Tim Barklage and Kevin Tibbs

Just as important as building new homes with green materials is maintaining them with such products, but until recently, there weren’t a lot of eco-friendly options. Two St. Louis natives, Tim Barklage and Kevin Tibbs, are poised to change that with their new line of products, Better Life, which came out last month.

“Traditional household cleaners have a bunch of different things in them, including volatile organic compounds such as alcohols, ammonias and solvents, which are irritants to the respiratory system and skin,” explains Barklage. “One of the things that creates a perfect storm is when we increase our homes’ energy efficiency, making them more airtight, and then all of those toxic compounds stay in the home. Cleaners actually settle on the furniture, floors and countertops and don’t leave the house readily, leading to a less healthy environment.”

Barklage and Tibbs, who works as a formulation chemist, both became dads around the same time two years ago, which prompted their business venture. Tibbs wanted a safe environment for his child who had started crawling, and Barklage had grown up in an eco-friendly home and was frustrated by the performance of natural products. “Kevin knew there was a way to create safer products that could clean the home. I said, go for it. We had one of those ‘a-ha’ moments,” Barklage recalls. “We created a little lab and reached some suppliers.”

Tibbs made prototypes based on vegetable and sugar technologies…and they worked. “It led us to creating the company, and it led to our mantra: people, planet and performance. You really don’t have to use any of those nasty chemicals,” Barklage says. Skeptics, take note: Within a week of the product launch at Whole Foods in late June, more than a dozen people e-mailed the duo telling them how well Better Life works!

“In our all-purpose cleaner, our surfactant is designed to break down several different types of soils, whether water-based or food- or grease-based. That’s the workhorse behind the products,” says Barklage. “Our glass cleaner was designed specifically to break down dirt and fingerprints but to leave the glass or the mirror completely streak- and film-free.”

Of course, both Barklage and Tibbs use the cleansers in their own homes. “It’s a liberating feeling, being able to clean your home and not having to worry about what the products are doing to your health, your children’s health or the environment,” Barklage says, adding that Better Life products are safe to go into the waterways. “They all biodegrade in about a week’s time with a shelf life of a year and a half.”

With the success they have seen so far, and a deal in the works to go regional or national with their product at Whole Foods, Better Life is already in the process of expanding its line. “We hope to have four or five new products out by the end of the summer. We’re in development as we speak,” Barklage says excitedly. “We hope to have granite, stainless-steel and wood floor cleaners, and possibly a hand soap or bathroom cleaner as well. We’re testing the initial prototypes of those right now.”

Readers can learn more about Better Life and its founders at www.cleanhappens.com. “We’ve just been really, really happy with the response so far,” Barklage reports. “People are starting to see that natural can work, you can put a safe product in your house and you don’t have to make compromises.”