Tips for Green Carpet Cleaning and Maintenance

Keeping your carpet clean and fresh doesn’t have to be toxic – here are some green, natural and safe recipes and ways to keep your floors clean and allergen-free.TIps for Green Carpet Cleaning and MaintenanceIn our very first house we had mostly hardwoods, which I both loved and disliked. I loved it because cleaning up spills and potty training is WAY easier, but my feet were always cold and I longed for soft, squishy carpet. Now we’re in a house where soft, squishy carpet abounds and it feels like luxury compared to hardwoods! Never thought I’d say that, since hardwoods are definitely the most popular on HGTV, making me believe people everywhere love hardwoods, too.

What’s So Dangerous About Carpet?

According to the EPA, carpets have come a long way in reducing “chemical emissions, energy usage, and water usage associated with manufacturing processes.” However, they are still coated in a hoard of chemicals, but some of the worst are the flame retardants (source). The craziest part is that flame retardants do not stop fires – they just delay them for a few minutes (did you know these awful chemicals are also on our children’s pajamas? ACK!). In new carpets, some of the other chemicals, which are known carcinogens and produce fetal abnormalities in laboratory animals, include toluene, benzene, formaldehyde, ethyl benzene, styrene, and acetone (source). In older carpets, even though the VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) they contain have dissipated over time, they are still covered in toxins brought in off shoes and dust and may contain chemicals that are now banned.

What Can We Do About It?

1. Rip Out the Carpet and Replace It With Green Carpet, Hardwoods or Tile

Obviously, this solution is going to be the most costly. It’s not something my family can do right now. But, if you’ve got the budget, it’s the sustainable wave of the future! The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) recommends buying carpets that have:

  • Low or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
  • No toxic dyes
  • Recyclable
  • Recycled-content
  • Reduced energy use (from manufacturing)
  • Reduced or improved air emissions (from manufacturing)

Fibers that are safe and eco-friendly include (use for rugs or for broadloom):

  • Wool that has not been treated with unsafe chemicals (see examples here at Home Depot). Wool is naturally flame retardant and repels liquids and is the best, but most costly choice.
  • Hemp is mold and mildew resistant.
  • Check out for many varieties of carpets that are untreated, green, AND biodegradable!
  • Bamboo flooring is sustainable as bamboo grows very quickly and is abundant.

2. The Cheap, DIY Way – Smart Cleaning to Reduce the Toxins & Maintain Cleanliness

Baking Soda Carpet Freshener and Cleaner

Clean carpets with safe products like my homemade baking soda carpet cleaner and refresher. Click on the picture to get the recipe!

So, if you’re like me, replacing your whole house with hardwood and expensive wool rugs would be totally fabulous, but just isn’t in the family budget yet. In the meantime, here are the cleaning practices we can employ around the house to keep toxins and dust (which carry toxins from the carpet and our shoes) at bay:

  • Leave your shoes at the door and have good doormats at each outside entrance to stop dirt and toxins from ever coming in.
  • Dust often but do it wisely – feather dusters just stir up the dust into the air, so use a wet cloth instead (I sometimes use a little olive oil to dust and an old, wet rag). Dusting is very important when you have babies and toddlers who are always on the floor and will breathe in or ingest any dust and dirt.
  • Vacuum often to get rid of dust and dirt that carry toxins and allergens.
  • Buy the best vacuum you can afford with a HEPA filter. Cheaper vacuums are not sealed well and dust and dirt can escape and blow back into the air. My favorite vacuum (as you can tell from the picture) is an Oreck vacuum (where to buy) – they last FOREVER. My mom has had her Oreck for 15 years, and has had no problems with it! They are so lightweight and powerful.
  • Steam clean your carpets by buying a steam cleaner that doesn’t use chemicals. The steam will kill dust mites and bacteria, and I’ve found, really fluffs up the carpet and makes it look newer. I have a Haan Steam Cleaner (where to buy) with carpet glide attachment and LOVE it. I use it on hardwoods, tile, and carpet. It comes with microfiber pads, so there’s no waste either!
  • Clean stains, spots and smells with a homemade green cleaner – My favorite thing to use on spills is my Baking Soda Carpet Cleaner. The baking soda, combined with tea tree and lavender essential oils (where to buy high quality essential oils) does an amazing job of deodorizing and drying up spills. It’s so green you never have to worry about the fragrance or chemicals if your children and pets are all over it!

