How To Clean Your Carpets & Rugs Using Nothing But Pantry Staples

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Nonprofit Organization
For more than 20 years Healthy Child Healthy World, a non-profit whose mission is to empower families to make better, safer choices, has been protecting children from the harmful effects of toxic chemicals.
Woman stretching and doing yoga in front of computer laptop screen on rug indoors

Image by Clique Images / Stocksy

By design, carpets are reservoirs for everything you track indoors: dirt, dust, and the like. This means they can be a hotspot for mold, mildew, and dust mites—not to mention stains. Here are some pro tips for keeping them clean and fresh without harsh chemicals.

Best practices for keeping carpets clean:

1. Encourage family members to remove shoes at the door.

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.

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2. Vacuum twice a 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 be sure you're getting everything.

3. Clean up spills immediately.

Soak up liquid spills by covering them with clean white (or light-colored) 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.

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4. Steam clean with only 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 2½ 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.

5. 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.

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Got a stain? Here's how to treat it naturally:

First, try plain old soap and water.

To clean stains, mix 1 cup warm water and ½ 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 the stain is removed, rinse the area with a solution of a few teaspoons of white vinegar to 1 cup water and blot with another clean towel.

If that doesn't work, treat with household ingredients.

For example, club soda can help remove red wine stains, and you can use an ice cube to harden gum and candle wax, then scrape off. Or, sprinkle greasy stains with baking soda, cornstarch, or cornmeal. Let stand six hours or overnight, then vacuum.

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As a last resort, 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.

Noticing odors? Grab the baking soda.

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 to 30 minutes then vacuum.

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