Carpet cleaning chemicals get into the air of a room when applied during cleaning, and can also be ingested by kids who play on the floor soon afterwards. With the right cleaning practices and products, you can clear the air without filling your house with toxic chemicals. And your old carpet might just win its way back into your heart. |
Most carpet cleaning services are local businesses, and many have greened-up their processes in recent years. If you need your carpets cleaned you should call around and ask questions. If a service doesn't know whether their cleaning solution is plant or chemical based, or if they don't have systems in place to treat or transport wastewater responsibly after cleaning, they should probably be avoided.
For DIYers, the most common method is hot water extraction. It's also called steam cleaning (even though no steam is produced). You can also dry clean your floor, which involves sprinkling it with a powder saturated in solvents and/or detergents. You work the powder into the pile by hand or with a machine, then vacuum it up with dirt attached. Since the floor never gets wet, it's ready for action sooner than a steam-cleaned carpet. Another option is hiring a cleaning company. Traditionally, the pros have used either hot water extraction or dry cleaning. But these days some companies use a system that bubbles up the dirt with carbonated water. They say it reduces the use of both water and carpet cleaning chemicals.
When shopping, look for
Healthy ingredients. Good floor shampoos are available at green home stores and online, but you can also use whatever detergent you wash your dishes in. Although most chemicals used with hot water extraction systems are mild, read the warning labels before you buy or use any of these products. Steer clear of the ones labeled "danger" or "poison." Dry floor cleaners usually contain solvents. Look for ones that offer citrus (not petrochemical) solvents and stay away from scents.
Green attitudes. If you decide to have your floors professionally cleaned, choose a company that talks about its commitment to the environment. But don't take the company's word for it: question its staff about carpet cleaning methods and ask for the MSDS (material safety data sheet) for any cleaning products they'll use in your home.
When buying carpet cleaners, stay away from acid rinses such as hydroxyacetic acid and solvents such as glycol ethers. Also avoid tributyl tin, formaldehyde, and other chemicals designed to kill microorganisms because these chemicals are toxic to humans too.
Before you buy a carpet shampoo or powder, you can look it up in the Household Products Database, a service of the National Institutes of Health. It includes information about the chemical ingredients in over 7,000 consumer brands. You can also find some ingredient information on the product label and the MSDS, but unfortunately there's no law requiring makers of household cleaners to reveal everything that's in their products.
Regular vacuuming and occasional cleaning of your carpets with safe products will make your indoor air cleaner. It will also make your carpet last years longer, keeping it out of the waste stream and saving you money.
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