Sprucin' the 'Cuse

Make-it-yourself cleaning products are cheaper and less hazardous to your health.






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Publication: Syracuse New Times
Author: Bholan, Marissa
Date published: May 18, 2011

You're strolling through the aisles of your nearby supermarket or big box store. You figure it's probably time to give your house a good cleaning. After all, winter is finally over. You head toward the cleaning products. What's this? Method, Ecover, Seventh Generation, Green Works, Simple Green. If you've thought about switching to environmentally friendly cleaning products, they are now all over the shelves at local stores. With such availability, you really have no excuse.

Richard Kampas, president of Green Cleaning Technologies, 222 Teall Ave., sees individuals pick up on the movement each day. "We're finally waking up to the fact that our bodies are really precious, and the safer the environment we have ourselves in, the healthier we're going to be," says Kampas. "If we can control what we're eating by putting safe foods into our bodies and if we can control our environments by using safe cleaning products, we're not going to have to worry about cancer and a lot of the health issues that are plaguing our country so horribly."

Green Cleaning Technologies makes and sells deodorizing, disinfecting and sanitizing products that have minimal long-term effects on the environment. Through hands-on demonstrations and detailed information sheets, Kampas spreads the message: Cleaning products harm more than just the environment; they hurt our bodies and pockets as well, he explains.

Last fall, Kampas attended an indoor air quality conference at Syracuse University. Afterward, he spoke with a janitor. He enjoys talking to maintenance people, since they use these products all of the time, he explains. Out of curiosity, Kampas asked the janitor for a peek inside of his closet. "There were no less than 15 cleaning products, which three of mine could easily replace," he says. "They'd cost less, work better and be safer."

Take a bottle of Formula 409, for example. As soon as the bottle is empty, it goes into the recycling bin and another bottle is purchased. Kampas recommends one set of five spray bottles and three different dilutions for all cleaning. For residential use, 10 parts water and one part concentrate works for counters, floors, walls and furniture; five parts water and one part concentrate works on kitchen grease, carpets and clothes stains. There's also a dilution of one part water and one part concentrate for heavy stains, heavy odors, and to make disinfecting wipes.

"This is part of our sustainability formula," says Kampas. "By selling concentrates, our clients do not pay for the transportation of water and they reuse the high quality sprayers vs. throwing out the store-bought 32-ounce product."

Natur-Tyme, 5898 Bridge St., East Syracuse, shares similar goals. This independent health food store specializes in helping locals maintain a healthy, green lifestyle through its sales of vitamins, supplements, organic foods, and natural personal care and household cleaning products. Samantha Derbyshire, an animal wellness and supplement educator, joined Natur-Tyme 12 years ago. "You have to learn what's good and what's not," says Derbyshire. "Be your own advocate."

She recommends that consumers spend time getting to know each product's ingredients. Natur-Tyme supports self-education with its new section, near the vitamin counter, labeled "Natur- Tyme's Lending Library and Used Book Sales." Brainstormed in January and initiated in February, Natur-Tyme's employees and customers set up a corner of bookshelves filled with primarilydonated books about wellness and nutrition.

The books The Rough Guide to Shopping with a Conscience (DK Publishing, 2007) by Duncan Clark and Richie Unterberger and Living Green: A Practical Guide to Simple Sustainability (Freedom Press, 2006) by Greg Horn stand out. A small circular table and a couple of chairs are available to customers who want to take a quick shopping break. Otherwise, the books can be signed out for up to 30 days or purchased at discounted prices.

"As far as ingredients go, if-and that's a big if-your standard products have an actual ingredients list on it, it may contain things such as toluene, xylene or seemingly mundane things such as bleach and ammonia, all of which are toxic with repeated exposure," says Derbyshire. "Useful alternatives for the bleach and ammonia are peroxide-based bleach and enzyme-based cleaners, respectively. Things like toluene and xylene have no place in any product. They are toxic, period. And there are many 'green' cleaners out there without them that work just fine, and sometimes they even work better than products containing them."

Derbyshire has made her own personal switch to green cleaning products. After first changing her bar soap and toothpaste, she moved on to deodorant, dish soap and laundry detergent. While some of the changes made her uneasy at first, she learned, through trial and error, what made sense and worked best for her, she explains.

Among other products, Derbyshire uses Ecover dish detergent, Mrs. Meyer's laundry detergent, and Biokleen spot and stain remover. "As far as things like dryer sheets go, I used to use an 'all natural' unscented one that I can't seem to find anymore," she says. "Currently, I use Bounce Free, which does not actually say what's in it on the label. I think that will be my next adventure: to find out how to make my own reusable ones from washcloths."

Green cleaning is becoming so common today that there's even a local service in the area that will do it for you. Jennifer Murphy, a Syracuse resident, started her own family-run company, Dream Green Cleaning. Although still in its beginning stages, Dream Green is steadily expanding, says Murphy.

Dream Green works in homes, offices and complexes in or around the Syracuse. The service consists of just a few friends and expert cleaners. "It's much more simple than people think to bring things back to a natural and safe environment in your home," says Murphy. "Most think this means more expense and time, but in fact, it is less."

She and her team suggest cutting out paper towels, napkins, one-time dusters, air fresheners, throwaway mop heads and the dozens of bottles of toxic cleaners-essentially "the disposable everything you can buy in the store for 'convenience,'" she says. "It's not even convenient to take out four bags of garbage, store multiples of disposable products and buy new constantly. It's also not convenient to lock up and keep your kids away from everything that could seriously hurt them so your home feels sanitized."

Everything Dream Green uses is reusable, recycled or reinvented from other all-natural products, she explains. Dream Green cleaners are made from simple, non-toxic ingredients and organic essential oils.

While some of their clients ask them to consider using the "regular products" they always have, they eventually sneak a clean with their own products. "I almost always receive the follow- up email stating how 'wonderful the house looked today' and 'what did we do different?' making them believers also," says Murphy. "No worries, no hazards, no excessive waste. It works very well."

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