At this point, we know toxic products are bad for our bodies — but just how bad? Branch Basics was built to reverse chronic health conditions and *actually* clean your house. Learn more in our Q&A with Co-Founder, Marilee Nelson.
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself and Branch Basics:
Since age four, I’ve had a driving passion for helping people. It deeply disturbed me that people got sick, and I wanted to understand the “why” behind their illness. In fact, I would bring sick, crippled, and blind people to our family home! It probably stemmed from the fact that I’d also been sickly as a baby and grew up having ear infections, asthmatic bronchitis, fevers of unknown origin, and allergies. My mother also had cancer and these reasons all contributed to me becoming a doctor.
Branch Basics was founded after Allison, my niece, and her best friend, Kelly, came to my home because Allison was very sick. For two years, Allison sought help from 14 of the best doctors around the country but was only getting worse. After spending two months with me, eating food without harmful chemicals, and living in a home free of products with toxic ingredients, Allison was virtually symptom-free and pain-free. Kelly, who considered herself healthy, no longer had dry, itchy eyes, menstrual pain, back and shoulder aches — all conditions she thought were just a part of life. Allison and Kelly decided to change their careers, join me, and share the information that transformed their lives. From there, Branch Basics was born and became a vehicle for our mission.
Q: How did your natural wellness journey begin? What inspired you to go on and start a natural cleaning business?
Initially, I had wanted to be a medical doctor. However, after the medical community told me that my extensive endometriosis would prevent me having children and that I also needed to go on dialysis and have a kidney transplant, I could not accept their advice. Searching for answers, one doctor recommended diet changes, and my childhood health issues were resolved and the kidney transplant avoided. This catalyzed me to study food as medicine and I became a medicinal cook. I’d prepare meals for people with serious illnesses and repeatedly saw the rejuvenating power of removing chemicals from the diet and eating real food. Later, my son was catastrophically chemically injured by a pesticide exposure. The doctors said he would never recover and that he would be a “bubble boy” for the rest of his life. He had lost the ability to process and detoxify the chemicals we all encounter daily. Again, I could not accept that prognosis and was determined that he would recover. Removing all toxic products from our home was key to my son’s recovery, and later this process proved transformational for the other people that I was helping with unresolved health issues.
In particular, I found that cleaning products (including laundry products) are one of the most toxic categories of products found in the home. Some people may have over a hundred different cleaning products throughout their homes. Why would that matter? Think about the grocery store aisle where the pesticides and cleaning products are; you can smell the products even though the bottles are not only closed but also sealed. Yet, the toxic compounds are emitted from the bottles into the air. The same thing happens with products throughout the home. A low-level chemical soup is created that undermines the health of the occupants.
When working with clients, no matter their condition, the first step I had them take was to remove all pesticides and cleaning products from the home. This simple action instantly provided a dramatic improvement in air quality and their health issues were improved or even resolved!
But what to do — to replace all those products? We were inspired to provide an answer. Branch Basics’ “products with a purpose” became a vehicle for our mission to share information that detoxing from chemicals can transform your life. Our Concentrate and Oxygen Boost can replace every toxic cleaning and laundry product removed from the home, saving you space, time, energy, and money!
Q: How did you learn about natural cleaning alternatives? Was this your own trial and error process or did you employ a team of researchers and scientists?
I learned that “non-toxic” on a label was not enough when my chemically injured child could not be in the same house with even some of the natural cleaning alternatives.
After that, I started studying ingredients, became a materials specialist, and later worked with chemically injured and chronically ill people. In our Branch Basics formula, we didn’t use any ingredient that irritated the lungs, eyes, or skin or caused reactions in any way in these sensitive people. Our ingredients are based on my work with my son and clients over the years.
Q: Your products are crazy effective. We love that they do as good a job (actually, better) as other toxic products. What ingredients make them so powerful?
Our priority was to create a human-safe product that was just as effective as conventional cleaners. We experimented for a couple of years with formula adjustments until we were not irritating the eyes, skin, or lungs AND were removing stains and cleaning as well as or better than competitive products.
We studied surfactant options and chose a powerful combination of glucosides certified by the European Cosmetic Directive as safe for cosmetics and babies. We decided against using a natural soap as a surfactant because of lung, skin, and eye irritation and soap residue concerns. We chose a unique chamomile that has cleaning properties and is especially soothing and healing to the skin. It is certified not to be a fragrance or an allergen.
We chose sodium phytate as an all-natural chelating agent that has moisturizing skin benefits to team up with the skin-friendly chamomile and ECOCERT glucosides. We worked very hard to avoid using harmful preservatives. Our formula is self-preserving through the use of “hurdle technology.” By controlling several factors, including good manufacturing procedures, pH, and natural ingredient synergies (chelators and antioxidants), we also had proven confirmation through end product preservative testing that our formula does not support microbial growth. Avoiding antibacterial ingredients sets us apart from other “non-toxic” cleaners.
Overall, the synergistic effect of our ingredients packs a safe, powerful cleaning punch!
Q: Reading your reviews, thousands of people have spoken about the way switching to clean ingredients has cleared up many health conditions — especially skin. What are the three main reasons you’d advise people for going non-toxic in terms of household products?
- Exposure to harmful chemicals has been directly linked to immune suppression and the exponential rise in degenerative disease.
- We don’t have any control of our exposures to these chemicals when we go to work, school, and play outside our home. But we can choose what we bring into our homes.
- Our homes should be our safe haven where the body can take a break and rejuvenate. If there are products with harmful ingredients, you never get a break as you are exposed to a low-level chemical soup that you have to detoxify every moment you are in the house. Removal of these products plus replacement with safe ones can change your family’s life. We don’t realize how much these products impact us until we remove them!
Q: A lot of the ingredients are plant-based and organic. How do you source your ingredients?
Our ingredients are plant and mineral-based. We are committed to ingredient transparency and insist on full disclosure from our supply chain. We look at ingredient integrity (non-GMO, organic, no synthetic biology), manufacturing, renewability, and sustainability practices.
Q: Your system uses concentrate and refills and you genuinely encourage people to use their own bottles. We love this model that is not only clean and sustainable in terms of ingredients but also encourages less consumption of plastic. Do you have any idea of the amount of plastic the Branch Basics has avoided entering our ecosystems?
We could only guess at this answer since our powerful concentrate generates a variety of reusable options. We have always had a goal to reduce plastic consumption, and our reusable plastic bottles were our first attempt. For example, one concentrate could save many hundreds of plastic bottles of window cleaners as it only takes one drop of concentrate to make a bottle of window cleaner.
We now offer refillable glass bottles as well as our plastic ones. Our goal for the future is to source non-plastic options for all of our products.
Q: What are some other sustainability hacks you’d suggest to people to minimize their imprint of their home?
I love hacks that focus on human health. When human health is the focus, sustainability is a wonderful by-product.
- Switch to using glass for storing your water and food
- Buy products in bulk and store in glass
- Buy fresh, organic seasonal fruits and vegetables from local farmer’s markets
- Grow your own vegetables in your backyard
- Have a herb and/or sprout garden in your home
- Get a landline and use it instead of a cell phone when at home
- When possible, leave your car at home and walk or ride a bike
Marilee is a Board Certified Nutritionist, Certified Building-Biologist, Building Materials Specialist and is on the advisory board for Documenting Hope. For 30 years, she has worked with the chronically ill, children with disabilities, and the mold and chemically injured. She lives in the Texas Hill Country with her husband. Read Marilee’s Story for more about what they did to heal their son.