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Organic cleaning

Linda Hagen cleans a stove front with Ecosense Sol-U-Mel stain remover. Hagen runs an organic home cleaning service. Photos by Steve Kuchera / 1 / 5
Linda Hagen carries a bucket of cleaning supplies between rooms in a home she cleaned recently. Photos by Steve Kuchera / 2 / 5
Some of the cleaning products Linda Hagen uses in her organic home cleaning service. Photos by Steve Kuchera / 3 / 5
Citric acid — found in lemons, oranges, limes and other citrus fruit – is the first active ingredient in a disinfectant Linda Hagen uses. Photos by Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com4 / 5
A cleaning brush Linda Hagen uses is made from recycled materials. Photos by Steve Kuchera / 5 / 5

Linda Hagen of Duluth has a simple suggestion for those wanting to be more aware of what they are flushing down the drain or applying in their homes: Use organic products or even make your own cleaners from common household products like vinegar, baking soda and olive oil.

Hagen runs a home cleaning service and uses only organic and chemical-free products.

“It’s a sellable idea,” she said. “More people are aware.”

She said there are still generational divides when it comes to weaning off chemicals. She recalled her own 101-year-old relative who, after taking in a demonstration from Hagen, still insisted on using a $2 scouring bubble spray.

Cost is often a factor, Hagen said, although with more people using safer products, those costs are going down.

She orders her cleaners online, but most grocery stores in the Northland now have a section featuring green products. The most options can be found at Whole Foods Co-op in Duluth.

“It’s slowly coming here,” Hagen said. She began cleaning homes six years ago as a side job. After being laid off, she relies on cleaning jobs exclusively.

Hagen brings her own cleaners but often people have them at home already. She charges $25 an hour with a three-hour minimum. She’s flexible on how often people want their home cleaned.

There is nothing like the smell of a clean room when it comes from natural cleaners, she said.

“People walk in and say it smells so good,” she said. “And it’s not Pine Sol.”

Hagen has taken seminars at the University of Minnesota Duluth and elsewhere on how to keep a home chemical-free.

“From mouthwash to dryer sheets,” she said. “It’s becoming more accepted.”

Use of green materials is a key component of UMD’s sustainability push, which includes a dormitory dedicated to the cause.

Hagen’s cleaning service remains a rarity in the Northland while the Twin Cities area has seen a big rise in green cleaners, including large established companies that have changed their philosophies.

Hagen gets by largely on “word of mouth” and has seen her business grow among older people who can no longer take care of their homes. Aside from the green products, she said people enjoy her personal touch as a one-woman company.

“I come in myself,” she said.

Linda Hagen can be reached at (218) 590-5722 or at

Some home solutions

Products free of toxic chemicals are likely sitting in your home right now. They can be used for a variety of uses and include baking soda, Bon Ami cleanser, borax, cornstarch, lemon juice, liquid dish soap, vegetable or olive oil, salt, washing soda and white vinegar. Some sample recipes:

All-purpose cleaner

¼ cup white vinegar

2 teaspoon borax

3½ cups hot water

20 drops of lemon or lavender essential oil

¼ cup liquid dish soap

Mix the ingredients in a 32-ounce spray bottle, adding the soap last.

Furniture polish

½ teaspoon olive oil

¼ cup vinegar or lemon juice

Mix into a glass jar and dab soft rag into solution and wipe on wood surface.

Source: Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance Clearinghouse and the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District. For more recipes, go to


Triclosan ban in Minnesota

Minnesota’s historic ban on triclosan, passed in the Legislature this past spring, will go into effect in 2017. It bans the sale of products in the state containing the antibacterial chemical found in soaps, toothpaste and cleaning products. According to the state Department of Health, triclosan has been detected in Minnesota waters, meaning it gets through wastewater treatment.

Drinking water with the chemical could be a health risk for humans and animals.

“Triclosan in surface water can harm aquatic life and can break down into potentially harmful chemicals,” the Department of Health warns in its study on the chemical. “Widespread use of triclosan could result in bacteria that are resistant to antimicrobials. Reducing use of products that contain triclosan will reduce your personal exposure and reduce the amount of triclosan that enters lakes and rivers.”