Cleanup act

Joanne Furio | February 16, 2012 | Home & Real Estate Lifestyle Style & Beauty Story Style Home Life Shopping Interiors

“People against dirty” is the official slogan of San Francisco’s green-cleaning-products company Method, but it could just as well be “What goes around comes around.” Both Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry, the 10-year-old company’s self-described “brain parents,” are sailors, so they see, literally, the effects that cleaning products and their plastic containers have on our water-ways. Last year, Method introduced recycled bottles made from ones that had washed up on Hawaiian shores, and now it’s sourcing the plastic from the San Francisco Bay, too. And this month it released its first antibacterial toilet cleaner that uses citric acid instead of the more toxic and commonly used chlorine bleach. Here, the duo offer advice on tackling dirty jobs, which chemicals to avoid, and ways to make the dreary task of picking up a rag and cleanser “happy and healthy,” as they like to say at Method’s financial district headquarters.

You have a scientific approach to cleaning. Can you describe it?

Adam Lowry: There are four things needed to clean well: time, action, chemistry, and temperature. You want to do as little as possible, as efficiently as possible, which usually means tackling the biggest part of the job first and saving the small stuff for later. The chemistry is the product, so you have to choose things that really work, and as for temperature, the hotter the better. My mother always said, “Cold doesn’t clean.”

And that’s true?

AL: Yes.

What about natural concoctions using ingredients like white vinegar, borax, and baking soda?

AL: Home remedies can work for some jobs, some of the time. But in 2012, with people’s active lifestyles, most of us don’t have the time or the desire to use them.

Eric Ryan: Use the time you save to prepare a great organic meal.

Which type of flooring is the easiest to clean?

ER: Tile.

AL: I respectfully disagree. I’d say a good hardwood. Tile is easy to clean, but then you’ve got the grout problem.

So how do you deal with that?

AL: I use a paste made from mashing up our Smarty dishwasher tablets and combining them with a bit of water. It’s not exactly the easiest thing to do, but it works like a charm.

Both of you now have children. Did that heighten your awareness of toxic chemicals in products?

AL: I’m an environmental chemist, so I’ve known about these issues for some time—but having kids really did bring it home. er: Yes, especially when I started watching my daughter harvest food off the floor.

What’s a common household ingredient that I should be worried about?

AL: Triclosan. It’s a registered pesticide and a suspected carcinogen. It’s the active ingredient in any antibacterial hand wash you see and in any toothpaste that makes bold claims about fresh breath. It’s even in pacifiers and cutting boards.

What’s happened since Clorox asked you to cease and desist using the daisy image, which it began using on a product intended to compete with yours?

AL: We put a video on our Facebook page about who owns the rights to the daisy—Method’s been using the daisy from the beginning—and asked the public to decide. Of course, they said no one owns the rights. We never heard from Clorox again.

OK, I think I can say with confidence that cleaning the toilet is the most dreaded job in the house.

ER: The toilet is ground zero for a lot of tension in terms of who’s going to do it. But it’s the one place you sit down naked multiple times a day, so you should be motivated to keep toxic chemicals away.

How do you do it?

ER: A Michael Graves toilet brush from Target for the bowl; a microfiber washcloth on the seat.

AL: I also use our flushable and degradable wipes for the rim. er: We use those in between, especially for little boys who don’t have great aim. Of course, now we’re using our new antibacterial toilet bowl cleaner, too.

What about paper towels?

AL: I use them, along with microfiber washcloths, which you can wash and reuse.

ER: I’d be lying if I said we didn’t have paper towels in our house. I use microfiber cloths, too. They’re like the superman of rags. They trap bacteria, hold dirt, and create a great mechanical action, which allows you to use fewer chemicals.

I’m assuming that each of you drives a Leaf or a Prius.

ER: My guilty indulgence is a 2005 Volvo SUV. We went purely for the safe car. Coming from Detroit, too, I had to buy something that, at the time, was made by Ford.

AL: You can take the boy out of Detroit, but you can’t take the Detroit out of the boy.

Adam, what about you?

AL: Something better than a Prius and something worse. Something better is a Jetta diesel that runs off waste vegetable oil. Something worse is a ’67 GTO I’ve been restoring for the last eight years. And it doesn’t run on vegetable oil.

You can take the boy out of Detroit…

AL: Obviously, that is not a commuter car. I ride my bike to work.

Read more: Four eco-friendly favorites.


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