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Cleaning up.

Byline: Susan Palmer The Register-Guard

A Eugene woman has invented a mop that is so simple and effective to use that ABC's "Extreme Makeover" has included it in their newly refurbished homes.

It's so versatile, recreational vehicle owners have embraced it as an effective tool for cleaning coach exteriors.

And it's so environmentally friendly that you won't feel guilty about using it.

Mary Findley came up with the design after years of professional cleaning that involved inefficient mop heads, buckets full of dirty water and frustration that all she was really doing was spreading the dirt around.

Findley markets it under the clever company name Mary Moppins - playing off our youthful association with the popular movie character Mary Poppins. She looks the part.

A trim, bright-eyed woman with a quick smile, she's on a mission to make life easier for the rest of us by puncturing the many myths of cleaning that keep us buying products that don't work or in some cases actually damage floors and other surfaces.

Her Web site includes a host of cleaning tips that steer visitors toward good old standbys such as vinegar and baking soda that knowledgeable people have been using for years.

And she's spreading the gospel of simple cleaning with a new book she co-authored, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Cleaning," released in January.

Findley's slowly becoming a national expert on the topic. Her advice has been included in magazines such as Simple Living and Women's World. Last year, The New York Times talked to her about incorporating exercise into housework. Last month, Newsday included a tip from her about reusing aluminum foil as a dishpan scrubber. Web sites such as and include her tips in their forums. And has positively reviewed Findley's mop.

"I loved it," said Theresa Peterson, a professional cleaner in Fremont, Calif., who wrote the review.

"We do green cleaning as part of our services, and the thing I found was that we could guarantee that we would not be transferring other people's germs," Peterson said.

While the mop did take a little getting used to, it proved effective and it cut mopping time by 85 percent, she said.

Findley came up with the design when she noticed how Velcro stuck to bath towels. She had heard that German women used towels for housecleaning and decided there had to be a way to make a better mop.

Before long she came up with her patented design. It involves a closed-cell tube, the kind homeowners use to insulate pipes. She found a way to make the Velcro strips adhere to the foam tube, which she then attached to an extendable handle. With a damp towel wrapped around the tube, she had an effective cleaning tool, and no bucket of dirty water to deal with. When she was through mopping, the towel went into the laundry.

Peterson uses Findley's mop because it's much easier to clean with and she no longer has to keep separate mops in each of her client's homes.

"And I found her mopping system worked better as far as picking up more stuff," Peterson said.

Findley spent a few years selling her new mops at home shows and county fairs before she discovered another niche: recreational vehicle owners.

The mops turn out to be a great way for RV owners to keep their rigs clean because the extendable handle keeps them from having to climb ladders to do the job.

While Findley has experimented with having her mops produced by a professional manufacturer, she wasn't happy with the results. And so she builds them herself in her garage. She sells between 50 to 60 mops a month, more during the RV rally season.

The mops range in price from $26.95 to $49.95, depending on the size and the type of handle.

Her products found their way to "Extreme Makeover" because Housekeepingchannel .com provides a package of cleaning items to the show to help families maintain their new homes. The products aren't actually featured on the air, but providers get bragging rights that they've contributed.

The Web site's president, Allen Rathey, calls Findley a plucky and innovative woman.

"There's a dozen mop companies out there and here's a lady who decides to make a better one in her garage. We admire her tenacity," he said.

While she's a savvy marketer who offers an array of cleaning products in addition to her mops, Findley freely shares the expertise she's gained through years of on-the-job experience and extensive research.

At her Web site, for example, she steers people away from disinfectants and other harsh chemicals that can ruin the sealants on modern floors. While she offers microfiber cleaning cloths for sale, she's quick to point out that they should be used only on glass and mirrors. She's seen paint jobs on motor homes ruined by the microfiber, which is made from plastic and will scratch many surfaces.

Findley writes a newsletter with a subscriber list of about 3,500, and fields between five to 10 cleaning questions a day.

"It's worldwide and that's what's so much fun," she said. "It's going to help somebody that I otherwise couldn't have helped."

Findley is concocting another cleaning notion: that people will pay to learn how to clean their own homes, the same way people pay professionals to help them get organized. Because the range of products in homes has become so complex - marble counters that can easily be marred, laminate floors that can be permanently damaged - she thinks there's another niche to fill.

"I'll just gear the cleaning sessions around their specific needs," she said. "They can pick up my book and read it, but there's a difference between reading and seeing how someone physically does something."

To learn more, visit her Web site at or call her at (800) 345-3934.


Some simple cleaning suggestions from Findley's new book:

Floors: They don't need disinfectants, which often ruin floor sealants. Most hardwood floors and laminated floors can be cleaned with 1/4 cup of white vinegar per quart of water. For marble, tile and granite floors, use only hot water.

Silver polish: Put a sheet of aluminum foil into a plastic or glass bowl. Sprinkle the foil with salt and baking soda and fill the bowl with warm water. Soak the silver in the bowl. The tarnish migrates to the foil.

Stain remover: For carpet, clothing, fabric furniture and fabric lamp shades: Spray foam shaving cream on the surface, let it set 15 to 30 minutes, then rinse with 1/3 cup of white vinegar per quart of water.

Eco-friendly cleaners: Bi-O-Kleen, Bio Ox and other orange cleaners don't have petroleum distillates but do a good job of cleaning bathroom showers and tubs.

Cooking odors: To eliminate smells such as fish, simmer 1/4 cup of vinegar and 2 cups of water for 5 to 10 minutes, while you're doing the dishes.

Speed clean: Only have an hour? Then gather your cleaning products in a caddy. Barely dampen a soft cloth and throw it over one shoulder. Throw a dry cloth over the other. Attach a large garbage bag to your belt. Work through the kitchen, bathroom and living room, wiping down surfaces and drying them. Vacuum. Toss everything that's not where it belongs into a laundry basket and put it in a closet. Close the doors to the bedrooms. Dim the lights.
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Title Annotation:Business; A Eugene woman finds success in marketing the mops that she makes in her garage
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Mar 5, 2006
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