It was with disgust one day that we found our cat had been peeing on a specific area of carpet. Carpets are hard to clean, and even harder if the urine gets into the padding underneath. Luckily, I had made a pet stain remover already, but we felt it was time to clean the whole carpet. I looked at common commercial carpet cleaning solutions, and this is what I found:
- Bissell Heavy Traffic Spot Pretreater contains:
water, alcohol alkoxylate (<3%) as a surfactant and emulsifying agent, linear alcohol ethoxylate (<3%) as nonionic wetting agent, sodium citrate (as buffer, emulsion stabilizer, and sequestrant), sodium caprylyl sulfonate (as surfactant, cleaning agent), alkyl polyglucoside (as surfactant/cleaning agent), sodium polyacrylate (anti-redeposition agent, sequestrant), fragrance, silicone defoaming agent, citric acid (as acidulant, sequestrant, and buffering agent), methylisothiazolinone, and benzisothiazolinone
- Oxydeep Spot and Stain Remover contains:
water, hydrogen peroxide (<3%), SLS surfactant, and fragrance
- OxyAllergen 2X Machine Formula contains:
water, ethoxylated and propylated alcohols (as emulsion stabilizers and wetting agents, <5%), sodium polymethacrylate (as chelating agent, <3%), sodium caprylyl sulfonate (as surfactant and cleaning agent), branched alcohols ethoxylated (as surfactant and cleaning agent), malador counteractant (fragrance), methylisothiazolinone, and benzisothiazolinone
- Advanced clean and protect professional strength machine formula contains:
water, alcohol alkoxylate (as surfactant and emulsifying agent), sodium citrate (as buffering agent, emulsion stabilizer, and sequestrant), linear alcohol ethoxylate (as nonionic surfactant and wetting agent), acrylic polymer (as surface modifier), sodium caprylyl sulfonate (as surfactant and cleaning agent), alkyl polyglucoside (as surfactant and cleaning agent), sodium polyacrylate (as anti-redeposition agent and sequestrant), tetrasodium iminodisuccinate (as chelating agent and suspending agent), fragrance, silicone defoamer, and citric acid (as acidulant, sequestrant, and buffering agent)alcohols (<8%)
- Multi purpose professional strength machine formula contains:
water, alcohol ethoxylate (as surfactant and emulsifying agent), sodium citrate (as buffering agent), hydrogen peroxide (<2.5%), linear alcohol ethoxylate (as nonionic surfactant and wetting agent), sodium caprylyl sulfonate (as surfactant and cleaning agent), alkyl polyglucoside (as surfactant and cleaning agent), sodium polyacrylate (as anti-redeposition agent and sequestrant), citric acid (as acidulant, sequestrant, and buffering agent), fragrancealcohols (<6%) and anionic polymer
Between the isothiazolinones, cellulose, and the fragrances, none of these was going to work for me. I did learn from this, though, that most pretreaters are just more concentrated versions of the machine formulas (which you then water down further). I decided to look at the following ingredients:
- Sodium citrate
Is in club soda, food additive, keeps cheese from becoming as greasy when it melts. It is made by neutralizing citric acid with sodium hydroxide.
- Polysorbate 20 and 80
Reduce foaming, help emulsify, and are nonionic surfactants. Some people have issues with them. Polysorbate 80 is used to emulsify a small amount of water in a large amount of oily product. Polysorbate 20 is used to emulsify a small amount of oil in a large amount of water-based product, so this is the one I want.
An anionic surfactant. You usually want a higher amount of anionic and a small amount of other kinds of surfactants. High pH. I did not put soap in the carpet cleaner formula because it was already in the pretreater and needed to be rinsed out when washing the carpet.
- Washing soda
Acts as a sequestrant.
- Rubbing alcohol
To get useful alcohols that will dissolve stains, rubbing alcohol is an option. It smells, but is more active than vodka, and the smell fades over time. Has a pH of about 5.5.
A sugar-based alcohol that can dissolve both alcohols and oils.
A good dissolver of organic stains, eating away at the organic material. Has a pH of between 1 and 5.
So in the machine I wanted to consider using water, alcohol (<8%, solvent), sodium citrate (buffering agent, emulsion stabilizer, and sequestrant), possibly hydrogen peroxide (1-2.5-25%, bleach), <3% washing soda (sequestrant, chelating, and water softening), glycerin, polysorbate 20 (emulsifier, anti-foaming agent, and nonionic surfactant), liquid castille soap (anionic surfactant), citric acid (acidulant, sequestrant, and buffering agent) to bring to pH~8. For the pretreatment, I want a higher concentration of these chemicals and slightly less water.
As with all water-based, homemade cleaning products, only mix up what you plan to use immediately. All of the ingredients will keep in their pure form until you need more solution, the next time you clean your carpets, except for the peroxide, which has a more limited shelf life once opened.
- 4 tsp Washing soda in about 300 mL of Warm water
- 1 tsp Polysorbate 20
- 1 tsp Liquid castille soap
- 150 mL Club soda (fizz isn’t necessary)
- 100 mL Rubbing alcohol
- 150 mL 3% Peroxide
- 1 tsp Glycerine
- Water to raise the total volume to 900 mL
Add the ingredients in the order listed above, and stir gently to mix. Mix the pretreater with half solution, half warm water, and use immediately in a spray bottle. The pretreater will smell a lot like rubbing alcohol, but alcohol is a necessary component, and not a typical allergen. I try to leave the area after spraying, until I’m ready to wash the carpet.
Carpet cleaner formula:
- 1 tsp Washing soda in 80 mL Warm water
- 70 mL Club soda (fizz isn’t necessary)
- 25 mL Rubbing alcohol
- 1 tsp Polysorbate 20
- 1 tsp Glycerine
- 20 mL Peroxide
Mix the ingredients in the order listed above. Use as suggested for your machine – the Bissell Big Green cleaning machine uses one marked capful to one tank full of hot water.
Personally, I decided to do a second pass of the machine, containing just hot water, to rinse as much out of the carpet as possible. Fewer chemicals in the home environment, allergenic or not, is a good thing!
If you have a problem with polysorbate 20, you can leave it out, but it will decrease effectiveness somewhat, as it helps to dissolve more oils into the water that is pulled from the carpet. I ordered my polysorbate 20 online.
All of the other ingredients can be found in your local drug store or local grocery store, unless your town is like my town and you have to travel/order online to find washing soda.
This probably works better with distilled water (most cleaners do), but I used regular tap water (hard water) and it was fine. If you have really hard water you could use half your tap water and half distilled.