Condo Blues: Where are the Environmentally Friendly Carpet Cleaners?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Where are the Environmentally Friendly Carpet Cleaners?

Last weekend I woke up with a scratchy sore throat. Since it didn’t get any worse or better throughout the day, I knew that my allergies were the culprit. Doing a deep Spring cleaning of our bedroom usually clears up whatever dust or dander is bothering me. When Husband got home from his 15 mile run (yes 15 miles – the man is a machine! Oh, and he runs too.) I asked him to be careful because the carpets might still be wet because I steam cleaned them with the carpet shampooer while he was out.

“Yeah, I know”, he said and wrinkled his nose; “I can smell chemicals.”

We haven’t had that conversation since I started cleaning the kitchen floor with food for Blitzkrieg’s sake.


I grabbed the bottle of carpet shampoo and did a little research on what might be in my carpet cleaner. It wasn’t very easy because in the law doesn’t require US companies to list the ingredients of their cleaning products on their labels.

My bottle of carpet cleaner was a store brand, so it wasn't in the Household Products Database but I found a few comparable brands. I found two iffy chemicals that may be in my carpet shampoo, Propane and Isobutane. The database reports that with liquid forms of both chemicals can cause chemical burns. Now the levels they are talking about are a pure form of the liquid chemical and not watered down or mixed in a solution as in my carpet cleaner. But since 12 pound Blitzkrieg pads around on my freshly cleaned and damp carpets (despite my best efforts to keep him from doing so) I don’t want to take any chances of those nasty chemicals getting on his paws and then inside him when he grooms himself.

That’s the last time I cheap out on buying rug shampoo.

I’m having a hard time finding an environmentally and pet friendly rug shampoo for my steam carpet cleaner. Getting rid of the carpeting in The Condo isn’t an option right now. The Condo’s built on a concrete slab so our floors on the first floor get nippy during the winter. Besides the carpets are in very good shape and with us putting our extra cash into our Emergency Fund to prepare for the time when Husband’s company moves out of state at the end of this year (grumble, grumble) buying a good rug shampoo is better alternative both financially and environmentally because we try to reduce generating a lot of unnecessary waste.

I need your help. Do you have a favorite green carpet shampoo? Will it work in a steam carpet cleaner? What is it?

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Dorothy said...

My go-to cleaner of choice is Simple Green, which is nationally available at Lowe's (and I'm sure other places carry it as well). It's non-toxic and biodegradable and ultra-concentrated which makes it significantly cheaper then the "Green" cleaners available at my health food store.

We're planning to shampoo our carpet soon, and I plan to use it for that too.

Cathy said...

really good question! I'll have to try Simple Green for cleaning carpets, too. I don't like using chemicals, but we can't get rid of our carpets now either.

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

Gabriel and Dorothy - Thanks for the referral!

Does anyone have any other favorite carpet cleaners?

Sinclair said...

Use vinegar/water solution. It is safe, and even with the aroma of vinegar, is a better smell than chemicals. If you can use dissolved baking soda in your steamer, add that to the mix. Mix in a jar, stir to dissolve all ingredients, then use in steamer.
To check chemical hazards, do a search for chemical name + MSDS to find the material Safety Data Sheet. Here is the one for Isobutane:

It is nasty stuff! Next, check the MSDS sheets for your shampoo/handsoap/nail polish ingredients. You might be surprised!

Sinclair said...

here is the MSDS for one of the Simple Green cleaners. Their website has links to MSDS for their products. I don't know about them NOT telling us specific ingredients, but they claim non-toxic. But, look on the "Ecological Information" section of the MSDS. Is it something you would want to end up in our groundwater?

Joy said...

I love your new website layout!

Honestly, I haven't cleaned our carpets in a very long time so I have no input on this one--but I feel like I'm benefiting from all the good advice. Thanks for joining us this week for Thrifty Green Thursday!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posing this question! Though we have hardwood floors in just about every room (including the kitchen) I am looking for something to clean our two apostered pieces of furniture (everything else is wood).

Kathleen W. said...

I wish I could help, but we have wood floors mostly, and some throw rugs. I wonder if you just use a natural human shampoo if that would work and be safe on your carpeting?

I also wonder if you can rent a steam cleaner and just run some castile soap through it rather than the chemical soap they give you.

Rebecca said...

