5 Green Carpet Cleaning Tips

Clean this carpet naturally.
Clean this carpet naturally.
iStockphoto.com/Bridget McGill

Commercial spot removers for carpets and rugs usually contain caustic substances, not to mention chlorine and/or petroleum-bas­ed solvents. Although more and more spot removers are becoming available that claim to be easy on both the environment and your health, there's really no need for you to buy them. Luckily, you can tackle many of the common carpet and rug stains you may encounter with a vinegar and water solution, and sometimes with just undiluted vinegar alone! To get that coveted foaming action that many products feature, place the vinegar solution into a well-rinsed foaming soap bottle.

Now, let's look at some specific situations where green cleaning can be applied to the carpet.


Crayons & Glue

With kids in the house, you might find chewing gum or crayon stains mysteriously appearing in your rug or carpet (try finding a kid to own up to them!). For each of these, you need to use undiluted vinegar. To remove crayon stains, tackle the spot directly by dipping an old toothbrush in vinegar and scrubbing the stained area.

If you find a dried blob of white school glue on your carpet, try treating it with a vinegar and water solution sponged in and blotted. However, if the spot is stubborn, warm up the vinegar a little bit on the stove or in your microwave and sponge it in undiluted. Let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes, then scrape it away. Clean up any residue using the vinegar and water solution.


Greasy Spills

Here's an excellent way to pick up a greasy spill on your carpet: Sprinkle it with a li­ttle cornmeal and allow it to sit for five minutes. Next, sponge the area with vinegar and water.



The Four Cs: Catsup, Chocolate, Coffee, and Cola

When your rug or carpet is stained with any one of the Four Cs, a vinegar and water s­olution is called for. Remember, though, that each culprit requires an individual application guideline. For each, first mix 1 cup vinegar with 2 cups water (or a 1:2 ratio of any kind, depending upon the quantity you need).

For catsup, liberally sponge the mixture into the carpet until the stain disappears, rinsing and repeatedly wringing out your sponge.

Chocolate stains should be treated in the same way, but it's important to blot with a clean cloth, rather than rub, to avoid spreading the stain further. Again, rinse and wring out your sponge repeatedly until the water runs clear.

A coffee or tea spill on the rug should come up easily if you catch it right away. Just sponge it with clean water. If the stain is set, however, use the vinegar and water solution; sponge it in, then rinse and wring until all brown color is gone. You can treat dark cola stains in the same way.




It's certainly not unusual for a rug or carpet to suffer some kind of accidental sa­turation -- from a leaky roof, an overfilled bathtub, an actual flood, or perhaps simply a spilled glass of juice. Whatever the liquid, your only defense is to get it dried out as quickly as possible. Still, it's probably safe to assume you're going to have a mildew problem anyway; after all, mildew loves the damp, and rugs love to retain dampness.

You can kill any mildew hiding in your rug fibers by sponging in a mixture of half vinegar and half water. But you must take measures to ensure the rug dries thoroughly. If you can't set the rug or carpet out in the sun for a long time, you may want to use a hair dryer, set at a very low setting, and/or aim some electric fans at it. The goal, after all, is to defeat dampness!



Red Wine

­When you have a brand-new red wine spill on a light-colored carpet, sprinkle the spill with salt and let it sit for 15 minutes. The salt will absorb the spill and will turn pink. After brushing or vacuuming the salt away, clean the area with a mixture of 1/3 cup vinegar and 2/3 cup water.