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Natural Awakenings Space & Treasure Coast Florida

Carpet Cleaning the Green Way

Apr 05, 2011 01:22AM ● By Tim and Dalene Bag

Carpet cleaning can be a fairly toxic practice. Standard carpet cleaning formulas contain a combination of harsh chemical solvents and detergents to remove dirt and stains. After cleaning, harmful residues remain in your carpet and circulate throughout the air. This "toxic soup" affects the health of every member of your family, especially small children and pets.

Fortunately, there is a natural, green alternative to cleaning your carpets. Green typically means that something is environmentally sound or beneficial. Natural pertains to having undergone little or no processing and containing no chemical additives. While companies have been capitalizing on the word "natural" for years, they are now turning their attention to "green." But are the products and services really what they claim?

Be aware that the words "natural" or "green" are no guarantee that products are safe and environmentally friendly, or even effective. Reading labels doesn't help either. Manufacturers of cleaning products are not required to list every ingredient and some do not list any.

Impact on Your Health

Carpets act as huge air filters, trapping dust and mites, allergen from pollen and pets, bacteria, heavy metals, and other particles from the air. 90% of this type of dirt is dry and easily removed by vacuuming if you have the right equipment. A powerful vacuum with a HEPA .3 micron filter is the best; otherwise, particles can escape back into the air, impacting your health.

The other dirt, the greasy kind, likes to cling to carpet fibers. This "ground in" dirt and stains are harder to remove and need a solvent for effective cleaning. However, large amounts of chemicals solvents and detergents are not required for satisfactory results.

Two main ingredients in most commercial carpet cleaning solutions are Perchloroethylene and Napthalene. "Perc" is a dry cleaning additive which can cause dizziness, fatigue, nausea, and even kidney and liver damage. Napthalene is both a neurotoxin and possible human carcinogen, according to the EPA.

When toxic ingredients are used in the presence of someone with chemical sensitivities, it is not uncommon for allergy symptoms such as skin rashes, asthma attacks, attention-deficit disorder and hyperactivity (children), constant fatigue, headaches, or depression to develop. Over time, continuous exposure to chemicals can weaken the immune system, leading to a variety of chronic health issues.

The Dirty Truth

Carpet cleaning systems that utilize plant-based ingredients instead of harsh chemicals will not cause your carpets to get dirty faster. However, when synthetic solvents, detergents, and "optical brighteners" are used, rapid re-soiling is common. This is because "left behind" soap and chemicals are sticky and act like magnets to attract more dirt.

In addition, when large amounts of water (steam) are applied, only 20% of the total soil in your carpets will be eliminated with one cleaning. You would need 40 cleanings to get all the dirt. It is also impossible to extract all of the water. Wet carpets can take days to dry, encouraging the growth of mold and mildew.

The Greener Cleaner

To clean your carpets the green way, avoid toxic chemicals that pollute the air and get into our water supply. Steer clear of solvent-based cleaners with dyes, heavy metals, aerosol propellants, artificial fragrances, optical brighteners, or other harsh ingredients.

Look instead for products and services that are safe for your family, pets, and the environment. These should use as many plant-derived, natural ingredients as possible. Ideally, find a service that removes at least 75% of dust mites and allergen, mold spores, and pet dander allergen, and uses very little water. While you want your carpets to look good, you also want them to be thoroughly cleaned. Remember, when you improve indoor air quality, you improve your health.

Tim and Dalene Bagby are the owners of Greenway Carpet Care, located in Brevard County. They can be reached at 321-406-1513. For more information on green cleaning, visit

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