One of the problems with indoor carpet — other than offgassing of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in some synthetic weaves — is that they are the ideal home for mites, molds and dust.

Vacuuming is your first line of defense. But carpet eventually means carpet cleaners, many of which contain the infamous dry cleaning agent, perchloroethylene (perc). We've written about this substance in the past. Another common nasty is naphthalene, a possibly carcinogenic solvent linked to red blood cell damage.

Beyond the potential cancer-causing risks of both perc and naphthalene, many people report dizziness, nausea and irritation from the fumes. Pets are equally affected. Neither substance has any place in a healthy home.

If you decide to hire a professional cleaner, inquire about plant-based alternative solvents and insist on nontoxic steam extraction methods. There are also green carpet cleaning solutions available for home use, suitable for some carpet machines and spot application. Their ingredients are generally agreed to be safe for people and pets. Seventh Generation Carpet Cleaner and a similar product by Simple Green aren't hard to find at local whole food and natural health stores, and can be ordered online.

Postpone a general cleaning with spot maintenance. Here you have some natural options: salt for mud, dirt and red wine; club soda for coffee stains; and cornstarch or cornmeal for grease. To control odors, liberally sprinkle carpeting with baking soda and allow to sit overnight before vacuuming. Direct sunlight is also a great deodorant. A couple of hours in the sun does wonders to freshen bathroom mats and area rugs.

Renting a commercial steamer? Rinse out the cleaning chamber with warm water and flush the residue. It's not the best solution, but it beats recirculating the pesticides and chemicals from other people's carpets through your home. Invest in your own steam cleaning unit, and you'll have peace of mind knowing only natural cleaners are keeping your home fresh, clean and healthy.

Copyright Lighter Footstep 2008

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