Going Green: Q&A with Cleaning Coach Leslie Reichert

Leslie Reichert, author of The Joy of Green Cleaning, talks to HouseLogic about homemade green cleaning products and what clean really is.

Leslie Reichert

We’re all for protecting our health and our planet. But do so-called green ingredients really get things clean?

Leslie Reichert, author of The Joy of Green Cleaning, is a green cleaning green cleaning expertwho shows clients how to replace toxic cleaning chemicals with natural solutions.

 We talked recently with Reichert about why she went green, why everyone should, and how to make no-fail green cleaners.

Why did you go green?

Leslie Reichert: I had a house cleaning service years ago and found that the pine cleaner we used was stinging our eyes, and the fiberglass cleaner was hurting our lungs. I know everyone has a shower cleaner that makes their eyes water or makes them cough. That’s your body saying you shouldn’t be using it, that there’s something in the cleaner that’s hurting you.

Why do people resist using green cleaners?

LR: Believing things are clean is psychological. There are tons of men who love the smell of bleach and believe things aren’t clean unless they smell like chlorine. Nothing will clean everything. You want to get the dirt. But we have a bacteria phobia and get so wrapped up in killing them with all these funky chemicals. In reality, soap and water work just as well.

What do you think about steam cleaners and ultraviolet wands that purportedly kill bacteria?

LR: I have a steam cleaner, and it can shoot down into crevices that are hard to reach. The ultraviolet wands need to be placed on the bacteria for a while to work. If you just wave it over a counter, the bacteria just gets a suntan. You can’t ever totally get rid of bacteria: They multiply in minutes, and they’re always in the air.

What would you say to people who are on the fence about going green?

LR: There are really three reasons to go green. Do it for yourself. Do it for your family, because you can make a small difference in their world. And do it for the environment. If I can make people change one spray bottle at a time, that’s all I need to do.

Where’s a good place for people to start?

LR: Mix up a green cleaning scrub that takes the place of a cleanser. It’s one cup each of salt, baking soda, borax, and a little lemon grass to make it smell like a cleanser. It leaves the sink nice and shiny, but there’s nothing really harsh.

Do you have a favorite green cleaner?

LR: My great grandmother’s laundry soap, which I found written into an old Bible that was given to me after she passed away. You mix up 2 cups soap flakes, 1 cup borax, 1 cup washing soda (also known as soda ash), and 1 cup baking soda. I had to order the soap flakes from London. But I mixed it up, tried it out, and thought, “Oh my gosh, it really works.”

But making laundry soap yourself can be pricey. Your grandmother’s soap costs 50 cents per load, while Tide costs 20 cents.

LR: The soap flakes are expensive, although other homemade cleaners are cheaper. But you can make your own flakes with bars of Ivory soap. Let them dry for a while and grate them. But it’s a lot of work.

Is it better to make your own green products, or buy them in a store?

LR: The cleaning industry does not have to reveal the ingredients in a product. They say it’s proprietary. But until you know what’s in a product, it’s best to make it yourself.

Most chemical cleaners will last in their bottles forever. Can you store your green cleaners?

LR: Sure. I store my green scrub in a plastic container and keep it in my bathroom. It will last until it runs out. But I have to store my all-purpose cleaner, which contains hydrogen peroxide, in a dark bottle, because the hydrogen peroxide will break down.

Got any green suggestions for keeping pet stains on rugs from re-emerging?

LR: Replace the pad, because it acts like a sponge, then steam-clean the back of the rug.

What about cleaning grease stains from, say, a Thanksgiving turkey?

LR: Alcohol will cut through grease. Fill a spray bottle with rubbing alcohol and spray it on the grease. Vodka works, too.

Is there a green cleaning happy hour?

LR: A good vodka cleaning around 4:30 in the afternoon is not a bad thing.

For more green cleanup tips, check out this video:

Do you use a green cleanser that works? Share your formula!