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Cleaning service creates environment-friendly recipe

A new home-based company in the St. Croix Valley is taking a fresh approach to cleaning.

Sprig LLC offers residential and commercial cleaning services with an environmentally-friendly twist.

Owners Barbara Crist-Nepp of Stillwater and Monica Wyngate Crist of New Richmond use nothing but non-toxic products as they clean.

Some of the cleaning solutions they use are purchased from store shelves, but many are home-made recipes that promise to eliminate dirt yet not harm the environment.

Barbara hatched the idea for non-toxic cleaning more than 20 years ago, after her three children came home from school with information about helping the environment.

Using rechargeable batteries and placing rocks in toilet tanks to reduce water usage were some of her early attempts to make a difference.

Then her family went to an exhibit at the Science Museum, which outlined the impact individuals have on the environment.

"It scared me half to death," she said. She continued to research the subject and tried to incorporate what she learned into her every day life.

Eventually, Barbara began using non-toxic cleaners and other "green" products in her home.

"I was always looked at as kind of odd in the neighborhood, with my vinegar and baking soda," she said with a laugh.

Her sister-in-law, Monica, admits she didn't understand the apparent obsession with non-toxic products until she had kids of her own.

"Non-toxic products are important when kids are around," Monica said. "Especially in the toddler stage, when everything is in the mouth."

That's when the pair began putting their heads together, and talking about starting a cleaning service in the region.

While environmentally-friendly cleaning services exist elsewhere in the country, no such business was located in the St. Croix Valley. Their initial discussion with potential clients proved that there is a demand for the service.

Regular cleaning service businesses are a growing industry as it is. Sprig hopes to fill the niche of those wanting help with cleaning, yet are also conscious of environmental concerns.

"I was shocked at how many people are using cleaning services these days," Monica said. "But people are trying to balance work and family life, and they don't want to spend their free time cleaning their house."

Once the in-laws decided to move forward, Monica and Barbara started researching the topic even more and began looking for the products they'd use.

"We had to test everything and try them out," Monica said. "We needed to decide if we liked the scent and if the products were effective."

Monica said using non-toxic products defeats the purpose if they don't actually clean the house.

"We still want to leave a clean house in the end," she said.

The partners tend to shy away from anti-bacterial products and disinfectants. They do offer a low-level disinfectant service for bathrooms and kitchens, but they don't push the idea.

Experts are concerned by the excessive use of anti-bacterial products, noting that bacteria can mutate to protect itself and thus pose a greater danger to humans.

"A good scrubbing and soap goes a long way," Monica said. "I do think disinfectants are over used."

Since officially organizing their business in May, Sprig now has 15 regular customers signed up.

While the company consists of just two employees today -- Monica and Barbara -- the pair has plans to expand if demand continues to grow. They'd like to hire additional staff and fan out across the entire Twin Cities region.

They'd also like to eventually market a product line of non-toxic and bio-degradable cleaning solutions for sale at retail outlets.

"That's our goal right now," Barbara said.

Not that financial success is the only reason why the company was formed. Barbara and Monica hope to eventually offer non-toxic cleaner recipes and other information free on their website.

"Hopefully people will give our service a shot," Monica said. "But one of our big things is education. We want people to learn about this."

The St. Croix Valley has more than its fair share of environmentally-conscious residents already, but Barbara said everyone still needs a reminder about how fragile our planet can be.

"You're struck by how beautiful it is to drive through this area," Barbara said. "But we can be lulled into thinking 'how bad could it be?'"

Mercury contamination of fish in area lakes proves that consumer products used locally can have a negative impact. Everyone has a role to play in cleaning up the earth, she said.

"You can't change the whole world," Barbara said. "But little efforts like these can make a difference."

Monica mentioned that getting rid of furniture polish and bleach alone can have a big impact on the local environment.

Sprig offers one-time cleaning options for those who need a thorough cleaning prior to a party or family gathering. They will also come to a home or small to medium-sized business on a regular schedule, whether it's weekly, bi-weekly or monthly.

What also sets the company apart from other services in the area is they leave organic chocolates after completing the service and offer clients the option of having their linens sprayed with lavender mist.

Sprig also offers a one-time special for new moms. While the mom is in the hospital giving birth, the cleaning service goes into the home and gives it a huge once-over. Then they return weekly for a total of six weeks.

"Moms love that," Monica reported.

The special also includes a gift of natural baby products.

The Sprig service is available Monday through Friday by appointment. Call 651-342-0809 or email for more information.

The company's website is being developed at