Like other cleaners, carpet cleaners may contain toxic ingredients, some of which are not listed on labels because they are considered “proprietary” or “trade secrets”. Among the inevitable things in life is the fact that all carpets will get dirty over time. So it is also inevitable that carpets have to be cleaned somehow, at some point.
Some carpet cleaners–especially spot removers–can be particularly dangerous, because they contain chemical solvents similar to those used by dry cleaners. These chemicals dissolve dirt without soap and water, but give off strong odours. Other potentially problematic ingredients in carpet cleaners include other compounds that produce lots of fumes (like formaldehyde), acids, pesticides, disinfectants, lye (sodium hydroxide), fragrances and many others. During application and while drying, the chemicals in carpet cleaners and protectors evaporate and may concentrate in the air, causing indoor air pollution.
Fabric and carpet stain repellents or “guards” may contain plastics and other potentially dangerous ingredients. There is some speculation that there is a link between carpet cleaners and Kawasaki Disease, though there is limited evidence to support this. Long-term exposures may increase the risks for chronic diseases, such as heart disease and cancer, depending on the chemicals involved.
Carpet shampoos usually leave a sticky residue on carpet fibres. The residue is usually hard to see or feel–though it can make carpets feel rougher and you may be able to smell it. Not only does the residue attract and latch onto dirt, but children, who crawl and play on carpets, can inhale these residues and get them on their hands, which often go into their mouths. What’s a safe way to clean tough messes from carpets?
There are a number of ways to clean carpets without dangerous chemicals. Blotting is a good way to clean up stains quickly, Blot with white paper towels or clean fabric; stand on the absorbents so they penetrate more deeply into the stain, then remove. Don’t rub the carpet with the paper towel or fabric; just repeat using clean absorbent material.
Scoop as much of the stain as possible onto a spoon or appropriate implement.
Nothing works better than baking soda to remove odours from a carpet; it literally neutralises them on the spot. Sprinkle baking soda over the stains and leave it on overnight. You may need a box or two to really do the trick. To avoid clogging up your vacuum cleaner, sweep off as much baking soda as you can, then vacuum up the rest. For a urine neutraliser use borax or baking soda or spray of club soda (do not rinse; soak up moisture with a sponge if necessary).
If you have carpeting, be sure to vacuum it regularly with a HEPA filtered vacuum and clean it thoroughly every 12-18 months.