Organic Housekeepers, cleaning with a conscience, saving the earth one tub at a time.Tim Szurgot vacuums the Colorado Ski Museum

Captain Vacuum strikes Vail Valley
Organic Housekeepers keep cleaning an all-natural process

By Nicole Frey/Vail Daily — January 12, 2006

VAIL- When he was a kid, Tim Szurgot's mother put a vacuum cleaner in one of his hands and a dollar bill in the other and told him to clean the living room. But the 8-year-old needed a little something extra to make the job more glamorous, and so his mother dubbed him Captain Vacuum.

Captain Vacuum used to make his own cleaning products

Tim Szurgot, founder of Organic Housekeepers, discusses his all-natural cleaning methods.

Vail Daily/Shane Macomber

He's been cleaning ever since, and recently turned his self-proclaimed anal retentiveness into Organic Housekeepers, an all-natural cleaning business.

"It's a perfect fit for him," said Szurgot's fiancée, Cassie Pence, who is an editor at the Vail Daily. "He's the cleanest man I've ever known ­- it's borderline obsessive."

Captain Vacuum tackles the ski museum
Just after 8 a.m., Szurgot burst through the doors of the Colorado Ski Museum in Vail laden with an industrial vacuum and buckets of cleaning supplies, rags, brushes, paper towels and gloves.

He deposited the buckets at the entrance of the museum, and strapped the vacuum to his back, attachments secured around his waist - Captain Vacuum was ready to get dirty.

"Cleaning's fulfilling," Szurgot said. "It's dirty when I start, and it's clean when I end. It's the right thing for me to do."

After half an hour of vacuuming, Szurgot grabbed his buckets and went to work on the kitchen and bathrooms in the museum. But you won't find Szurgot using any Lysol or Mr. Clean as he scrubs, only all-natural, homemade cleansers.

"By doing this, he can feel positive about what he's doing," Pence said.

Life takes elbow grease
Still perfecting the cleansers he's worked on for years, Szurgot one day hopes to sell his potions - white vinegar for glass, lemon juice to cut the dirt, lavender for aromatherapy.

"If your child were to pick one of these up and drink it all, they'd be OK," Szurgot said.

His cleansers are a far cry from what many use in their homes to clean and disinfect, many of which are known carcinogen, he said.

"Bleach and ammonia - that stuff breaks down and enters your body," Szurgot said. "Those bottles say 'Do not inhale,' but you're misting it all over your bathroom."

Szurgot admitted his way takes a bit more elbow grease, "but so does life," he said.

Jump on the green train
His healthier approach to sprucing up homes and businesses has drawn a loyal clientele base, especially those with children or pets.

"The response we've had with a minimum amount of advertising has been overwhelming," said Mike Matthews, who helped Szurgot spawn the idea of a cleaning business. "But really, it was the reaction I was expecting. It seems like a trend with being organic and green."

Justin Henderson, curator and operations manager of the Colorado Ski Museum, said the nonprofit museum decided to jump on the all-natural bandwagon because he "felt it was important to also be a green organization and environmentally conscious."

"We would encourage others to be more green," Henderson said. "That's why we're here in the mountains. It's hard to save the world, but if you take the right steps, you can make a difference. We try to follow that small truth here at the museum."

In addition to cleaning, Szurgot helps clients with recycling and composting.
"He's always been concerned about recycling and the environment," Pence said.

In his home state of Indiana, Szurgot's mother was the first one in the neighborhood to start recycling.

Cleaning sucks up about 40 hours a week for Szurgot - a full-time job - but when he finishes a day of scrubbing, he heads to Manor Vail where he works as a night manager.

"But Tim's motivated enough to keep it all going," Matthews said. "He's trustworthy, and he's willing to work. There's just so much room to grow. Once he's successful in Vail, I think he'll be able to go other places."



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