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Ms. Green Clean

Cycling maid fills niche with all-natural cleaning business.

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To say Jen Jackson treads lightly when it comes to minimizing her carbon footprint would be a groan-inducing, but entirely applicable, pun.

Jackson, who owns what may well be Richmond's first ultragreen cleaning business, leaves hardly a footprint, and — weather cooperating — her tread is only as wide as that of a few 10-speed bike tires.

“The idea of doing this by bike was really exciting for me,” says Jackson, who got her start in the otherwise unglamorous world of professional house cleaning after ditching a federal job studying owls in Oregon. She returned to her native Richmond in search of a way to stay true to her beliefs.

The course she's since charted for herself is nothing if not bikeable. Jackson started River City Cleaning about a year ago after her friend and mentor, Kara West of Kara's Green Home, moved her business to Charlottesville.

“Kara taught me how to make cleaning supplies and she pretty much taught me everything I know,” Jackson says. “But she did it by car. I kind of picked up where she left off — by bike.”

As much as the job is a lifestyle choice for Jackson, often it's also a lifestyle choice for customers.

Todd Mungo says his wife, Amee, sought Jackson to clean their Museum District home because “it fits in with our lifestyle choice. We have a young child and to go all-natural, that was good.”

By all-natural, Mungo refers to the cleaning products Jackson mixes from such common — and natural — items as baking soda, borax, vegetable-based soaps and vinegar.

“They work really well, and they smell good too,” says Jackson, aware that customers like the Mungos are attracted to her avoidance of often-toxic commercial cleaners.

That said, Jackson knows she can't overlook the aesthetic. She adds oils such as rosemary or tea tree oil to her cleaners as scent. “I usually stick with tea tree. … It's a good bathroom scent.”

En route between jobs, Jackson is difficult to miss huffing on her Huffy, towing a homemade two-wheel trailer full of homemade cleaning supplies, a vacuum and mops strapped to the sides.

“I think it kind of freaks people,” she says of her bike rig. “[Drivers] generally will stop and look a little bit — which is good for bike safety.”

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