Eco-friendly alternatives to chemical carpet cleaners safely degrade in the environment and do not release dangerous chemicals into the home. Effective and inexpensive nontoxic cleaners can be made from just a few common kitchen ingredients to create a safer environment for your family — especially for pets and children who are in close contact with the floor.
Reduce indoor air pollution by choosing eco-friendly carpet cleaners. Many over-the-counter carpet cleaning products contain pesticides, formaldehyde and other harmful toxins similar to those used in chemical dry cleaning. These chemicals release fumes called volatile organic compounds (or VOCs), and according to the Environmental Protection Agency, they can cause many short- and long-term health problems, such as headaches, vomiting, asthma attacks, skin allergies, loss of coordination, cancer and damage to the kidneys and liver (see References 1). To prevent accumulation of these toxins in the body, clean carpets with natural ingredients, such as vinegar, water, baking soda and plant-based soap. (See References 1, 2, 3, 4)
Deodorize, disinfect and remove light stains by spraying soiled carpet with a mixture of 1 part distilled white vinegar and 1 part water. Allow the solution to sit several minutes and then rinse the area with water. To make a simple, nontoxic carpet shampoo, mix a cup of warm water and 1/2 teaspoon of vegetable oil-based soap and rub the mixture into the carpet with a brush. Rinse the area thoroughly with clean water. For tough stains, replace commercial carpet detergents with a thick mixture of baking soda, water and plant-based soap. Remove fresh red wine stains with full-strength club soda. Provide adequate ventilation when using water and liquid cleaners on carpets to prevent the growth of mold. (See References 5, 6; Resources 1, 2, 4)
Steam cleaners sterilize and clean deep into carpet fibers using heated and pressurized vapor. Instead of using commercial steam-cleaning detergents, pour plain tap water or a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and water in the steam cleaner’s reservoir. For particularly soiled areas, use more vinegar, but test the mixture on an inconspicuous area first to check for discoloration. Use the steam cleaner as directed by the manufacturer’s instructions and provide adequate ventilation to prevent mold growth. When dry, the vinegar smell disappears. (See References 5; Resources 2, 3)
Baking soda naturally absorbs odors and moisture from the carpet, making it an inexpensive and eco-friendly carpet cleaner that is readily found in most homes. To remove greasy stains, create a dry-ingredient carpet cleaner of 2 cups baking soda and 1/2 cup cornmeal or cornstarch. Sprinkle the mixture across the carpet and let it sit for at least 30 minutes before vacuuming the area thoroughly. For particularly smelly stains, add 1 tablespoon ground cloves and 5 crumbled bay leaves or a few drops of lavender essential oil to the baking soda mixture. (See References 5; Resources 1, 2, 4)
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Volatile Organic Compounds
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Formaldehyde
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Green Homes — Bedroom
- Healthy Child Healthy World; Are Carpet Cleaners Safe; Aisha Ikramuddin; July 2007
- Healthy Child Healthy World: Clean Carpets Without Dangerous Chemicals
- The Carpet and Rug Institute: Cleaning Spots and Spills
- Healthy Child Healthy World: Clean With 5 Basic Tools
- Healthy Child Healthy World: Recipes for Safer Cleaners; Pamela Lundquist; March 2007
- CDC: Guideline for Disinfection and Sterilization in Healthcare Facilities...Sterilization
- Green America: Ten Simple Ways to Clean Green; Tracy Fernandez Rysavy; July 2006
- Eco-Cycle: Alternative Cleaners and Recipes
- GreenerChoices.org: Homemade Household Cleaners
- Barry Austin Photography/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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