August 3, 2010

5 Eco-Friendly Ways To Clean a Carpet

It may not be exciting or glamorous, but carpet cleaning is one of those household chores I find immensely satisfying. Ahh, the joy of obliterating dirt, odors, and who-knows-what from beneath your feet and those of your guests, kids, and pets! Regular cleaning is also, of course, essential for maintaining the life and look of the carpet itself.

Yet many commercial cleaning products aren't so healthy, containing toxic chemicals that pollute the air and water and irritate sensitive skin and noses. Fortunately, there are plenty of greener ways to keep a beautiful carpet and home. From DIY stain removal to hiring a professional, here are five solutions for carpet cleaning with the environment and your personal health in mind.

  • Freshen with baking soda – The star of any green cleaning toolkit, baking soda is inexpensive, non-toxic, and actually eliminates odors rather than simply covering them up. To deodorize a carpet, lightly sprinkle with baking soda, let sit 10 minutes, and vacuum. Add a pinch of crushed, dried lavender buds to the baking soda for a pleasant, and totally natural, fragrance.
  • Lift stains with club soda – Believe it or not, this is one of those old-fashioned cleaning solutions that really works. To remove coffee, wine, mud, and other stains, cover the stain with a small amount of carbonated water, let it fizz for a few seconds, and blot with a clean, white cloth (avoid rubbing, which can ruin carpet fibers and set the stain in deeper). Repeat if necessary. Although this works best on fresh stains, it's worth a try on set-in stains. And since it's just water, there's no need to rinse it out like some products.
  • Steam clean with vinegar – Using a wet-cleaning machine? Instead of filling it with a commercial cleaning solution, which may be heavily fragranced and laden with chemicals, try vinegar. A solution of equal parts distilled white vinegar and warm water can lift stains, deodorize, and disinfect. Don't worry about the odor – it will dissipate once the carpet dries.
  • Dry clean with eco-friendly powders – The dry cleaning method consists of sprinkling an absorbent powder over the carpet, working it in by hand or machine, and then vacuuming thoroughly. For the health of the planet as well as yourself, your children, and pets, use a non-toxic, biodegradable cleaner such as FLOR Grab Dry with a hand scrubber or HOST dry powder and machines.
  • Hire a green professional – These days a lot of businesses advertise themselves as "green," but how can you know if the claims are true? Don't be afraid to ask questions and make sure they use cleaners that are non-toxic, low- or no-VOC, and biodegradable. Some cleaning services also use energy-efficient equipment and are mindful of water usage. Check out EarthTalk for good advice including names of national businesses and commonly-used cleaning solutions.

Note: Before using any carpet cleaning solution, be sure to follow manufacturer's instructions and test for colorfastness on a small, inconspicuous area.

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