Cleaning up Asheville’s Cleaning Industry

January 6, 2021 | Posted In:

Aerial view of Solar Suds, courtesy of Melissa Gladden

Seventeen years ago, Melissa Gladden started cleaning houses in Asheville. She was good at her job and cared about the environment. Instead of using carcinogenic cleaners, she made her own environmentally-friendly ones. Her clients were impressed with her attention to detail and the care she put into her work. 

After a few years, short-term rentals started booming in the area and Melissa began working with a property management company. She quickly went from servicing a handful of homes to over 100. The bulk of her work was laundry. “I’m gonna say it was easily 10,000 pounds a week. (These were huge homes–up to 18 beds)!”, Melissa explained during a video interview


It was clear to Melissa that dryers were the largest consumers of energy. She learned that purchasing energy-efficient appliances and powering them with solar made economic sense. For her business to make some green, she needed to invest in clean…energy that is. It was time to clean up the cleaning industry.

Melissa’s cleaning service wasn’t yet fully fledged–she was running it out of her garage and desperately needed space. As a woman-run, eco-conscious, and market-proven, Melissa’s business was attractive to a number of local lenders. She turned to Mountain Bizworks and Natural Capital Investment Fund for loans to purchase and solarize a building on Old US Hwy 70 in Swannanoa (above). 

She partnered with Sugar Hollow Solar to install 60 panels on her 1,500 square feet of rooftop. Solar Suds, Western North Carolina’s first solar-powered laundromat, was born. For the initial solar investment, incentives like the 30% Federal Tax Credit, Duke’s Energy-Efficient Rebates, and the MACRS Depreciation saved Melissa $40,000 (out of a total of $53,197). On average, the solar array is saving Melissa $4,100 per year–that’s $123,104 over 30 years

Profile photo of Melissa. Source, The Conservation Fund.

The Blue Horizons Project is proud to work with businesses like Solar Suds and share their stories. Our goal is to make a cleaner and more affordable energy future for Buncombe County. We help businesses save energy by introducing them to sustainable businesses, energy experts, and the right funding opportunities. Right now, we are promoting free energy audits from Waste Reduction Partners, Smart $aver Rebates, Small Business Energy Saver, Solar Rebates, and Energy Design Assistance. Reach out to us if you’d like to learn more!

Every business is going to have its own hurdles and solutions to energy efficiency. It comes down to knowing your business and starting with the basics. Melissa Gladden didn’t just wake up one morning and know she was going to launch Western North Carolina’s first solar-powered laundromat. Her journey started with, “What am I using the most that I can green up?”