Rugs endure spills and other catastrophes, and it is important to know how to deep clean your rugs without damaging the fibers. Most people just buy a carpet cleaner from their nearest cleaning aisle and get to work on the rug. While it may damage your carpet, it may also do something worse – like damage your health or the health of your family. We always recommend professional carpet cleaning for this reason: they know what they are doing and can take proper precautions to protect their health. However, simple tips for using natural solutions may help you prolong the life of your rug and keep your home fresh and safe between professional washes. If you want to try cleaning your rug at home, start with these non-toxic remedies.
Dangerous chemicals in carpet and rug cleaners
Commercial household cleaners can contain any number of dangerous chemicals if not checked carefully.
- Perchlorethylene — damage to the nervous system, the liver, and kidneys.
- Ammonium hydroxide — irritation to respiratory passages, skin, and eyes
- Tetrachloroethylene – potential cause of leukemia, labeled as a probable human carcinogen
- Hydrofluoric acid – highly corrosive, can cause serious damage to the respiratory tract and eyes
- Perfluro-octane Sulfonate (POS) – potential hormone disruptor, damaging to the reproductive system
- 2-Butoxyethanol – (Often found on labels as 2-BE) implicated in blood disorders, eye and skin irritant
The EPA offers self-reporting for companies that believe they are in violation of environmental standards, which lessens their fine . A company that has a vested interest in selling a chemical they created will sometimes overlook negative studies and report only favorable ones. The ideal way to ensure your health and your family’s health is protected is to use cleaners that are free of all these chemicals. Contrary to popular belief, non-chemical cleaners are still extremely effective when removing stains.
Non-toxic spot cleaning solutions
From tomato sauce spills to your cat’s hairballs, non-toxic cleaners are the way to go. When it comes to dog and cat stains, several pet foods contain coloring that can quickly stain upholstery and rugs if your pet is sick. Both of these cleaners help with getting rid of the mess and the stains without the toxins.
Many colloidal cleaners are plant-based. A surfactant is a ‘surface-active agent’ compound with an affinity for oil and soil. Colloidal cleaners work in a different way from traditional cleaners. They are comprised of a collection of polymers that form an organized structure which is both water-seeking and water-repelling. That means that when the cleaner comes in contact with oil, sticky substances or other gummy materials, it locks and lifts them from the surface. The suspended grime can then be cleaned up with a wet sponge.
Some citrus-based cleaners can spot-clean rugs. But do your research before buying one: some of them contain toxic chemicals. Just spray the citrus based cleaner onto your rug and use a damp sponge to clean up the spill or stain.
Homemade rug and carpet cleaner recipes
The jury is still out on pure white vinegar, but most homemade rug cleaners call for it as an essential ingredient. Some people say it sets stains, and some say it cleans and dissolves stains. Here are some suggestions for how to handle spills and stains:
- Use club soda to remove red wine stains.
- Remove gum by rubbing it with an ice cube, dripping candle wax on it and then scraping it off.
- Use rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide in small amounts to the stain. Blot with a paper towel. Repeat until there is no more stain. Both substances may inadvertently lighten or bleach the rug in that area.
For a rug cleaning machine, try this recipe from Money Saving Madness.(Dawn dishwashing soap is recommended in this recipe, but it contains some chemicals you might prefer to avoid.) Or check out this tutorial from Frugal Living at About.com.