If you want a greener way to clean your carpet, how will you know when you find it? After all, there’s no single quality or ingredient that qualifies a cleaning solution as “green.” That said, there are some qualities that you’ll want to watch for, as well as others you may prefer to avoid. Let’s start with the positives – terms such as biodegradable, plant-based, or renewable.
When most people think of the term, biodegradable, they’re thinking of a substance that can be broken down into natural materials without causing harm. But this isn’t exactly true. Biodegradable is actually a broader term that includes substances or objects that can be broken down by bacteria or other living organisms; many substances we wouldn’t want to handle fall within this category, like lye or ammonia or methane. In short: It’s usually good to be biodegradable, but read the fine print.
Plant-based cleaners are growing in popularity, and you won’t have to go far to find solutions with ingredients such as lemon, palm, or coconut oil. Each of these ingredients are natural, renewable, and biodegradable (in the best sense of the word); these are all pluses. That said, each of these ingredients can be (and are) mixed with additives that are less eco-friendly; these can include dyes, artificial fragrances, sulfates, or other chemicals. Being plant-based is a great start, but you’ll again need to read the fine print.
Renewable is another encouraging term. If something is renewable, it can be grown – just like the corn, lemons, sugar, or other crops that make up plant-based cleaners. Renewable excludes substances that can’t be grown – particularly unfriendly substances based on petroleum. The key here, as above, is to make sure that your renewable cleaning solution doesn’t also contain additives that are not as kind to the environment.
When it comes to removing carpet stains, many homeowners have tried do-it-yourself solutions – and some of them work pretty well. White vinegar and water can be an effective combination. Others also employ ingredients such as baking soda, borax, or salt to tackle carpet stains, with good results.
Cleaning an entire carpet with do-it-yourself solutions is more difficult to do, but some professional cleaners offer solutions that are eco-friendly. Olympia’s Meridian Chem-Dry, for example, uses carbonated water as the primary ingredient. Chem-Dry’s flagship carpet cleaning solution, The Natural, uses only ingredients found in nature; as a result, their carpet cleaning solution is safe for both children and pets. (But don’t forget: Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s safe.)
You know that biodegradable, plant-based, and renewable are good terms to see when you’re looking for a green cleaning solution. What terms do you want to avoid? Phosphoric acid and chlorine are two common ones. You’ll also want to avoid carpet cleaners that include isopropanol, butoxyethanol, or ethanolamine; the former ingredient is harmful to breathe, while the latter two can irritate the skin.
Even if you’re dedicated to the idea of being eco-friendly, it can be difficult to find effective cleaners for every occasion. Not every cleaner you use will be perfect. But take heart. The more we buy green products, the more companies will work to perfect them. Maybe someday, every product will be green. Until then, we’ll do the best we can – starting with the way we clean our carpets.