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VIDEO: West Des Moines' Ecomaids Eschews Toxic Chemicals, Steps Back in Time

Many of the cleaning agents Jeri Kemple’s technicians use are the same ones her Mennonite-born grandmother taught her about years ago.

Jeri Kemple had one of those “shower moments” in 2008 when she was trying to settle on a name for her company. It had to tell potential clients what the business was but, more important, tell them the why of it.

And then it came to Kemple, who describes herself as a passionate environmentalist: Ecomaids.

The company, headquartered at 404 Vine St. in Valley Junction, uses environmentally sound products and offers home cleaning, seasonal cleaning, and move-in/move-out services, among others.

Technicians are picky about such things as cross-contamination, using a color-coded cleaning cloth system so germs are isolated. For example, a cloth used to clean the bathroom is never used — or stored or washed — with a cloth used to wipe down the kitchen.

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The company started out small, out of necessity when Kemple divorced and assumed sole financial responsibility for her two sons. But she always had the idea of building a national franchise, and today there are Ecomaid businesses throughout the country.

Going green may seem New Age, Kemple said, but it’s actually a matter of going back to tried-and-true methods used before an explosion of consumer products in the 1950s, when women were expected to keep their houses clean while wearing pearls.

Kemple said she started Ecomaids in part as a memorial to her grandmother, with whom she spent time during the summers when she was growing up.

“She was raised Mennonite, and her ways of life were natural,” Kemple said. “That’s just the way she ran her home.”

Green Living Links Back to Old-Fashioned Methods

When she had children — her sons, Isaac and Oscar, are now 13 and 8, respectively — her goals to live a more sustainable lifestyle, both personally and professionally, took on more urgency.

Green cleaning is catching on in a big way, Kemple said.

“It just seems to be the common-sense choice now,” Kemple said. “It’s priced competitively, and the products work as efficiently, if not better, and improve air quality. It just seems to be the common-sense choice when you do a side-by-side comparison.”

Adopting a greener lifetyle is easier than people might think, Kemple said. For example, instead of using harsh, abrasive scrubbing agents, try a compound made with baking soda. Or use vinegar diluted in water as an all-purpose cleaner.

Livable Wages Also Part of Company Mantra

Sustainability isn’t just limited to the products the cleaning technicians use. A point of honor with Ecomaids is that the company pays a living wage to the nine part-time employees, Kemple said.

“We work toward providing a living wage, by giving incentives to increase their pay regularly so they can move up quickly,” she said. “We’ve helped a couple get off public assistance.”

In her own life, Kemple haunts thrift shops, brakes for Goodwill stores and shops locally for her food when possible.

“I, as the owner, really enjoy encouraging sustainable lifestyles for technicians, but also for clients,” she said. “Whether I’m working on planning Earth Day in the Junction or on committees in schools, bringing green initiatives in is a big part of the culture of Ecomaids.”

Find more about Ecomaids on the company's Website: www.ecomaids.com/desmoines

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