3. Hire A Green Carpeting Cleaning Company To Thoroughly Clean Your Carpets

One of the worst things we can do is to have the carpets (which are already laden with toxic chemicals) cleaned with more toxic chemicals! So, hire a green cleaning company once every couple of years who will use safe, organic cleaning products or even just steam clean. Here are some companies across the U.S. to try:

ChemDry has franchises all over the US, read my review of their service here.

Here is how Chem-Dry cleans:

We use an organic method of hot carbonated water extraction to attack dirt, dust, oils and allergens in carpet fibers and on hard surfaces. Our carpets dry more quickly and stay cleaner and healthier for longer than any other cleaning method; we’re proud that the Carpet & Rug Institute has given our process its Seal of Approval.

How to Purchase High Quality Essential Oils through My Merry Messy Life

How to Order High Quality Essential Oils from Young LivingHow to Order High Quality Essential Oils from Young Living

About Sara McFall

Sara is the owner and founder of My Merry Messy Life, which started in 2011 as a way to chronicle her journey to a natural, chemical-free lifestyle and to share her passions of mothering, real food, homeschooling and crochet. She is a mama to three precious and energetic little boys and wife to a university professor who loves to sing, dance ballet and ballroom, and live simply and naturally.


  1. When I was pregnant with my first child the allergens in the old carpet nearly killed me! I had my husband tear up ALL OF THE CARPET and we got new flooring on clearance at lowes. Let me tell you that was the best thing we could have done! Carpets are so nasty and toxic. In our new house the only place that has carpet is in the basement, and that is all scrap carpet that can be thrown out any time. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Wow, I already hate carpet, but had no idea just how dangerous and toxic it can really be! The house we moved into last year doesn’t have an inch of carpet in sight and I love it! Of course, laminates and tile require a bit of upkeep since they show every bit of dust or water spots, etc., but when you see just how nasty carpets are, it’s all worth it in the end.

  3. I have wood downstairs and carpet upstairs. I like the feel of carpet on my bare feet when I wake up! Great ideas and tips. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I am pregnant with my third little boy (also due in feb) went threw this weird period where I craved baking soda and vinegar…(weird I know right) anyhow I had a bunch of both and finding uses for them was a priorityv9to keep me from wanting to eat them) I have been using it in my carpet with a scent and I found I no longer crave it ( plus I use it as a scrub and shampoo) && the smell of vinegar in my cleaning supplesi now use has made all nasty cravings stop! thank you so much for this blog! it was literally a stomach saver :]

  5. Thank you for all of your wonderful ideas! I have read in several different places that essential oils are toxic to animals, although there is conflicting information out there. To be safe, I use baking soda and ground cloves. I add both to a bottle, shake, and sprinkle. I let it sit on the carpet for about 15 minutes or so and vacuum it up. The room smells wonderful and I don’t have to worry if the cats or dog steps on it.

    • Great tip, Tory! I’m sure the ground cloves leaves a wonderful scent. Someone else wrote on another post that Tea Tree Oil is harmful to cats. I dunno, I have two cats and a dog and have sprinkled baking soda mixed with EO’s many times and they’ve never been harmed. There seems to be a lot of conflicting information about EO’s out there. Perhaps it’s based on quantity?

  6. if your in GA look up Zerorez. they clean with no chemicals just water.
    I’ve been told to steer clear from baking soda on the carpet for two reasons, it never really comes out of the carpet and it clogs the hepa filter.
    vacuuming a lot and using vinegar and water spray to get rid of spills is best for everyday cleaning according to the carpet guys.

