dirty’ water or access water to dispose of when the job is finished.
The most important difference about my company though, is that I have created and implement my own solutions. I do not trust store brands or many of the 'green' products on the market. I have skipped the middle-man. My solutions are disinfectants and smell wonderful. I am very proud of them.
List actual ways you use green products or techniques.
I use a HEPA filtration vacuum
Recycled paper towels for cleaning toilets
All marketing tools are made from recycled/ Eco-friendly material- down to the ink that is used to print them.
BAKING SODA (sodium bicarbonate): Excellent odor absorbent, whitener and mild abrasive.
BORAX (known as 20 Mule Team Borax): Disinfects deodorizes and inhibits mold growth.
ESSENTIAL OILS: Used for deodorizing or scenting cleaners. Tea tree oil is currently in the process of being registered as a disinfectant in the U.S.-- Lavender and Citrus oils have superb antimicrobial and antiseptic properties, making them great household disinfectants.
VEGETABLE GLYCERIN: Found in pharmacies or health food stores. It is an ingredient in stain removing recipes because it helps oil mix with water.
HYDROGEN PEROXIDE: An antiseptic, useful in kitchens and bathrooms.
LIQUID SOAP: Vegetable-based soap sometimes referred to as Castile soap. Found in most health food stores. Dr. Bronner's is a popular one.
LIQUID DETERGENT: Detergents are made from synthetic materials that form less soap scum when combined with minerals in hard water.
WHITE DISTILLED VINEGAR: Removes soap scum, grease, mineral deposits and acts as a deodorizer.
WASHING SODA (sodium carbonate): It is slightly caustic and therefore a great grease cutter.
*Note: These ingredients may be toxic in their concentrated form. When used in small amounts in cleaning recipes, they are non-toxic.
Does “Green cleaning” cost more than using a regular company?
Yes. The cost can be slightly more because so much more time, energy and knowledge goes into the production and the implementation of the service. A green cleaning company will usually provide all of the products that will be used rather than using the products that the office/ homeowner will provide themselves.
Does it take longer to perform “Green cleaning”
Yes. Green cleaning products are just as efficient as products that contain harsh chemicals, but it does take more time to ‘set’ and a little extra elbow grease.
Are there supply companies that actually make green cleaning products or do you have to make your own?
There are many different green-cleaning products on the market now. It just depends on what sort of ‘Green’ you are looking to achieve. Green cleaning can have many different interpretations, but the main goal of green cleaning is to use cleaning solutions and methods that keep the environment healthy. There are many different degrees to which homes/ offices can achieve this goal.
For some people green cleaning means that they use substances like baking soda, vinegar, and lemons to clean surfaces. Others may seek out commercial cleaners that are healthy for the environment. They may want to avoid phosphates, chlorine, artificial fragrances, and artificial colors. Many cleaners on the market are also biodegradable.
Companies such as Method and Seventh Generation say they take care to exclude chemicals with known or suspected toxicities. Method has a "dirty list" of chemicals it refuses to use in its products. Seventh Generation restricts many of the same products but, with the exception of phosphates and chlorine, does not have a specific "banned chemicals" list. Making a point to read labels is incredibly important. If a supply company has a product targeted towards cleaning a toilet bowl, make sure you see an ingredient there that is a known natural disinfectant. So many products out there will try to fool you.
I do use some Method products. They are vegan and I trust them. They have a great granite cleaner and a stainless steel cleaner that I use regularly.
Do you make your own or purchase?
I do both.
Are there any types of materials or areas in a building where “Green products” are not effective?
I have not run into any situations yet where I wasn’t able to find a recipe or mix something up to tackle any issue.
Do you handle cleaning differently for various types of building such as a commercial office building, school, store, etc.
Yes. My routine and product use can change based on specific needs, problem areas and layout of the building that I am working with.
If a facility manager would interview you for the position of cleaning an entire building, what things do you look for in cleaning for a company? How would you price the cleaning? What is the largest building you have cleaned?
The largest building that I have cleaned was a 50,000-s/f pharmaceutical space in Frederick , MD. They were my clients for over 2 years.
I would customize a cleaning package during the first consultation. The charge would be based on the number of times per week the service is required, the condition of home/office & the square footage of the building.
I ask several questions of the homeowner/ facility manager at the initial interview including but not limited to:
1- Why is this contract out for bid?
