Clean Carpets without Dangerous Chemicals
Children's Health Environmental Coalition
Here are a few green cleaning ideas from UCM Carpet Cleaning of Boston technicians:
1. Consider replacing wall-to-wall carpets.
Throw rugs, tile, wood and other non-carpet materials are easier to keep clean. Wall-to-wall carpets and their pads are reservoirs for dust mites, dirt, mold and pollutants. They are especially problematic in bathrooms, kitchens, basements and bedrooms, and should not be used in homes of asthmatics. Wood and tile floors can be covered with machine-washable throw rugs.
2. Place doormats at all entrances and encourage family members to wipe!
That keeps dirt, pesticides and other pollutants from getting on carpets. Large mats, that cover two or three strides, will ensure that even those that refuse to wipe will leave most of the dirt clinging to their shoes on the mat rather than your carpet.
3. Encourage family members to remove shoes upon entrance into the home.
Pesticides, pollutants and dirt come indoors on shoes and are tracked onto carpets. If going shoeless is not acceptable to family members, suggest that they wear house shoes (that don't go outside), slippers or socks. In fact, bare feet can deposit natural skin oils on carpet. The oils attract dirt.
4. Vacuum two or more times per week .
Frequent vacuuming helps reduce the level of dust mites, which trigger asthma and allergy attacks. It also means getting rid of surface dirt on carpets before it has a chance to get ground in. A vacuum cleaner with strong suction, rotating brushes and a HEPA filter, so the dirt and dust won't get blown back out in the exhaust, is best. Go back and forth over the same spot several times, especially in high traffic areas, to get all of the dirt and dust! Take care also to vacuum thoroughly along walls and carpet edges because dirt and dust accumulates there.
5. Clean up spills on carpets immediately to prevent stains.
Soak up liquid spills by covering them with clean white (or light-colored) towels or paper towels. Scrape sticky substances off carpets with a spatula or spoon. Don't rub the spill. That will damage carpet fibers and make the stain spread.
To clean the stain, mix 1 cup warm water and 1/2 teaspoon mild liquid soap, such as dishwashing liquid or fine fabric detergent. Apply a small amount, blot by pressing a clean white towel into the carpet and lift. Then repeat the process until the stain is removed. Don't scrub. Be patient.
After stain is removed, rinse the area with a solution a few teaspoons of white vinegar to one cup water and blot with another clean towel.
6. Use household ingredients to clean carpet stains.
- Club soda removes red wine stains.
- Use an ice cube to harden gum and candle wax, then scrape off.
- Sprinkle greasy stains with baking soda, corn starch or corn meal. Let stand six hours or overnight. Then vacuum.
- Mix 1/3 cup vinegar with 2/3 cup warm water and apply to the stain. Then blot with a clean towel and repeat until the stain comes clean.
7. As a last resort carpet stain remover, try rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide.
Test first on a hidden spot of the carpet as either substance may lighten or bleach the carpet. Apply a small amount to the stain, then blot with a clean, white towel. Repeat until the stain is gone.
8 . Use baking soda to remove odor from carpets.
Carpet deodorizers and fresheners often contain fragrances that merely mask the smell. Baking soda soaks up the odor. Just sprinkle baking soda over the surface of the carpet. Let it stand for 15 - 30 minutes. Then vacuum. Keep kids away so they don't inhale the baking soda while it's applied.
9. Steam clean carpets with plain water.
Don't bother with the detergent. Just use water and operate the machine as directed. The hot water will remove a considerable amount of dirt, even without detergent. Alternatively, use a mixture of 1 cup white vinegar and 2-1/2 gallons of water. (Add another cup of vinegar for a stronger solution.) This is an effective way to remove shampoo residues from earlier cleaning attempts.
If you must use soap or detergent, use a mixture of no more than 3-4 tablespoons of mild liquid soap or detergent and at least one gallon of water. Do not mix vigorously because suds may clog the machine. Safe carpet cleaners are also available.
Avoid steam cleaning carpets in winter, when you can't open windows, and on very humid days during the summer.
10. Ventilate well during and after carpet cleaning.
To speed drying time and prevent mold growth, keep windows open and use fans. Avoid carpet cleaning on humid or damp days.
Though the research is still inconclusive about a connection between carpet cleaning (with or without chemicals) and Kawasaki Disease, CHEC recommends that children are kept out of the house for at least four hours after carpets are cleaned.