  7. gundersonmom says:

    I want to question why you use Borax as an ingredient for a “green” product as I have researched and found that Borox has a EWG rating of 7 ? I am trying to find ways to clean naturally but also be sure to kill the bacteria. What part does the Borax play?

  8. I wish I could replace my carpet, but I’m a renter, so it’s out of the question for me as well! But UGH is my carpet gross. I got a blacklight because I knew I had pet stains, and the results were scary! I have found enzyme cleaners to work well with kitty stains (and are natural, I think). Baking soda is good for soaking up the stink too, but unfortunately one of the three cats thinks baking soda makes the Best Litter Ever so if I put it down on the carpet, she pees on it. And then I have wet, yellow, clumped up baking soda that smells. Whee! So enzyme cleaners it is. 😉
    Side note for anyone who might want to try it: I inherited a traditional carpet cleaner (that you would put cleaner in), and tried using the enzyme cleaner in it the same way you would use regular carpet cleaner. Somehow it made the smell WORSE that way… I don’t recommend it!

    • Hi Wren … I also have about 25 y/o carpet in my Apartnment and 2 Cats (with lots of hair) and I had been seam-cleaning my carpet 2x year. I will rent a Steam Cleaner from Home Depot (about $35 per day, the best is to rent b4 holiday so you will have it for 2 day) and use ONLY very warm (almost hot) WATER with 2 cups VINEGAR and change water OFFTEN. I have about 750 sq.ft of Carpet and I will use about 7 buckets/refills. It is quite inexpensive, fast and my carpets are Clean, Soft and Smell “fresh”. We also “share” Steam-Carpet Cleaner with my Girlfriends in the Building so the cost is very low :o)

  9. Sara, we are so proud to be your Chem-Dry cleaner!! And recently Chem-Dry did a study of the indoor air quality and how cleaning your carpets and furniture affects the air you breathe. It was AMAZING!! The study found that cleaning and sanitizing furniture and carpeting/rugs removes up to 98% of allergens, mold, bacteria and virus IN THE AIR!!

    We are happy to help you keep your 3 boys healthy and your sofa, rugs and carpets clean and germ-free — and thanks for spreading the word about Chem-Dry!

  10. Thank you for all of your wonderful ideas!

  11. Hazel Owens says:

    I’ve always liked having carpets in bedrooms, since it feels a lot softer and more welcoming than other floors. However, I don’t like the way that it can build up dirt and dust, so your tips to prevent that are really helpful. I’ll be sure to vacuum and deodorize with baking soda often, so my carpet stays clean and dust free. Thanks for the tips!

  12. Silas Knight says:

    I had no idea that there were so many chemicals on our carpets. I also didn’t know that green carpets existed, but that sounds like a good thing to have. However, for right now, we will probably just get the carpets cleaned, as that is less expensive.

  13. Great.. thanks for sharing great article.

  14. Mark Napier says:

    My wife is a cleaning guru and has to have things cleaned in a certain way. One thing that she hasn’t had a whole lot of time to do since we have moved is clean the upholstery and carpets in in our home. I’m gong to help her do it.. Thanks for your article !!

  15. Great tips.. very well written article with complete description on best tips of carpet cleaning which are different in their own ways. This well written article is very helpful for me. Thanks for sharing this information.

  16. Great idea. I love this idea very much. You can clean your carpet some green, natural and safe recipes and ways to keep your floors clean and allergen-free. Thanks for sharing this important article. This is very helpful tips for me.

  17. Hey Buddy,

    Nice Post!!

    What a new concept of green carpet cleaning you have introduced. I wasn’t even aware of this idea. Even I am also a great supporter of the GREEN THEME. The toxic materials used in normal carpet cleaning techniques are so harmful not only for us, but our surroundings too.

    I will surely replace all my carpets with the green carpet as and when my budget allows it. In the meantime, I will follow those simple and useful tips that you have shared in your post.
    Thanks for sharing this informative article.

  18. It’s alarming to know all the chemicals that are found in simple home furnishings. I’m glad to hear there are green cleaning companies out there to keep toxins out of our homes. Thanks for sharing!

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