Rug cleaning is a procedure which traditionally uses hazardous chemicals, dangerous to both our environment and our health. The majority of companies offering this service, along with most household rug cleaning solutions, use a concoction of dangerous synthetic chemicals such as perchlorethylene, also known as perc, and naphthalene, both of which are considered to be carcinogens by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Thankfully more people are becoming aware of the dangers presented by traditional rug cleaning and have started seeking alternative methods. There are several environmentally friendly professional rug cleaning options available, as well as some eco friendly do-it-yourself methods. This article will examine the dangers associated with traditional rug cleaning methods and explore some of the alternatives that are readily available.
Risks of using perc and naphthalene
Perc and naphthalene are toxic chemicals which are key ingredients in traditional rug cleaning solutions. They can cause harm to the environment through leaks and fumes that are released during cleaning and can also pose a risk to your health if you come in direct contact with it.
Danger to the environment
The toxic chemicals used in traditional rug cleaning solvents are often released into the environment due to improper disposal. Both perc and naphthalene can cause harm to the environment when released in their own way:
- How perc can harm the environment – wastewater from rug cleaning must be disposed of properly to ensure that any toxins are neutralized. Often times it is not disposed of properly resulting in perc getting released into the ground. When this happens it can be very damaging to nearby plants, or even worst, can seep into groundwater and surface water. If perc gets into water sources, especially our drinking water, even just a small amount of the substance can contaminate a large amount of water which can be toxic to aquatic animals or humans that eventually drink the contaminated water.
- How naphthalene can harm the environment – Similar to perc, naphthalene can be released into the environment when it is improperly disposed of after rug cleaning. Most of the naphthalene that gets released into the environment will quickly turn into a gas which isn’t of much concern considering that it only has a half life of 1 day in open air. The real danger comes in when naphthalene binds itself to soil where its half life is approximately 80 days. When this happens the toxins can be absorbed by plants and can adversely affect some wildlife species.
Danger to your health
Shortly after rug cleaning is done with traditional chemical solvents comprised of perc and naphthalene, there will be remnants of the toxins released into the air of a room. This is especially dangerous for children who may be playing on the ground near the carpet as this is where the highest concentrations are found. Both perc and naphthalene are detrimental to your health in a variety of ways described below:
- How perc affects your health – Depending on your level of exposure to perc, the health effects can vary from one individual to the next. It is considered to be a carcinogen by environmental protection agencies around the world and thus should not be taken lightly. Some common symptoms for those with minimal exposure to perc include dizziness, headaches, respiratory problems and nausea. The real problem arises for people who are exposed to it for longer periods of time which can result in health problems such as liver damage, neurological effects, kidney damage and a higher risk of cancer.
- How naphthalene affects your health – Similar to perc, naphthalene affects each individual differently, depending on each individual’s exposure level. For those with minimal exposure through inhalation or skin contact can have several symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea, headaches and nausea. Some of the health risks for people with minimal exposure include hemolytic anemia and neurological damage in children. For those that have higher exposure to the naphthalene, mainly people that work in the rug cleaning industry, can have much more severe problems such as retinal hemorrhage and cataracts.
Eco friendly rug cleaning options
With the ongoing mental shift to treating our environment better, some rug cleaning companies are beginning to use more eco friendly options to avoid these hazardous solvents. There are various environmentally friendly options available for rug cleaning, each of which are just as good as traditional chemical based solvents, but without the health risks. One of these methods uses carbonated water to release dirt from the carpet, after which it is cleaned with the proper machinery. Another prominent eco friendly rug cleaning method is accomplished by using natural plant based solvents. These are not damaging to the environment in any way and still leave your carpet looking and smelling clean.
Eco friendly DIY methods
If you are not inclined to hiring an eco friendly professional rug cleaner for your carpet cleaning needs, and can not find a good solution in the store, there are homemade do-it-yourself methods which are both economical and environmentally friendly. One of these methods consists of using equal parts water and white vinegar which can be used for spot cleaning carpet stains. Simply add the solution to the stain and then rub it out with a warm damp sponge. Another simple home remedy which can be used on deeper stains is to make a paste out of salt, borax and vinegar, apply it to the stained area and let it sit over night. The following day simply vacuum the applied area and you should have a stain free carpet without damaging the environment.