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Fill a soup bowl with water. Squeeze in 15 drops of Dawn dish soap. Add 3 tablespoons of rubbing alcohol.
BAM! You now have the best homemade carpet cleaning solution imaginable.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Pssh, this Ross guy is an idiot. Everybody knows vinegar is the best homemade carpet cleaning solution.”
Well, I hate to tell ya, but that’s false. Utterly, positively, hopelessly false. And I’ll tell you why.
Vinegar? Um, No
Let’s start by talking about vinegar. Yeah, it’s great. You can make pickles with it. You can flavor potato chips with it. It’s even somewhat effective as a disinfectant. But as a cleaning agent, it’s profoundly lacking.
To understand why, you have to remember that carpet is a textile. A really thick, really dense textile. It’s not a flat, one-dimensional surface like a counter top, which you can easily wipe clean.
Carpet is full of nooks and crannies where dirt, food and drink spills can hide.
Think about it… If you track horrible muddy footprints across the living room carpet, you can’t just wipe them clean, right?
You’d just smear the mud around and grind it deeper into the carpet.
But what about your kitchen counter tops? It would be easy to wipe mud from a counter top, wouldn’t it?
So, by all means, go nuts with vinegar on your kitchen counter top if that’s what you want to do. But vinegar is literally no more effective at cleaning thick, dense, three-dimensional carpet than water. Vinegar possesses exactly ZERO capabilities as a cleaning agent.
To lift mud from carpet, we need something called emulsification.
Behold! The Fear-Inspiring Power Of The Emulsifier!
Emulsification is just a fancy way to say, “Let’s surround all these muddy dirt particles with soapy foam that encases the dirt and keeps it from clinging to carpet fibers.”
Ah! now we’re getting somewhere!
Emulsification is the same reason you use soap to wash your hands, laundry detergent to wash your clothes and those little dishwasher tabs to wash your dishes.
Soap makes foam, foam suspends dirt. Simple, no?
Carpet is no different. If there’s mud or any other contamination in your carpet, the best way to clean it out is with emulsification. In other words, you suspend the contamination in foam so that it can be extracted.
Which brings us back to vinegar. It has absolutely no emulsification properties. Vinegar doesn’t foam.
It’s slightly effective as a disinfectant. It works pretty good to dissolve mineral stains. But it can’t emulsify. Therefore, vinegar makes a terrible carpet cleaning agent.
In contrast, the recipe provided at the beginning of this article makes a fantastic cleaning agent that works great, is easy to rinse away and it’s nontoxic.
The combo of water, soap and rubbing alcohol provides the perfect ratio of emulsification and solvent action. The soap makes foam, which traps dirt. And the alcohol dissolves fatty, greasy, oily substances found in many carpet spots.
Just don’t add more soap than I’ve recommended. It will be too foamy, which is a problem. If you use too much soap, it can be impossible to rinse from the carpet. It dries into a sticky mess that attracts dirt. Trust me, 15 drops is enough.
You’re probably thinking, “Sounds great, Ross–you’re such a good teacher! But how do I use this homemade cleaning solution?”
No problemo amigo, I’ve got you covered.
How To Extract Spots From Carpet
Ideally, you’ll have a wet/dry vacuum like a Shop-Vac. If you don’t have one, you can get an inexpensive half-gallon model for about 30 bucks. I highly recommend keeping one handy. You can use it for all sorts of cleaning chores around the house, and the small half-gallon size makes it easy to store.
So here’s what you do, and let’s just use a muddy foot print as an example.
Grab your Shop-Vac, fire that bad boy up, and suck up as much excess dirt and mud as possible. Don’t scrub the carpet or be too rough with it, because you don’t want to fray the fibers.
That’ll cause permanent damage. Even if you successfully remove the spot, you’ll still see a weird distorted area that will never go away. So NO SCRUBBING, mkay?
Next, pour some of your homemade solution on the spot. Or, better yet, put some solution in an empty Windex bottle and spray it on–I actually prefer spraying over pouring.
You don’t need to absolutely saturate the spot. Just get it wet enough that the contamination is evenly covered.
Now take a heavy spoon or other flat object, and “tamp” the spot to give it a little agitation. This, in effect, replaces the need to scrub. The tamping action provides just enough agitation to loosen soil and create some foaming.
Finally, extract the spot with your Shop-Vac a last time, and PRESTO! No more spot!
If the spot doesn’t come out the first time, simply repeat the steps again until it’s gone.
“But I Ain’t Got No Shop-Vac”
Here’s what to do if you don’t have a Shop-Vac…
Remove as much excess material as possible. Apply the homemade solution. Place a clean towel over the wet spot. Stand on it (without shoes because that would be too hard on the carpet). Dig your heel into the wet spot and put all your weight on it. Gently–oh, so gently–twist back and forth a little bit.
Your body weight will help “extract” soil into the towel. This method isn’t quite as effective as using a Shop-Vac, and it takes longer, but it should still work.
If necessary, add more solution and then do the heel trick again using a new, clean area of the towel. Repeat until the spot is gone.
If This Method Doesn’t Work For You, I’ll Eat My Hat
The key to this process is emulsification, which comes from the soapy water. Remember, vinegar doesn’t foam, so it’s completely ineffective on carpet. It just doesn’t work. If you’re going to use vinegar, you may as well use water.
These steps can be used to remove all kinds of carpet spots: Dirt, mud, food spills, some drink spills, cat fur balls, shoe polish, makeup–all kinds of stuff.
It even works on pet accidents if you can get to them fast enough.
However, it won’t remove stains. Stains, you see, are different from spots.
Spots add material to the carpet, but they don’t actually change the color of the carpet itself.
On the other hand, stains actually do change the color of your carpet, and are therefore much more difficult to remove.
To remove a spot, you simply remove the foreign material, which you can do by following the steps in this article.
To remove a stain, you need to employ various chemical reactions, which are much more tricky and require products most folks don’t keep around the house.
What To Do If You Get Stuck
If you come across a stain you can’t remove and you live in or around Indy, just give the ol’ Rosster (that’s me) a call at 317-370-9075.
You can also send a text to that same number.
Or simply fill out the form below.
That’s all, folks! I hope you find this homemade solution effective. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to drop me a line.
Now go forth, my devoted carpet warriors, and vanquish ye spots!