2- What is your budget?
3- Do you have a list of cleaning specifications?
4- What are your expectations for this service?
5- How does the process work right now?
6- What is your current cleaning company doing to ensure the quality of work being performed?
7- What would you like to improve about your cleaning service?
I have read that the most time consuming thing about cleaning is trying to rinse the product away - one source informed that professionals don't rinse. Is this true? I imagine this is safe with eco-friendly solutions, but I cannot imagine leaving scrubbing bubbles on my toilet seat.
This is an interesting question. Usually in the bathroom- white porcelain sinks, toilet seats (plastic) handrails, showers, walls etc. I do use my general cleaner, wipe them down and then dry wipe them again (rinsing is not needed). The only reason I dry them down is because if I let them air dry they tend to have water streaks or spots and I can't leave them like that and be happy with my work. The same concept is applied when you clean glass (I am sure you have noticed) When you wipe down glass it is best to keep wiping the glass right to left or up and down until the glass is completely dry and streak free- if you leave it wet the glass appears cloudy or streaky.
But no- I will guarantee that most professionals or homemakers do not rinse their chemicals from surfaces (ie scrubbing bubbles). I am constantly advising people that they may feel a bit discouraged with my service at first glance because they are used to their home smelling sweet (chemical fragrances in Lysol, hard wood cleaners, bleach)- which to most people signifies that the room is 'clean'. The smell is only telling me that there is still chemical laying on the surface of everything! The kitchen counter, the sink, door handles!! They have not been rinsed off and will stay until you have used that surface time and time again (or rinse it). Pretty scary.
I don't think this is what you meant by 'rinsing', but the idea raises another issue for a green cleaning company. If we are just starting fresh, using chemicals that are clean and not full of toxic materials, it does take several services to completely 'wash away' all of the previously used product. For example, if Windex was used for years on your bathroom mirror, the first time we clean it we need to take extra care and the job will take more time, as we clean off the mirror and then clean off the Windex. I assure you, the Windex is still there weeks after you cleaned your mirror. It streaks and is a giant mess to remove, but we can get it done during your first service. Another example is soap that is not vegetable based, like Dove. It creates horrible soap scum on shower tiles and doors that can take months for us to remove completely. Home-made soap that you can find in almost any local store or Dr. Bronner's is a fantastic alternative. Vegetable based soaps just need a little hot water and they wipe right off of your surfaces- and your skin!
The solution I am most interested in starting with is an all purpose disinfectant spray. I purchased tea tree oil; however, I am not sure how many drops to add. I have purchased 32oz containers (best deal I could find - $2 at Lowe's). How long is a solution good for? I don't want to make the entire 32oz if only good for a week - so I will scale it down, but what are the right measurements. Also most of the recipes for all purpose spray call for borax or washing soap which I thought was toxic. Any thoughts?
You have stumbled onto a question that I am asked over and over again. Tea Tree Oil. The tea tree oil you use should be 100% Pure Pharmaceutical Grade. It should be steam distilled from the leaves of the tea tree species (Melaleuca alternifolia) a native to only a small region of northern New South Wales on the east coast of Australia.
The highest quality of tea tree oil comes from this region only, all other oils are inferior.
As long as you keep your solution in a opaque sprayer and in the shade (under the sink is good) it should last for a very long time. If you are really worried about it, I would simply go by the earliest expiration date of the 'ingredients' or 'chemicals' that you are using to make your home product. My general cleaner contains simple, natural ingredients so I actually make fresh cleaners every day before I go to a job. I don't like to use my cleaner after 6-8 days. But that might just be me.
I use between 2-4 drops of tea tree oil in my products. I usually use more if someone in the office/ home has been sick, winter time when flu season is about or if they have cats/dogs who walk on surfaces. Tea tree oil can seriously dry out your hands so obviously the more you use in your solution the worse the effects will be on your skin. I tend to wash my hands often with a moisturizing soap and use plenty of lotion. I also don't always use tea tree- the antiseptic qualities in TT can also be found in any citrus oil (lime, orange, grapefruit seed extract), clove or lavender (which is what I prefer to use- again I do use a combo if someone is sick in the home) or Theives, even though they are not registered as such. These also do not tend to dry out my hands as badly after extended use. But Vinegar also has an antiseptic effect and is often used as a natural deodorant, so I feel quite confidant that between combining it and essential oils my solution is not only killing bacteria in kitchens and on toilets but not leaving a dangerous residue behind.
