Eco-Friendly Carpet Cleaning Options

Healthier alternatives for professional and do-it-yourself carpet cleaning

by Earth Talk
Updated March 17, 2017
Dear EarthTalk: My carpets need professional cleaning, but I don’t want chemicals and fumes in my house. Some companies advertise “safe,” but I’m not sure.
— Suzie Franklin DeFazio, via e-mail
Traditional commercial carpet-cleaning solutions contain a cocktail of noxious synthetic chemicals. One, perchloroethylene, commonly called “perc” in the industry, is a notorious dry cleaning additive known to cause dizziness, fatigue and nausea if ingested or inhaled.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also links perc to kidney and liver damage. Another chemical, naphthalene, a solvent manufactured from coal tar, is considered toxic to the human central nervous system and a possible carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Carpet cleaning chemicals get into the air of a room when applied during cleaning, and can also be ingested by kids who play on the floor soon afterwards. Besides such on-site health threats, carpet cleaning chemicals can pollute local groundwater if disposed of improperly (such as directly down your drain). Wastewater from carpet cleaning requires treatment and/or filtration in order to neutralize contaminants.

Eco-Friendly Carpet Cleaning Professionals
Thanks to growing awareness about the potential health impacts of carpet cleaning, a new breed of professional services has sprung up that eschews dangerous and polluting chemicals in favor of more natural solutions.

Some of the newer and more green-friendly cleaning solutions used by professional services are plant instead of chemical based, and include such brand names


Triple Action Bonding, Encapsulating, and Absorbing Odor Counteractant

Most carpet cleaning services are local businesses, and many have greened-up their processes in recent years.

If you need your carpets cleaned you should call around and ask questions. If a service doesn’t know whether their cleaning solution is plant or chemical based, or if they don’t have systems in place to treat or transport wastewater responsibly after cleaning, they should probably be avoided.

A few companies  also stand out for their commitment to more natural carpet cleaning operations. Uses Soap  Free  cleaning bubbles instead of harsh chemicals to remove dirt from carpet fibers. It uses a fraction of the water of other services and avoids harmful detergents, solvents and enzymes.

Alternatives to Professional Carpet Cleaning
Keeping carpets clean to begin with is one way to minimize the need for too many professional cleanings. The green living website,, suggests spot cleaning carpet stains with a homemade non-toxic solution consisting of equal parts white vinegar and water. The solution can be sprayed onto stains and then sponged up a few minutes later in combination with warm soapy water.

Meanwhile, hardier stains might warrant an overnight treatment with a paste made from salt, borax and vinegar, which can be vacuumed up the next morning. For more ideas, Sierra Club Canada’s “Safe Alternatives to Household Hazardous Products” offers a plethora of additional home remedies for spot cleaning carpets.

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EarthTalk is a regular feature of E/The Environmental Magazine. Selected EarthTalk columns are reprinted on About Environmental Issues by permission of the editors of E.