My carpets have left me speechless.
Normally such speechlessness surrounding carpets stems more from, “What in the name of all that is pure and spotless is that?” Which is exactly how this situation started. This was a good number of years ago.
It had been a while since my sons’ floor had seen the light of day. There are times where days pass and as long as the mess is confined to their room, I pretend I don’t see it. But then a wave of awareness passes over me and I realize that such chaos is bound to sink into and wreak havoc on their very souls. And so the tragic-for-them day came when I required them to “clean up their room,” which somehow gets translated into “clean up their floor.” Not quite the same thing, but it was better.
Here’s what emerged underneath:
Oh my stars. How did that happen?! Who did that?! What even IS that?!
Naturally, my boys gazed down at it in complete mystification. They truly hadn’t noticed it before now, so they pointed all fingers at the usual culprit who lives deep in the recesses of my house: “I Dunno.” Someday I’d like to meet him. He’s very busy.
I ruled out the horribly obvious first possibility because firstly, my sons are, ahem, very well potty-trained. Secondly, I think the dog would have found it much more interesting if it were THAT. And thirdly, I would probably have started to smell it, too.
My second thought was chocolate, and while I’m not entirely certain that it wasn’t, I still think the dog would have been interested in it. Which he wasn’t.
My last two thoughts were rust or dye. Both involve something wet—swimsuit? bath towel? afternoon snack? makeshift pool for LEGO boats?—being dropped on something metal or dyed and then left there for hours. Or days. Maybe weeks.
Out came my carpet cleaner and my Sal Suds All-Purpose Spray. I’ve waxed poetical before on how well the All-Purpose Spray with either Sal Suds or Castile Soap works, but not knowing how long these stains had been there, much less what they were, I was dubious that it would work this time. I’ll let the picture speak for itself.
I promise it’s the same room. And I promise I have no idea how to edit photos to this extent.
How to clean carpets with Dr. Bronner’s
I usually opt for Sal Suds on carpets because it is slightly better at stain fighting, but the Castile Soap also works really well. I’ve used both over the years.
(Spot test your carpets before trying any of this by spraying an inconspicuous spot with one spray of All-Purpose Spray and rubbing vigorously with a white cloth. If there is any dye transfer, use another option on your carpets. Sal Suds is gentler on color than traditional carpet detergents but do the test just to make sure.)
Spot cleaning with the All-Purpose Spray
1. Pick up any loose soil. If liquid has soaked in, use a highly absorbent cloth like microfiber. Lay it over the spot and press on it with your shoe to draw the liquid up. If the cloth becomes saturated, use a new one and repeat until no more liquid comes out.
2. Spray the spot sparingly with the All-Purpose Spray, made with 1 Tbsp. (15 mL) Sal Suds or ¼ cup (60 mL) Castile Soap in 1 qt. (1 L) water. Do not saturate the carpet with the spray or else you’ll have too many bubbles in the spot. Alternately, if you want to spray more, make a “Lite” All-Purpose Spray by diluting the cleaner by half, using only ½ Tbsp. (7.5 mL) Sal Suds or 2 Tbsp. (30 mL) Castile Soap in a quart of water.
3. Rub the spot with a wet (just short of drippy) rough cloth. Rub in multiple directions to scrub all sides of the carpet fibers. If that washcloth gets too soiled, use a clean wet cloth.
4. Rinse the area using another wet cloth until all the soil and cleaner are gone.
Cleaning whole carpets with a carpet cleaner
1. Wipe any loose soil and absorb any liquids as in step 1 above.
2. Spray spots sparingly with one of the All-Purpose Sprays. Do not saturate the spot with the spray.
3. Fill the main compartment of the carpet cleaner with hot water. *
4. Fill the cleaning solution compartment with roughly 2 cups of water and add either 1 drop of Sal Suds (Yes, one drop.) or ½ Tbsp. (7.5 mL) Castile Soap.
5. Run the carpet cleaner over the carpet according to manufacturer instructions. Take care not to oversaturate the carpet with the cleaning solution.
6. When finished, rub your fingers into the carpet to check for remaining bubbles. If you find remaining bubbles, go over again with clean water.
- Optional: If you want to give your carpet a deodorizing treatment, fill the main compartment with hot water plus 2 cups (480 mL) distilled white vinegar. Leave the cleaning solution compartment empty, or if the machine doesn’t like it empty, just fill it with water. (If you’ve just cleaned your carpets with Castile Soap, do this only after checking there is no residual soap in the carpet. As a true soap, Castile and vinegar do not mix and the end result would be oily carpet.)
*Note: If your carpet cleaner has a different compartment configuration, you may have to adapt these instructions. Comment below or email me if you need help.
I am always simultaneously horrified and satisfied by how dirty my rinse water is. Clearly the carpet is getting cleaner. I go over my carpet several times until the rinse water looks fairly clean.
A note about warranties
I also need to mention that using Sal Suds or Castile Soap in your carpet cleaner may void your warranty. Mind you, I’m not saying that either of these cleaners will break your machine. However, it’s oftentimes a little footnote in the warranty that if you don’t buy that company’s brand of solution, they won’t honor the warranty. You’ll need to make your choice with this one. You can see that I’ve already made mine.
Regardless of which of the above methods you use, it is crucial that no Sal Suds are left in the carpet. Sal Suds and Castile Soap—like any detergent or soap—attract dirt. That’s how they work—they hold on to it. If you leave Sal Suds in your carpet, you will get worse spots.
Removing smells with baking soda
1. For a quick carpet freshening and deodorizing, baking soda is my go-to. It’s always good to spot test a new cleaning technique before embarking on the whole floor.In a bowl mix 2 cups (480 mL) of baking soda with about 20 drops of a favorite essential oil. Sweet orange is always a favorite of mine. You could try lavender or something woodsy like eucalyptus. Use a fork to blend the mixture until no lumps remain.
2. Add the mixture to a big shaker jar—either a repurposed large spice jar or a mason jar with holes in the lid. Sprinkle this liberally over the carpet.
3. Use a broom to brush it down into the fibers.
4. Let it sit for 10 minutes.
5. Vacuum the carpet thoroughly, using a vacuum with a decent HEPA filter.
Special note on cat urine
I wish I didn’t have so much experience cleaning up cat urine, but when we got adopted recently by a female feral cat and were able to woo her inside, our older female cat was not happy.
Follow the spot cleaning steps above. As a last step, saturate the area with a spray of distilled white vinegar spray cut in half with water. Let this air dry. The acidity of the vinegar will neutralize the alkaline salts that give cat urine its distinctive smell. The vinegar smell will dissipate when it dries.
Carpets are the largest horizontal surface in our living spaces. They need your attention. If you need the place to look clean fast, clean the carpets. If you don’t have time for a full-on carpet-cleaning, at least give them a thorough vacuuming. It makes a big impact.