Cleaner and Greener
Story by Brian P.J. Cronin
Photo Courtesy of Ann Lagoy
Fourteen years ago, Ann LaGoy of Fishkill was cleaning a shower. Nothing unusual about that, especially for LaGoy, who owned a thriving cleaning-services business with over 60 regular clients. What was unusual about this time was that she accidentally poisoned herself.
“I had sprinkled some Comet with bleach around the shower, but I didn’t know that someone had recently used some sort of ammonia product on the shower before I got there,” she said. The bleach reacted with the ammonia, forming chlorine gas. Coughing violently and with her eyes and throat burning, LaGoy had to evacuate herself, her employees and her client’s pets out of the house, all the while wondering if there was a way to keep a house clean that didn’t involve creating clouds of poisonous gas.
There was. LaGoy’s sister gave her a book of recipes for natural cleaning solutions that could be made out of vinegar, baking soda, essential oils and other household items. “Reading that book and doing my research was a real eye opener, to learn how toxic all these readily available cleaning products are,” she said. “We’re paying companies to poison us.”
LaGoy began experimenting with the recipes in the book, but they weren’t created with a professional cleaner in mind. Many of the homemade formulas were for small quantities that quickly lost their potency. “The idea was, you get up Saturday morning, you mix it, you use it Saturday afternoon, and that’s it,” she said. She needed something that was industrial strength without being industrial.
So she began tweaking the recipes herself. As the owner of a cleaning business, she got to test her products at work every day. “Everything was hands-on and developed in the field,” she said. “We’d come across a spaghetti-sauce stain on a carpet and think ‘OK, how are we going to address this?’” Creating new products like this on the fly and in a never-ending test field also related to another one of LaGoy’s passions: animal rights. “So many cleaning products are tested on animals,” she said. “We didn’t test on animals. We tested on stains and soap scum.”
After two years of perfecting the products, LaGoy began to sell them herself under the name Sound Earth products. It was supposed to be a side business, but the volume of orders quickly became overwhelming. Realizing that there was clearly an untapped market for this, she passed on her cleaning business to two of her employees and began working on Sound Earth full time. She’s continued to further develop the line, adding bug repellants, laundry products, roll-on perfumes and products specifically for pets and babies. “Pets and children absorb toxins at such a faster rate than adults because they’re smaller,” she said. “I’ve had so many customers tell me about mysterious rashes their pets have, and then they start using these products instead and the rashes go away. It was the cleaning products they were using around the house that was causing them.”
After 12 years of making the Hudson Valley less toxic one house at a time, LaGoy can feel the effects of her work every time she goes to the supermarket. “When I walk down the aisle with all the cleaning products, I have such a strong reaction to it,” she said. “Because I’m walking by all the toxins that I’m no longer exposing myself to.”
For more information, or to order products, visit www.soundearth.com.