A few years ago, Helen Kinyon campaigned for the honorary position of "guv'na" of Lutz sporting a French maid outfit and promising supporters a free house-cleaning if elected.
"Of course, like a real politician, I totally reneged," says Kinyon, laughing as she recalled the event that raised over $8,400 for charity.
Kinyon, who carried the famous faux election in 2001, knows far more about how to make a home sparkle than about politics. What started as a humble house-cleaning business two decades ago taught her a lesson in Economics 101.
"The people who sold the industrial cleaning supplies made more money than the people who cleaned," she says.
What's more, those industrial cleaning solutions, often in concentrate form and sold cheaply by the gallon, worked a lot better than stuff she could buy at the grocery store. So she sold the business and went about cleaning up another way.
Now, Kinyon's company, Affiliated Cleaning Supply Superstore on Nebraska Avenue in Lutz, manufactures and sells products mostly to a commercial clientele that includes hospitals, schools and the Florida Department of Transportation, which buys her orange oil to remove some serious tar from their equipment.
Kinyon, now 51, has two grown children and runs Affiliated with her husband Bob, a former metallurgist for Lear jets.
She opens her showroom to the public, attracting a loyal following of customers who have never seen the inside of a janitor's closet and probably never will. They come for her microfiber mops (perfect for Pergo or tile), odor-eating enzyme potions (for households with pets) and what she calls her "ambidextrous" duster gloves that fit lefties perfectly, too.
Many of her customers want their houses to smell clean, too, Kinyon says. Floridians in this area tend to keep their houses closed up thanks to our marathon spells of too-hot and too-cold weather. Her biggest seller among the walk-in crowd is a little machine that mists mandarin, mango or spice air freshener into a room every 15 seconds. Next comes the "Cool N'Dry" towel, a favorite among people who work long spells in their gardens because the soft piece of fabric cools down 25 degrees when wet and shaken three times.
"People like to wear them over their heads or around their necks," she says. Kinyon also sells ostrich feather dusters, big puffs of lambs' wool, and a lot of solutions targeted at coffee, tea or red Kool-Aid stains (who knew?). She has liquid soap that transforms into room freshener with the press of a pump, tiny tile-grout brushes for the cleanliness obsessed, and solutions to polish marble, stone, glass range tops - even your car.
For the record, Kinyon isn't obsessed. In her spare time she's a serious amateur genealogist who travels passionately in pursuit of her hobby. Most recently she was wandering around cemeteries in Jamestown, Va., feeling the letters on weatherworn headstones with her hands, looking for clues.
Still, cleaning looms large in her world most of the time.
And most people don't do it right, Kinyon contends.
Remember, she advises, clean everything - including mirrors and windows - in a figure eight pattern and you won't miss a spot. You can even mop floors in high heels, she says, if you follow her figure eight plan. No matter how tempting it is to grab a can of powder cleanser from under the sink, don't. Always use the right products on your floors, counters, sinks and other surfaces.
"Comet is nothing but sand," she warns. "If you don't take care of your marble or granite you will ruin it."
Of course, to have a clean house, you actually have to clean - often, and with a plan.
"My biggest piece of advice is to do something every day, keep a routine, like wiping out the sinks, counter tops or tub," says Kinyon, who admits her house is always "moderately clean" thanks to her mother, who helps her out.
"Then break it down by the week and month, always keeping a small schedule of chores. That way, you'll always have a clean house."