Greening Carpet Care

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warns that cleaning chemicals and wet carpets can contribute to indoor air pollution and negatively impact the environment. This means that in order to keep carpet cleaning sustainable, the chemicals selected must be more environmentally responsible and the machines used be more effective at removing moisture from carpets after cleaning.


Reports dating back more than 30 years have found a correlation between carpet cleaning chemicals and respiratory outbreaks. Very often, these occur shortly after carpet has been cleaned. In one report, children in a daycare center complained of respiratory problems within a few hours after the carpets had been cleaned in nearby classrooms.

Often these outbreaks are caused by the high concentration of VOCs released into the air from some conventional carpet cleaning chemicals. High levels have the potential of serious harm to indoor occupants, and even when occupants have been exposed to low levels of VOCs, it has resulted in eye, nose, and throat irritation.

Fortunately, just as with floor care chemicals, many carpet-cleaning solutions have been replaced by chemicals that have fewer VOCs and other ingredients that can cause potential health risks. Additionally, some have been certified by independent, third-party organizations such as EcoLogo and GreenSeal. Certification means the products have been evaluated and proven to have less impact on the environment while maintaining satisfactory cleaning effectiveness when compared to conventional cleaning products.


Not only are chemicals now being certified, but carpet extractors are as well. The Carpet and Rug Institute’s Seal of Approval Program (SOA) awards Gold, Silver, and Bronze certification to machines that pass strict criteria. One of the items examined is how much moisture the extractor injects into carpets and how effectively it removes the moisture along with cleaning solution and soils. Some low-moisture extractors use a gallon of water or less per minute during the extraction process. The more effectively it is removed from the carpet, the less chance for mold or mildew to develop. Additionally, more thoroughly removing carpet cleaning chemicals helps protect indoor air quality and helps prevent rapid resoiling of the carpets.

To help aid in cleaning effectiveness and boost carpet cleaning performance, extractors should heat the cleaning solution to more than 200º F. Heat improves the effectiveness of cleaning chemicals, so less may be needed.

Additionally, cleaning professionals and school administrators need to pay more attention to the wand used for carpet extraction. Historically, the only differences between wands were that some were single, two, or even three jets. However, new wand technologies have recently been introduced that remove the “turbulence” of airflow traveling through the wand, making the wand — and the extractor — more effective.

This article originally appeared in the issue of .

About the Author

Danna Adams is a technical support manager for U.S. Products, manufacturers of professional carpet cleaning and restoration equipment.