Most homes have carpet in them somewhere, but one problem with carpeting is that it’s a perfect home to microorganisms such as mold, mildew and dust mites. It’s also a reservoir for everything you track indoors on your shoes: lawn chemicals, lead dust, animal feces, and anything else found on the ground outdoors.
Wall-to-wall carpeting is difficult to clean thoroughly, but here are some tips to help:
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.
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 get all of the dirt and dust.
3. 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.
4. Use soap and water.
To clean stains, mix 1 cup warm water and 1/2 tsp. 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 one cup water and blot with another clean towel.
5. 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, cornstarch 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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. 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.
9. Contact your carpet manufacturer.
Ask for recommendations on cleaning without chemicals and to find out if there are certain cleaning requirements for maintaining your warranty.
10. Check out the Carpet and Rug Institute’s (CRI) website.
This site offers advice on how to clean carpets (typically their recommendations conform to warranty requirements). They have a great spot remover tool that details how to get out almost every stain imaginable.
*Note: CRI’s recommendations include both nontoxic methods, as well as products that Healthy Child would not recommend. Always research what’s in the products you choose.