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Green housekeeping: Local companies share tips on cleaning without the chemicals

You may not need chemical weapons to win the war on germs.

That’s what owners from two local cleaning companies say about keeping clean and healthy during spring cleaning.

Both The Cleaning Authority and Green Sweep Eco-Friendly Cleaning use products like baking soda and vinegar – that are safe for humans, pets and the environment – along with plenty of elbow grease, to tackle even the toughest jobs.

SCHLEICHER: Tackle clutter a little at a time

SCHLEICHER: Tackle clutter a little at a time

“Read the label,” says John Schleicher, president of The Cleaning Authority on Broadbent Parkway NE. “You really want to avoid products that say ‘harmful or fatal if swallowed.'”

A study by the Environmental Protection Agency, covering six communities in various parts of the United States, found indoor levels of pollution were up to 10 times higher than those outdoors – even in locations with significant outdoor air pollution sources, according to

Cleaning products with volatile organic compounds contribute to poor or harmful indoor air, according to the EPA, along with tobacco smoke and other combustible materials and can make respiratory problems worse.

“You don’t need chlorine bleach or a strong disinfectant to clean your own home,” says Molly Moran, owner of Green Sweep on Mountain Road NW. “Plain water and vinegar is a natural disinfectant. Unfortunately, fear-based marketing is real. We’ve all been scared to think we must kill every germ and prevent every exposure to germs.”

Part of the marketing problem is associating a synthetic scent with clean. “We’re psychologically attached to the smell of clean, but clean doesn’t smell like lemons. Clean is the absence of scent.”

Attempting a germ-free home with chemicals, could “do more damage than good,” Moran says, adding environmentally friendly brands, like Seventh Generation, are widely available. Also, look for the EPA’s Safer Choice label on products that have met the agency’s criteria.

Schleicher and Moran swear by microfiber cloths, available in quantity at Costco and other stores. “Microfiber grabs the dust,” he explains, adding that customers are surprised by how clean his crew can get their homes with microfiber cloths, water, vinegar and baking soda.

He says home cleaning projects need to start with clearing clutter: “If you don’t love it, need it or find it adds value to your life, get rid of it.”

Clutter can be overwhelming, so he says to go slow with one room or closet at a time and then relish the feeling of accomplishment when the task is complete.