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How to Clean the Dirty Edges of Carpet

Dark, shadowy, dirty lines on the carpet along baseboards, under doors and draperies, along the edges, and in the crevices of carpeted stairs are all visible signs of an aggravating problem called filtration soil. With the right tools and information, you can clean the dirty edges of the carpet, but first, it’s important to know what that dirt is and how it got there.

Ugly, grimy, black lines on edges of carpet that are from filtration soil

Photo credit: CandLFlooring.com

Basically, filtration soil is visual evidence that the air in your home is killing your carpet. It takes more than a vacuum to clean these filtration lines. A vacuum may remove some of the discoloration, but the smallest particles are electrostatically bound to the carpet fibers.

The key to cleaning these dirty edges is to agitate the fibers by scrubbing or scraping to loosen the dirt particles. This makes it possible to clean them with water and an appropriate cleaning solution.

Your carpet is the biggest filter in your home. Just like your furnace and air conditioning filter that filters out airborne soils that pass through it, your carpet does the same thing. That is the reason for dirty edges on the carpet, otherwise known as filtration soil.

Filtration soil comes from airborne pollutants passing through the carpet as the air is drawn through the crack between the carpet and the baseboard, around the drapes, or under a closed door. It’s an accumulation of soot from dirty ducts, smoke from candles, and the fireplace; tobacco, kitchen grease from the oven and cooktop; smog, auto emissions, and pollutants from outdoors.

A home’s HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system is designed to filter out airborne soil, trapping it in the filter. But once the filter is full, the system will send the air pollutants back into the house through the ducts where all of that icky mess gets lodged into corners and crevices. And if that’s not enough, filtration soil makes your house smell bad.

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When Carpet Stain Removers Fail, Carpet Surgery

Carpet stains are near the top of my personal list of pet peeves. I’m not talking about an accidental spill that when addressed quickly can be successfully removed with a good carpet stain remover. In fact, I get a lot of satisfaction from tackling a spill or stubborn spot on the carpet, forcing it to disappear never to be seen again.

What I’m talking about is an ugly stain that no matter what, absolutely will not budge.

Carpet surgery

Stephanie writes, “Is there anyway I can remove a rust stain from my carpet? We just moved into this house and the carpet is gorgeous—except for this fairly small spot that is so noticeable. It looks to me like rust. I’ve tried carpet stain removers, but they haven’t worked.”

It all depends on how long that rust stain has been there and other methods you have attempted to remove it. The problem is the harsher the treatment the more likely you’ll be to also remove color from the carpet, leaving you with an even more noticeable problem.

So let’s assume this rust stain is set for eternity and nothing is going to remove it. Here’s a last resort I’ve used with satisfactory results: carpet surgery.

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The Best Thing I Ever Bought—UPDATED!

Of all the columns I’ve written, the one on how to have perpetually clean carpet in my home has generated by far the most interest. And the most requests to reprint. Since you asked, here it is again, updated. Enjoy!


Okay, so maybe I should say, “One of the best things ….” but at this moment, as I write, I cannot think of anything I’ve ever purchased that can top my Hoover SteamVac. I bought it on Dec. 7, 2008, and I only know that because I kept the receipt.

All these years later —while still enjoying clean carpet for going on 12 years—Hoover is still performing flawlessly. I wouldn’t want to live without my workhorse Hoover, pictured below on the left.

On the right, is the current version, which replaces my model—Hoover Power Scrub Deluxe Carpet Cleaner Machine.

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13 Reasons to Keep Borax in the House (and Why It’s Safe!)

Recently this desperate message with a subject line Dishwasher Disaster! washed up in my inbox.

Dishwasher and Machine

Dear Mary: My dishes have accumulated a coating of grit due to the fact that someone (who shall remain nameless) insisted on rinsing the dishes before loading them into the dishwasher.

After a $59 service call which enlightened the guilty party as to the folly of his ways, I am now faced with futile attempts to remove said grit.

I have had only marginal success with Blue Dawn, a Magic Eraser, and much elbow grease.  I can’t help thinking there must be an easier and more effective way to accomplish this.

Can you help? Katherine

I came this close to ignoring that message because I didn’t have much to go on. There are so many variables like:

Is the water especially hard where Katherine and nameless live? Is Katherine using a rinse aid along with her detergent? Did what’s-his-name unwittingly double up on the detergent? Was the the water coming into the dishwasher hot enough from the first moment?

But then I stopped short, knowing the first thing I’d try if this were a problem in my kitchen.

Dear Katherine: I can’t be sure but it’s possible the surfaces of the dishes and glassware have become permanently etched. Just one theory, hope it’s not true.

