5 Old-Fashioned Cleaning Tips for Carpets, Rugs and Floors

After a nice swim, all he wants is to roll around on your new rug for a while. See more dog pictures.
Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images/Thinkstock

Not even Supermom can ensure that no one ever wears shoes in the house, that animals and children never track mud through the halls, or that no one ever consumes food or drinks over the living room carpet. We've all been victims of stains, dirt and odors trapped in the flooring. They attack when you least expect it and cling onto your carpet for dear life, no matter how much you scrub and scrape.

For this kind of battle, you need a few secret weapons that people have been using for generations. Your grandmother's mother's mother got her carpet clean without modern vacuum cleaners or stain solutions, so why change something that works? Our 5 old-fashioned cleaning tips can help you be better than Supermom in your battle against the unsightly (and smelly) enemies locked into your carpet, rugs and floor. First up: how to get a hardwood floor spotless without a vacuum cleaner.

5
Get a Self-Cleaning Broom

People survived centuries without vacuum cleaners and may have had cleaner hardwood floors because of it. Brooms have gotten the job done for generations. We're talking about real brooms, though, made from real broomcorn, not synthetic bristles. A good old-fashioned broom made from broomcorn actually cleans itself as you use it. Soil and dirt particles won't linger between these bristles the way they tend to stick between newfangled synthetic broom bristles.

As an option for cleaning hardwood floors, a real broom is better (and cheaper) than a vacuum cleaner --no dirt bag to change or electricity required -- and more efficient than a synthetic broom. Mother knows best, right? Well, this is what mothers have been using to get dirt off the floor for years.

4
Shave Away Stains

You can try rearranging the furniture to cover up that spot on the rug, but you'd have better luck trying to get the stain out first. If it's just a little spill, water and a cloth might take it out, but for tougher stains, such as red wine or pet urine, you'll need a tougher solution. You don't have to look far; the solution is right in your shower!

A good spot cleaner for carpet stains is shaving cream. Take an old shaving brush or purchase a small, cheap paintbrush (that you keep just for this purpose) and use it to work the shaving cream into the stain. Then use a clean, damp rag to wipe up the shaving cream and the remnants of the stain. Blot the area dry with a clean, white or color-fast cloth.

3
Clear Up Carpet Odors

If you've ever had a wet dog come traipsing through your living room after a rainstorm, you know that carpets hold in odors days after the culprit has left. Refresh a carpet or a large area rug that's absorbed unpleasant pet odors, smoke or other smells by thoroughly mixing together 2 cups cornmeal with 1 cup borax and sprinkling the mix onto the carpet. After about an hour, vacuum the carpet.

Another option to pick up odors is to sprinkle cornstarch liberally over the floor and then vacuum it up after an hour or so.

With either option, you'll be amazed at how much better the whole room smells, but if you want to keep it that way, don't let Rover roll around next time until he's dry!

2
Scrub Scuff Marks

Scuff marks on the floor are inevitable -- even for your grandmother, whose house always seemed in pristine order. You can't expect your beautiful linoleum, considering all of the feet and paws that walk on it and all of the furniture you drag over it, to stay perfect forever.

So what was your grandmother's secret to keeping up the appearance of perfection? It was quite possibly the trick of using old-fashioned toothpaste (not the gel kind). Scuff marks on linoleum can often be removed if you use an old toothbrush to work the toothpaste into the mark, wipe it away with a damp cloth, then wash the floor as usual.

1
Sift Out Grease Stains

Forget grass and blood -- grease may be the worst kind of carpet stain because it is so difficult to remove. We've got a secret weapon, though, that'll scare it right out of the fibers: flour.

Sprinkle the stain with finely sifted flour, then lay a piece of brown paper (from a clean paper lunch bag or shopping bag, for example) over the stain and stack phone books, bricks, or other heavy weights on the paper. Wait about half an hour. Remove the weight and the paper, and then use a clean whisk broom to sweep the flour out of the carpet. Repeat the process as many times as necessary to soak up all the grease, using fresh flour and paper each time.

Adapted from "101 Old-Time Country Household Hints," © 2008 Publications International, Ltd.