Which brings us to Borax and Washing Soap. These are toxic if swallowed- but using them in small amounts in a cleaning solution is fine. I do not use them because as I said above I feel fully confident in the antiseptic effects as my solution is now. I have tinkered with using a bit of borax (and I do use it in my laundry- it is fantastic when I have a weeks worth of rags that are still damp- removing the bacteria from the cloth) but it does leave a powder on the surface that I dislike (when using in a cleaning spray). This powder does act as an insect deterrent, though. Bugs don't usually bother me in my home- (I use piles of corn starch or corn meal in areas where ants reside and they will disappear- Stink bugs hate lavender- spray a mixture of soap, water and lavender on window screens, they will run away and not come back, etc.)
Washing Soda (sodium carbonate) is a chemical neighbor of baking soda, but much more alkaline, with a pH around 11.
How does the pH scale apply to cleaning products?
"The pH of a cleaning product does not signify cleaning performance or strength. It simply indicates the concentration of hydrogen or hydroxide ions. The pH reading measures "intensity" not capacity. pH indicates the concentration of acidity or alkalinity in the same way temperature tells how hot or cold something is. For instance, the performance of a cleaning product cannot be determined simply by knowing the pH of the product. A common misconception about cleaning products suggests that a higher pH means superior cleaning. What really happens in cleaning is that one is attempting to "neutralize" the impact of the acidic or the alkaline ions. When a surface requires cleaning, the selection and use of the proper cleaning product results in the surface being cleaned or neutralized. Most soils are acidic in nature, therefore it is desirable to formulate cleaning agents on the alkaline side of the pH scale. Alkaline detergents neutralize acid soil, allowing the cleaner to produce more efficient and effective results. Understanding the importance of pH is critical in the proper selection of cleaning products for a particular job. For instance, pet urine, when excreted, has a pH on the acidic side of the scale. As it begins to dry, the pH changes to an alkaline. To clean with an alkaline based detergent would have little effect on neutralizing the urine. A cleaning product on the acidic side of the pH scale would be utilized to neutralize the urine"
Washing soda releases no harmful fumes and is far safer than a commercial solvent formula, but you should wear gloves when using it because it is caustic. Washing soda cuts grease, removes wax or lipstick, and neutralizes odors in the same way as baking soda does- so I just use Baking Soda!!
White distilled vinegar: Improperly diluted vinegar is acidic and can eat away at tile grout. Never use vinegar on marble surfaces.
I realize this may be stereotypical but what is your diet ("the green cleaning wizard must be vegan") I only ask as you seem to be a wealth of "natural" knowledge. Years ago as my bf was fighting cancer, I read the book "Crazy, Sexy, Cancer" by Kris Carr which really detailed the goings-on of your body (not just while fighting the c word) and it got me thinking. My boss' sister actually went to the Gerson Institute in Mexico for treatment of her breast cancer - 13 juices a day. For the last year I have been researching different aspects of a raw diet. I have done a few green smoothie challenges - the boys help me make them each morning - and have come across various detox and juice challenges to help body change from omnivore to herbivore. Any thoughts?
I actually started caring about 'green cleaning' because I was astounded by the amount of products we use in our daily lives that are tested on animals or contain animal bi-products. I have been a vegetarian for 20 years and an active animal rights advocate for 7. A vegan diet is incredibly difficult to execute- I have settled on buying only LOCAL milk and eggs - and hopefully from a farm that I have seen with my own two eyes.
We have practiced a raw food vegetarian diet before- that also lasted about 2 months and again is horribly difficult. We definitely believe in eating our vegetables raw as often as possible and have at least one salad per day.
My girlfriend has struggled with endometriosis since she was 16. She had her final surgery to date 5 years ago. She has since become a vegan due to the various opinions of her doctors, therapists, nutritionists, acupuncturists and masseuse. She drinks juices all the time, she only eats heavy carbs/ gluten once a day if at all- (ie toast for breakfast? no more bread/noodles/flour the rest of the day). She looks/ feels fabulous. She was in so much pain before; along with many different physical symptoms that have since disappeared.
Elizabeth A. Egan Owner & Operator ABSOLVE Cleaning Service