Darlene Rose uses natural oils (and a little elbow grease) to clean a client's kitchen sink.
Tools of the trade: Darlene Rose uses essential oils, baking soda, water and hydrogen peroxide for her service of natural cleaning.
A few drops of pure lemon oil on a paper towel will remove soap scum and other household dirt.
A paste of beeswax, almond oil and geranium oil keeps Darlene Rose's hands supple without using gloves when she cleans.
A natural plant loofah cuts through grime.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Darlene Rose is as natural as the oils she uses in her home, on her body and, sometimes, even in her food. Essentially, health issues led to a new career, a new outlook and a new, vigorous life for Rose.Several years ago, she was dealing with many problems that were tied to high levels of mercury in her system, rooted in the fillings in her teeth. After the toxic fillings were removed, she started to feel better and started changing her world into a healthy place to live.With intolerance for multiple chemicals, stemming from working in the construction cleaning business, she discovered essential oils and more natural ways to clean. That's when Smelling Like a Rose cleaning service was born.Rose takes online classes from the American College of Health Care Sciences, a holistic health education program, but she has studied natural products for more than 15 years. Through those studies, she's learned many of the properties of the essential oils that are, well, essential to her cleaning methods."I learned the oils that I was using in aromatherapy had other properties," she said, all the while mixing drops of pungent oils into a spray bottle filled with water. "Tea tree oil is an antifungal, good to get rid of mold. Peppermint oil is antibacterial." The South Florida native added that a few drops of cedar oil mixed with water make a great flea repellant for cleaning the dog's beds.Many of the natural cleaning products on the market today are expensive for the average consumer, Rose said. She saves by mixing her own with just simple grocery-store products and essential oils that she purchases at Healthy Life Market in Charleston or from online sources."This all-purpose cleaner is made from water, vegetable glycerin and a few drops of lemon oil. The glycerin gives it a sudsy feel. I grabbed a stick of rosemary from my plant on my way out the door today and threw it in the bottle too. It smells great. For glass, I use white vinegar and water," she said.She pulls out a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and said she combines it with baking soda to create a product that cleans pots and pans as well as other tough stains."Instead of Comet or other powdered cleaners, I use a 47-cent box of baking soda I bought at Aldi," Rose added.She's as frugal as she is natural. A little water and baking soda combine to make a Soft Scrub-type of cleaner for tubs and sinks. Sometimes she'll just cut a lemon in half and use it to power off soap scum. Instead of a plastic-based scrubber, she uses plant loofah, cotton balls and swabs.
"Sometimes it takes a bit more physical work, but it's worth it," Rose added."Lemon or peppermint oil on a cotton ball will make your chrome shine -- faucets, stove handles and knobs. The essential oils are volatile, so they evaporate quickly. It looks a bit oily but it's not to the touch."For carpet cleaning, Rose mixes baking soda with a few drops of essential oil and sprinkles it on the carpet. About 10 minutes later, she vacuums the rug and it's clean and smells fresh. For pet stains, lemon oil and white vinegar lifts most stains, but she also uses the tried-and-true club soda for some spots.She lets her clients dictate what scents they want her to use."The scents go up into the hippocampus, where you retrieve memories. One client had to have eucalyptus! That's part of a 'deep woods' scent that combines eucalyptus, rosemary, pine. I can do a warm earth scent, using clove and ginger. Florals are popular, and I use geranium, jasmine and a bit of lavender. And, of course, there are so many who ask for citrus."
She created a fragrant potion for a friend, calling it "Cindi with an i" that has almond oil plus essential oils of lemon, orange, bergamot, clove and myrrh. She can tailor products to suit clients' personal tastes.While her business has "rose" in its name, she acknowledges that rose oil is very expensive, so she often uses the cheaper and similarly scented geranium oil in its place.Rose is quick to point out that while she's not a trained chemist, she believes it's a misnomer to say something is nonchemical."Everything is chemical -- but the products I use are free of synthetic chemicals. They are in their natural state," she said. Rose looked at the ingredients in a popular orange degreaser that's on the grocery store shelves, and she saw delimonine listed."Essential orange oil has delimonine and a few drops of the oil mixed with water make a great degreaser, without all of the other 'stuff' that's in the commercial product," Rose said.Eventually, she would love to spread the word about natural cleaning by turning her one-woman cleaning show into an agency. In the meantime, she can be hired to consult with homeowners about using the natural methods.
Rose has a couple of don'ts she emphasizes when using essential oils:"Never use lemongrass. It will pit metal and eat plastic. I'll add a bit to the filter in my vacuum cleaner, for scent, but I only use lemon oil."Never, ever, use essential oils directly on cats. I make a 'dog perfume' with oils and water that I can spray on my dogs, but that can be very toxic to cats. They can be in the house with the oils, but not in direct contact with them."Rose is married with two children and two grandchildren. She was working for the March of Dimes and was thinking of using her green skills for a business when she woke up one morning and heard the words "smelling like a rose." With a name in place, she had no problems finding clients.For someone who cleans all day, Rose has hands that look much younger than her 50 years. She doesn't like gloves, so she's concocted a pastelike mixture of beeswax, almond oil and geranium oil that she keeps in a little jar. Rubbing it into her hands, it protects her skin while she scrubs."You can put this on your feet, and it's wonderful. If you have a cold, mix beeswax, peppermint or eucalyptus and almond oil and put it on your feet with a pair of socks. It will make you feel better!"Rose charges $85 for an hour of consultation, which includes demonstrations in the kitchen, bath and living room. She will include two essential-oil fragrances (lemon and eucalyptus -- they are foundational), 16 ounces of white vinegar, baking soda, 16 ounces of glycerin, two spray bottles, cotton balls, two ounces of pure almond oil, and natural loofah sponges when available. There would be an extra charge for additional oil fragrances if requested.Rose will give a workshop, sort of an "essential oils 101," at Valley Christian Church, on Bigley Avenue, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 28. She's asking for a $5 donation to help defray the cost of supplies and snacks. Reservations are required: call 304-382-3947. Rose has a Facebook page, Smelling Like a Rose, with information about future workshops."I'll be talking about biblical oils -- what they represent and which ones are for healing. For example, eucalyptus aids in respiration. I use myrrh in cleaning, but it's very expensive so I don't carry it with me to all of my jobs. But I do have frankincense," she added, uncapping the bottle for visitors to sniff the evergreen scent.Reach Sara Busse at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1249.