I don't have carpet in my house, either, BUT I do have a suggestion! My real estate agent says you shouldn't use the chemicals in the rug cleaners--just steam clean it with plain old water. If that tip works, that would be quite green!

Thanks for your Thrifty Green Thursday contribution!

Mrs. (not) the Jet Set said...

I just use water with no cleaners in it. I've found that with our carpet and rugs it works just as well. There was no difference.

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

Sinclair - I'll give the vinegar and baking soda solution a try in my cleaner. I was surprised on how well it worked for my kitchen floor, I wondered if it worked on carpets too.

Joy - Thanks for the compliment on the new blog layout. In case you were wondering, yes that's a photo of The Condo on the masthead!

Kathleen - I have a home steam cleaner and liquid castile so I could it a try. I haven't used castile soap for house cleaning, but I've heard that others really like it. Thanks for the tip!

Rebecca & Mr. NtJS - Using just water to steam clean my carpets is very interesting and I"ll have to try your tip too. It's green and the price can't be beat! :)

Abbi said...

Thanks for asking that question. It was fun to read all the answers.

Someday soon we are hoping to get rid of all the carpet that is in the main living areas. I am really looking forward to that!

Kay said...

AFM Safecoat makes a wonderful carpet cleaner system and the company was founded to create non toxic products specifically for chemically sensitive folks.

When you do remove your carpets - consider CORK Flooring as a great replacement: sound proof, warm to the touch, easy to clean and cannot hide any nasty dust, mites or other unsavories. Kay

Anonymous said...

I've seen tips advising using powdered borax sprinkled on the carpet and then thoroughly vaccummed but that was to kill fleas, not clean the fibers. I used it last summer as a non-chemical way to treat fleas and the carpet did look a little brigher afterwards.

I also have used vinegar instead of commercial defoamers and it works fine.

Thanks for the reminder that spring cleaning now will save me misery later once the trees start churning out pollen.

Although they are expensive to purchase, I swear by my Dyson, which is still going strong six years later despite four dogs, three cats and a house that seems to be an unending bowl of dust. My allergies improved with this vacuum.

Hopefully, this spring, the carpet we have is going to be torn out to expose the hardwood underneath.

Susie Q said...

Baby shampoo.Remember you just need a very small amount.

Another great solution is to forget using soap at all...and I see that Rebecca beat me to it. We'll be having our carpets cleaned this summer by Stanley Steamer and I'll be asking that they use hot water only.

Condo Blues said...

Update: I tried using just hot water in my steam cleaner and it didn't work very well at cleaning dirt - it was more like a rinse. Could be that the type of carpet cleaner I have, a Bissell QuickSteamer Plus, is one of the smaller models (small house, remember?) that doesn't have it's own heating element (which is OK, I still like it for a lot of reasons.)

Vinegar didn't work very well for the same reason. Back to the drawing board....

Unknown said...

Don't use steam and water, it's really bad for allergies! The water goes into the pad and it and causes mold and mildew. I use Citrus Solution carpet cleaners - I think they have locations in most cities.

rosariodawson said...

To the "Clean hard to beat spots with white vinegar " poster...THANKS! Worked like a charm, but is stinky as you said.

carpet cleaning vancouver

Anonymous said...

Please remember that all but synthetic carpets are acid dyed. Vinegar is and acid on the Ph scale adding acid to an acid(dirt) can actually seal the stain into you carpet. As For Simple Green it is an Ionic Cleaner and will void your carpet warrenty. IF you still have one reading all these uneducated posts!

Anonymous said...

I use PureAyre on my dog's accident spot and am really pleased with the results. It's a food grade and safe odor remover. I use it on her dog bed and the couch too. It removes odors and doesn't say anything about stains but I used it to spot clean the carpet where spilled chocolate milk had dried and I was surprised the chocolate didn't leave a stain. So I used PureAyre with a just a little carpet shampoo in my home carpet cleaner (it doesn't heat either) and the carpets came out great. Another pet stain remover I had wouldn't say whether it was safe to use in carpet cleaners or not. PureAyre had directions on their website. Don't know where I got the idea it removed stains, but it worked for me.

Lnanaa said...

Hi, I see this article was a while ago, but I thought to add my 2 cents.

I used 50/50 hydrogen peroxide and hot water. It worked great for me and made my carpet clean and fluffy. :)

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