Here’s what I would do: Fill your sink with HOT water. Add about 1/2 cup of borax (20 Mule Team is one brand, most supermarkets). Put the dishes in to soak. That should loosen the grit if indeed it is “grit” that is clinging to the surface. I’d be OK with using a scrubber (ScotchBrite BLUE option) to speed things along.

Hope that helps. Let me know …

Within only a few hours, I heard back!

Dear Mary: The Borax did the trick! Thanks for your help.

That got me thinking about the all the ways I use Borax to clean and fix problems around the house.

What is borax?

Borax’s chemical name is sodium tetraborate. Sodium tetraborate is a salt compound from boric acid, but it is not an acid. It is a salt that is found naturally in evaporation lakes. It is mined mostly Turkey and the U.S., with the most commercially important deposits found in Boron, California.

There is a difference between boron, borate, boric acid and borax. Boron is an element that exists in nature. Borax is a combination of sodium, boron and oxygen and can be mined from the earth in its crude form.

Powdered borax is white, consisting of soft colorless crystals that dissolve in water. Borax is an ingredient in many detergents, cosmetics, and enamel glazes. 20 Mule Team Borax is a trademark, named for the method by which borax was originally hauled out of the California and Nevada deserts. Borax is readily in supermarkets  in the laundry or cleaning aisles and online under a number of different brands including generically.

Borax is used in many different commercial applications, including as an ingredient in household cleaning products, as a buffer in chemical laboratories, to help extract gold in mining operations, and as a component of glass and ceramics.

 

Borax and Cleaner

Is borax safe?

As I have researched borax, I’ve come acoss some very misleading information regarding about the white powdery stuff. I thought I would clear that up today together with unique ways to use borax around the house that can make our lives easier. But let’s answer the big question first. Yes, borax is safe.

Borax, or sodium tetraborate is a salt compound from boric acid, but it is NOT an acid. It is a salt that is found naturally in evaporation deposits of lakes. It is mined in the U.S., mostly in southern California.

Borax is alkaline and has a pH of about 9, which is the same as baking soda. Chemically speaking, borax has a crystalline structure that dissolves well in water. It’s the boron in borax that makes it an excellent pH buffer to aid in cleaning and soap dispersion.

All the studies on borax that refer to cancer or fertility are based on rats who consume or ingest an incredibly large amount of borax for an extended period of time. You should never EAT borax! And let me be clear that none of those studies impact in any way how borax is used to clean.

Precautions to take

Generally, and this is true of ANY salt (baking soda, table salt), be careful about dumping large amounts into a container and breathing in the dust. You should never do this with anything that is a fine powder and not just with borax. Always be cautious about dust from salts— even flour, too.

Keep borax in a sealed container away from children just as you do with ANY cleaning agent, even natural ones. Natural cleaning agents are safe to use around pets and children, but you don’t want them getting into the container.

Do not use borax for skincare or topical use. It is really for cleaning only. And remember this: More is not better. You only need a small amount of borax to get any number of jobs done.

1. Clean carpet

Borax is a natural odor neutralizer, which makes it a perfect option for boosting the cleaning power of your carpet machine. It will make those carpets smell even better. Whatever the solution you’re using—even if only hot water—add 1/2 cup borax per gallon before filling the machine’s reservoir.

2. Steam clean

Steam all by itself is a fairly powerful cleaner, but adding borax to the process does an amazing job of pulling up dirt and debris. Great for killing odors, too. Add 1/2 cup borax to 1 gallon hot water to help dissolve the borax. Use this to fill the steam cleaner reservoir.

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Using Hydrogen Peroxide to Remove Stains

Faithful readers will recall a reader tip earlier this week, in which Julie shared her simple homemade carpet shampoo of hydrogen peroxide, hot water and a tiny bit of liquid laundry soap.

That tip set off a semi-avalanche of responses requesting specific details, and many of which cautioned, wisely, that hydrogen peroxide can have a bleaching effect on some types of fabrics and carpets that are not colorfast.

A close up of a rug

Carpet cleaning details

Mix HOT water, and a few drops liquid soap, preferably a simple biodegradable soap, such as ERA, Blue Dawn or Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap. Add enough hydrogen peroxide to make the overall solution from about 1/2% to about 2% hydrogen peroxide*. Fill carpet cleaner reservoir.

(*Use 1 3/4 cup   3% hydrogen peroxide per 1 gallon water; or 3% hydrogen peroxide mixed 50/50 with water.)

In theory, hydrogen peroxide could alter the color in carpet, depending on the kind of dye. However, this is unlikely using 3% peroxide. I have poured 3% hydrogen peroxide directly onto carpet in my home and have not had any problems.

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