Non-toxic alternatives to commercial carpet cleaners reduce indoor air pollution, creating a safer environment for all members of a household --- especially for those in close contact with the floor, such as children and pets. Effective and affordable carpet cleaning products can be made from just a few common kitchen ingredients that degrade easily in the environment and release no harmful chemicals into the home.
Dangers of Toxic Cleaners
Many traditional carpet cleaning products use toxic chemical ingredients similar to those used by commercial dry cleaners. Chemical solvents and detergents dissolve dirt without soap and water, but give off strong, harmful vapors. This in turn creates indoor air pollution and can cause headaches, sneezing, irritation to nose, lungs and eyes, asthma attacks, coughing, congestion, fatigue and nausea, among other symptoms. Some of the harmful ingredients found in commercial carpet cleaners include formaldehyde, pesticides, acids, disinfectants, lye (sodium hydroxide), ammonia, chlorine, petroleum-based chemicals, fragrances and other dangerous chemicals that can be hazardous to the health of humans and pets. (See References 1, 2) The National Institutes of Health provides a database to inform consumers of harmful ingredients found in common household cleaning products (see References 3).
Homemade non-toxic cleaners made of conventional household ingredients provide cost-effective alternatives to commercial chemical detergents, powders and solvents. Baking soda naturally absorbs odors and moisture from the carpet, making it an affordable and easy-to-use non-toxic carpet cleaner. To remove greasy stains, sprinkle baking soda, corn starch or corn meal across the carpet and let it sit for at least 30 minutes before vacuuming. To counteract odors, add crumbled bay leaves, ground cloves or a few drops of lavender essential oil to the mixture. (See References 4)
To disinfect and remove light stains, spray the area with a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water, allowing the mixture to sit several minutes before rinsing with warm water and non-toxic castile soap, or any other all-natural, vegetable oil-based soap. Full-strength club soda removes red wine stains from carpet if treated early, before the stain has a chance to set. To replace traditional carpet detergents, create a non-toxic cleaner by combining baking soda, water and castile soap. As a non-toxic alternative to commercial aerosol carpet cleaners, mix 1/4 tablespoon of castile soap with 3 tablespoons of water. Whip the mixture, gently rub it into the stain with a brush and then rinse with warm water. (See References 4)
Even plain water, when used in a steam cleaner, can thoroughly clean any carpet. These specialized vacuums use heated and pressurized vapor to sterilize and reach deeply into carpet fibers. Instead of using a commercial steam cleaning solution, pour a mixture of equal parts water and vinegar into the cleaner's reservoir. For tougher stains, use more vinegar, but test the solution on a small area first to prevent discoloration of the carpet. Use the steam cleaner as directed by the manufacturer's instructions. When dry, the vinegar smell will disappear. If any odors linger, sprinkle some baking soda over the carpet, let it sit for a few hours, and then vacuum. (See References 4)
Ann Salter began writing professionally in 2010 and has worked extensively in the fields of art, architecture and design since 2004. Her work has appeared in informative guides on student housing cooperatives and sustainable building alternatives. Other areas of specialty include technology, health, gardening and cooking. Salter holds a Bachelor of Architectural Studies from the University of Waterloo.
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images