The first topic I want to discuss is near and dear to my heart: clean carpets. There is nothing that makes me crazy faster than a dirty floor (and with two kids and a dog, that is a big task!). Our home features quite a lot of carpet--so we run the house "Island style", that is, we remove our shoes at the door. We keep a large basket in the entryway that is the shoe dumping ground, which helps to keep the floors cleaner and makes it easy to locate shoes. Score!
Despite our best efforts, the floors still sometimes require a deeper cleaning than just good old vacuuming can fix. We own a carpet cleaner, and try to run it every few months--but this becomes a problem for several reasons: 1) Cleaning solution for this much carpet gets expensive, 2) Chemicals on my floors, which the kids and dog are exposed to, and 3) This requires us to dump detergents back into our water system.
So, as I noticed that our carpet was due for another deep cleaning, I began researching better alternatives to commercial cleaning products. Here is what I found:
Spot-cleaning: If you have a few dirty spots, but not enough to warrant a full-on carpet cleaning session. OR, if you want to pre-treat some spots before a deep-clean. Mix up a paste of baking soda and white vinegar (learn from my mistake--don't make it too watery! I ended up with crusty baking soda stuck to the carpet--though it came up with some gentle scraping), dab on the spot and scrub with a sponge or rag. Let dry and vacuum as normal.
Deep-cleaning: Instead of using chemical-laden detergents to clean your carpets, simply fill your carpet cleaning machine's clean water tank with a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and hot water. Put your machine on the "water rinse only" option, and clean away.
Benefits: No chemicals on the floors, no soapy residue in the carpet (which can dry sticky, like soap scum, and attract dirt, making it harder to get rid of), no detergents being dumped, and it is super cost-effective! I cleaned the two largest carpeted areas of the house with one gallon of white vinegar--less than $3.00! Also, the vinegar does an amazing job of dissolving stains and neutralizing carpet odors (like that of a big stinky dog... *ahem*).
Drawbacks: Hot vinegar smell. It dissipates as the carpets dry, but there's no getting around it. I suggest saving this, if possible, for a nice day when you can open some windows. Regardless, it is better than smelling chemicals, and I find this a small price to pay for a cleaner, greener home!