Call in the cleaners

By Kat Kerlin

This article was published on 01.07.10 in Reno News and Review

Roberta and Todd Newman
Todd Newman uses a floor machine to clean a carpet that was first sprayed with a nontoxic cleaner. PHOTO BY KAT KERLIN

As Todd Newman moves a floor machine in circular motions over the carpet of a South Reno home, a couple of things become immediately apparent. First of all, there’s absolutely no smell, unlike most cleaned carpets. And although I’m standing on newly cleaned carpet in my socks, they’re not wet.

That’s because Todd and his wife, Roberta Newman, operating as Newman’s Natural Carpet Care, use a nontoxic cleaner that they spray in a fine mist over the carpet before going over it with the floor machine.

Conventional steam cleaners typically come in a truck loaded with chemical-based detergent, which is brought into the house by hoses. It requires plenty of water for this process, which, if improperly disposed, can enter storm drains, along with the soapy residue, and chemicals it carries, such as perchloroethylene, or “perc,” a toxic solvent.

The Newmans are not steam cleaners, and they’re not conventional. They bring into the house all of their equipment, which doesn’t include much beyond a vacuum, a mister, floor machine and grooming brush. They don’t require water beyond the small amount used to mix with their nontoxic cleaning spray. Roberta says the cleaner they use is food-grade, spraying it in her mouth to illustrate the point.

“If this goes into our water system, it won’t hurt us,” she says.

It’s primarily made of sea salt and phosphoric acid.

“People panic when they hear the word ‘acid,’ but phosphoric acid is in sodas,” says Todd, who was a stockbroker in San Francisco for 23 years before he and Roberta moved to Nevada seven years ago and started their carpet cleaning business shortly thereafter.

The kicker is that the nontoxic solution they use actually seems to work. “People call us because they want green, they want something healthier or they have health issues,” says Roberta. “But then they see the quality of the work.” Most of their business has been won through word-of-mouth.

We have to think about sustainable living,” says Roberta. “We don’t want to be around chemicals throughout our work day. Our lives would be shortened.”

Homeowner Robin Addison likes the nontoxic cleaner the Newmans use on her carpet. “It’s good there’s not soap going down the drain or chemical residue or anything dangerous,” she says. “With the environmental stuff, it’s huge for me. I have kids and pets, and they can come and have everyone back in the house, and it’s fine.”

“People talk about pets and babies, but it’s really all of us,” says Roberta. “It frightens me how we don’t think. What are we doing when we pick up a chemical? What’s in it? And when you put it in your water system, where does it go? It goes to us.”

The Newmans offer some advice for homeowners when it comes to carpets: Don’t put Scotchgard on your carpet; it’s made of Teflon, which is a carcinogen you can breathe in as it breaks down. Avoid synthetic air fresheners. Also, opt for vacuums with bags rather than canisters, which release more dirt into the air. And when emptying those vacuum bags, do it outside so it doesn’t get trapped in the house, affecting indoor air quality. For spot cleaners, get one that’s Green Seal-approved, or make one yourself with equal parts vinegar and water.

Read another review

RJG Logo