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Cleaner carpets, greener impact
New procedure bubbles up dirt with oxygen, using less water, no chemicals
Lead technician Kenny Manning shows off some Oxi Fresh carpet cleaning equipment. The environmentally friendly carpet cleaning business, which was launched in 2006, requires franchisees to recycle the solution bottles and packaging after use. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

The next time your carpet gets a bit stained, instead of seeing red, you may want to think green.

Steve Bobby, a Gainesville resident, recently opened an Oxi Fresh Carpet Cleaning business. Instead of harsh chemicals, the company harnesses the power of nature to make carpets look like new.

"In nature, oxygen is a cleansing agent. So when we put our organic solutions down, they create bubbles that loosen and encapsulate the dirt," Bobby said.

"Once the dirt is trapped in the oxygen bubbles, we have a little cleaning machine that lifts it straight up off the carpet pile."

In addition to oxygen, the oxidation process is aided by another naturally occurring ingredient.

"We have an enzyme based cleaner that we spray on stains. It reaches down to the threads of the carpet to loosen the base of the stains and the oxidation bubbles bring it up to the top, so we can vacuum them away," Bobby said.

In essence, the enzymes "eat" the stains.

"It's like with the oil spill in the Gulf. They had enzymes, little algae, that ate some of the oil."

As a franchisee of Denver-based Oxi Fresh, Bobby is required to recycle the empty cleaning solution containers and packaging. Instead of seeing it as an imposition, Bobby says the company's dedication to being environmentally friendly is one of the things that drew him in at the start.

"My partner and I were looking for something that was on the leading edge. We wanted something very green and very eco-friendly," Bobby said.

"We ran across Oxi Fresh and after a visit to their Denver headquarters and going out on a few jobs with their technicians, we fell in love with their philosophy and their product."

"Everyone claims to be green, but they really are, and that's what we wanted to be a part of."

According to company literature, Oxi Fresh's processes are "the way Mother Nature cleans."

The original company was started in 2006 by John Barnett, then a college student and part-time carpet cleaner who wanted to launch a green carpet-cleaning service.

"Leaving your home cleaner and healthier and customers satisfied with the work is our highest goal," Barnett said.

In addition to using organic and biodegradable cleaning solutions, another unique and environmentally friendly feature of Oxi Fresh is its water-conserving cleaning machines.

"Most steam cleaning machines use around 100 gallons of water to clean a place; we only need a gallon or two," Bobby said.

Less water not only means less environmental impact, it also has an added bonus for customers.

"Since we use less water, the carpet is dry in a half-hour to an hour," Bobby said.

Because the enzymes in the cleaning solutions reach all the way down to the base of the carpeting, it also helps to remove odors, including those associated with household pets.

"Our solutions remove stains and odors and leave behind a fresh, clean smell," Bobby said.
"It's almost like a light, green apple smell."

Although the organic solutions work on most household stains, there are some that they can't touch, especially those that have been "set in" by other cleaning solutions.

"In essence, some chemicals re-dye the carpet, so there's nothing we can do to get it out," he said.

"If you get a stain, don't try and scrub because you're setting the stain down in the pile. Instead, dab it up."

Being eco-friendly doesn't just stop with carpets; it also includes keeping a strong relationship with clients.

"When our technicians arrive, they walk the house with you, go over what it is we can do, and what we can't. We're very up front," Bobby said.

"We tell them what will happen, how we're going to do it and then we review the results with them when we're done."

Although not everyone has joined the green movement, Bobby says that so far his customers are responding favorably to eco-friendly carpet cleaning.

"The average person gets their carpet cleaned about twice a year. The testament is, do you get that second call?" Bobby said.

"So far, we have about a 93 percent retention rate. Once we come in, they see a real difference in their carpet and they feel good about being environmentally friendly."

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