When you visit Lüfka Refillables Zero Waste Store on S.R. 56 in Wesley Chapel, you’ll meet co-owner Gail Sickler, herbalist Megan Davis and co-owner Danielle Howard. (Photos by Charmaine George)

Lüfka Refillables Zero Waste Store, a new store specializing in natural, chemical-free, refillable, zero-waste products, is more than just a business for owner Danielle Howard.

It’s a way of life.

After growing up with a number of maladies, Danielle says she set out on a journey to find a way to live cleanly. That led to her owning two Salt Room businesses — one in Wesley Chapel and the other at the Sarah Vande Berg Tennis & Wellness Center in Zephyrhills — and now Lüfka Refillables Zero Waste Store, which is located on S.R. 56 in Wesley Chapel, a few doors down from Capital Tacos.

While Danielle says The Salt Room Wesley Chapel and the Salt Room at SVB specialize in halotherapy, which involves breathing salty air in order to help respiratory conditions like asthma, bronchitis and allergies, Lüfka Refillables Zero Waste Store takes a more expansive approach to the benefits and solutions of keeping one’s body and home environment clean.

“I can help them from the inside out,” Danielle says. “Lüfka helps their cleaning, and their laundry, and all the stuff they put on their bodies. This is for people who want to make a difference and are also conscious of what those chemicals are doing.”

Whether it’s better choices for toothpaste, hand-crafted soaps, deodorant or laundry detergent, skin and after-shave lotions and even cleaning sprays, she says, Lüfka offers the healthiest options made with the best ingredients. 

And, while they can help make you healthier, they help the environment as well. Most Lüfka products come in glass containers, and you are encouraged to bring them back to have them refilled. Customers also are encouraged to bring containers of their own.

It’s no accident that when you first walk in the store, a table of both air and body sprays is one of the first things you see. Room deodorants are one of the biggest offenders when it comes to containing hazardous toxins, so Danielle and her co-owner and mom Gail Sickler are quick to point out safer alternatives that aren’t afraid to show exactly what they are made of to customers.

The five glass jugs of spray deodorants — Autumn Wood, Vanilla Bean Spice, Cranberry Orange Spice, Pumpkin Apple Butter, and Lavender & Tonka — all have labels listing all of their ingredients.

“This is the perfect example of our products,” Gail says. “You can use them to spray the room you are in, spray bedding if you are having guests over or, if you like it, you can use it as your body spray for the day. Just spray and walk through and it can land on your skin and doesn’t hurt anything because there’s nothing in there to hurt you.”

While perhaps more expensive than what you would get at a major store, Danielle says the products are worth every penny.

“If you do some research on a good, organic, clean, multi-functional spray, you’re looking at anywhere from $20-$40, and people will pay that,” she says. But, if you’re looking primarily for the cheapest stuff — say Glade Spray Air Fresheners that might be BOGO at Publix — Danielle says, “Well, we can’t help you. We can just let you know that this is something completely different.”

How It All Got Started

Lüfka Wesley Chapel is only the third Lüfka Refillables Zero Waste store in the Tampa Bay area. 

The concept was originally hatched by Kelly and Parosh Hawaii, who opened the original Lüfka in Seminole Heights in 2019, and a second store in South Tampa in November 2020.

Danielle was turned on to the store by a friend, and immediately fell in love with it. She recommended it to all of her clients at her Salt Rooms. The clients raved about the products, and in turn raved about Danielle, who was helping them at the Salt Rooms, to Kelly and Parosh. 

While they had thought of franchising before deciding against it, Kelly and Parosh liked Danielle enough — practically vetting her via all the clients she sent to their store — to suggest she open her own Lüfka store.

“Parosh told me he had been watching me, and saw that I was changing lives, and said he wanted me to open a place in Wesley Chapel,” says Danielle, who just happened to be thinking about opening another retail business at the time. “I started looking for places the second I left there.”

Danielle asked her mother if she wanted to be her partner and, in September, Lüfka Wesley Chapel held its North Tampa Bay Chamber ribbon cutting.

“We love it and it goes with everything we do,” Danielle says. “I really felt like Wesley Chapel needed this.”

What’s In A Name?

So, what is a Lüfka? A wash cloth, which is handmade in the Kurdistan region of Iraq and has been around for thousands of years. Parosh is passionate about sharing ancient handmade Kurdish products with the world, hence the name of the store.

The women who weave the Lüfkas from Babylonian willow bark fibers receive all the proceeds from their sales at Lüfka Refillables Zero Waste Store. 

A Lüfka looks like a kitchen mitten, but serves as a wash cloth and can be opened so you can wash your back. Not only does it clean, but it also exfoliates the skin. Danielle says her skin is “as soft as a baby’s butt” when she’s done with hers, and Gail says the same.

Danielle takes the education part of her job seriously. While the average person is likely to think all natural products are more expensive and less effective, Lüfka has hundreds of products that work just as well as their chemical-filled counterparts and are priced competitively, according to Danielle. 

You aren’t just choosing with your wallet, however. The laundry detergents at Lüfka, for example, have just a handful of chemical-free ingredients, compared to the 200 or so ingredients, mostly chemicals, in regular detergents.

The same goes for Lüfka’s regular soaps and shampoos, toothpaste, body and facial lotions and deodorant.

“There are so many chemicals that you put on your body for the whole day, and your skin absorbs all of it,” Danielle says. “Everything in here is better for you than what you are probably using, and it’s better for the environment, too.”

For people with autoimmune diseases and sensitive skin and/or sense of smell, the distinction between Lüfka products and those that aren’t chemical- and toxin-free is significant.

While deodorant is the store’s best seller, pet products also are very popular. Pet soap is a big one, due to skin issues, as well as other products, such as food-grade diatomaceous earth, which is a safe alternative to anti-flea products, which are some of the most toxin-filled products on the market.

Gail says local hikers come in to purchase the toxin-free bug spray (which lacks the chemicals that give regular bug spray its stickiness) and there is all-natural sunscreen as well as the ingredients needed (like apple cider vinegar, olive oil and vegetable glycerin) for those who want to make their own cleaners and soaps.

Megan Davis is Lüfka’s herbalist, and can help explain the uses and combinations of the herbs and other ingredients that line one wall of the store — like combining the bladderwrack and sea moss into an apple sauce-like paste that can be consumed and contains 102 trace minerals that your body needs.

However, no one at Lüfka is able to provide medical advice, and they do not sell food, although they might recommend some spirulina or turmeric for your morning smoothie.

Danielle hopes to send customers out on the same journey she is on — to eliminate the chemicals her body is ingesting in regular daily products.

There is some trial and error, she says, and everyone is different. But, for many of the things that ail you, like sores or rashes or just malaise, there might be a healthy option to solve it.

“It can change your life,” Danielle says. “It has definitely changed mine.”

For more information, look up @LüfkaWesleyChapel on Facebook, where you can find specials, candle-making classes and even private shopping events if you’re interested in transitioning to healthier products. Lüfka Refillables Zero Waste Store is located at 27221 S.R. 56. and is open Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday and it is closed on Sunday and Monday. To find out more, call (813) 596-9376 or visit Lüfka.com.

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