When David D’Agostino and his wife, Daphne Gil, moved to Southampton full-time four years ago to raise a family, they wanted to be a part of the green movement, but they weren’t sure how best to get involved.
Mr. D’Agostino had worked in independent film distribution in New York, but he began teaching English as a Second Language classes as soon as he moved to Southampton. Many of the women in his class were house cleaners, and it was through solving their troubles that Mr. D’Agostino developed a business plan.
“The conversation came around to how awful their jobs were, in part, because of the materials they needed to use,” he said, adding that many common household chemicals can cause lung disease, asthma and other ailments in people who are constantly exposed to them.
Last year, Mr. D’Agostino and his family began a science experiment in organic cleaning materials. They used lemon, vinegar, essential oils, Castile soaps, borax, cornstarch and baking soda to create their own products, including a black tea-based wood cleaner.
He then hired two women from the class to use the products to clean his friends’ houses and see if the products would meet the expectations of paying customers.
One of his employees, who has been cleaning houses on the East End for 18 years, develops a chemical eczema on her skin every time she uses cleaning products.
“A lot of clients insist that she use bleach every time she cleans a shower,” he said. “That was one of her biggest complaints. But our cleaning products have no effect on her whatsoever.”
Now, Green Clean Hamptons, the first cleaning company of its kind here, is beginning its first full season of elbow-grease inspired cleaning.
“It is harder to clean a house using these materials,” said Mr. D’Agostino, adding that his staff of three has spent the past several months experimenting with the best ways to get in and out of a house in the same amount of time it would take using commercial chemicals. When they’re finished cleaning a house, Green Clean cleaners wipe down all the surfaces with a pleasant-smelling mix of peppermint Castile soap and eucalyptus oil, which is a natural disinfectant.
The green nature of the business extends to the reusable spray bottles and microfiber cloths used by cleaners, as well as the packaging materials.
“If you’re truly green, you need to look into the packaging, delivery and consumption of resources in the development of the products,” says Mr. D’Agostino, who buys all of his products locally and in bulk when possible.
Green Clean does use a commercial organic all-purpose cleaner and another commercial organic granite and stone cleaner.
Since Green Clean Hamptons uses its own cleaning products, its customers also luck out by not having to purchase materials to use in their homes. Green Clean Hamptons also offers its products to clients at cost. Mr. D’Agostino plans to add services like disposing of used batteries and printer cartridges for clients.
“We’re using this as a stepping-stone to convince people to go beyond that,” he said, adding that few people can take such big steps as installing solar panels or buying a hybrid car, but might be inclined to when they realize it’s not so hard to go green. “These are things that people can do easily, but people don’t do them.”
Mr. D’Agostino said that Green Clean Hamptons’ prices are comparable and sometimes lower than other local cleaners, though he tends to price out jobs on a house-by-house basis. His website, greencleanhamptons.com, lists prices at $30 per hour per cleaner, with the assumption that two cleaners will, on average, take at least two hours to clean a house. Discounts are offered for weekly customers.
Green Clean is currently cleaning five houses, but can expand to as many as 40 houses this summer.
“The business is obviously for profit, but that didn’t start as our motivation,” he said. “We wanted to be as green as possible.”
Part of the motivation was also to keep his 10-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter safe. Mr. D’Agostino uses Green Clean products to clean his own house, a spotless abode in Southampton where the air is faintly tinged with the smell of peppermint soap and cleaning buckets wait in the corner of the living room to be used in the service of Green Clean Hamptons.
“Commercial cleaners are really a big deal. Children have been poisoned by bleach,” he said. “I can give my children my cleaning products and say ‘go clean your sink.’ It’s become really a family affair.”