Take off your shoes!

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dining areaTaking off your shoes when entering your home could benefit your health, your bank balance and the environment in more ways than you think!

This week we’ve been challenged to take off our shoes before walking indoors.

Why? Well as Reduce Footprints points out “Did you know that your shoes are responsible for bring pollutants into your home? Further, that those pollutants (E.g. pesticides and lead) can contaminate your indoor air?”

In fact, taking off your shoes in the house is something I feel quite strongly about myself.

It makes no sense to clean your floors then walk on them with shoes on does it? And if your carpets get dirty, many products we use for cleaning them such as carpet deodorizers, shampoos and spot removers are pretty toxic.

We’ve taken up most of our carpets downstairs, but many people still have them so today I’m going to talk about carpet cleaning products as well as share some recipes for making your own non-toxic alternatives.

Most conventional carpet cleaning products contain a cocktail of artificial fragrances, optical brighteners, pesticides, fungicides and solvents. Optical brighteners remain on the carpet, giving the illusion of cleanliness, but they can cause skin irritation; not too handy if your kids like to play on the floor.

Spot cleaners are the most toxic of all carpet cleaning products. Most spot removers contain perchlorethylene and naphthalene, both of which are poisonous if swallowed. Perchlorethylene is a solvent which is highly irritating and has a lingering smell. It has been shown to damage the central nervous system and contribute to kidney and liver damage. Short-term effects of exposure to perchlorethylene include dizziness, light headedness, headaches and disorientation.

Napthalene is a pesticide, insecticide and fungicide. It is a neurotoxin that irritates the eyes, skin and lungs. Napthalene is very toxic to children. In addition, Napthalene accumulates in marine life so should really be avoided.

The trouble with carpets, is we can’t take them outside and give them a good shake or get to the back of them to do a proper clean!

Every time you walk on a carpet, you send up a cloud of dust, dirt and everything else lurking in there. The Institute for Total Carpet Hygiene (ITCH) states ‘if you haven’t washed your carpet in the last 12 months you can be sure that lurking deep in the carpet fibres will be bacteria, fungus, chemicals, dead skin, dust, food particles, germs, pollen, grease, grit and dust mites. If neglected, these particles will work their way deeper into the carpet and may contribute to health problems including allergies, asthma and emphysema.’

Here are my Six steps to clean carpets., taken from “Self sufficiency Household Cleaning” and some homemade recipes to follow

  • Prevention is the key to all successful green household cleaning so taking your shoes off when entering the house should be your number one priority. Place good quality welcome mats at the entrance to your home. Ask guests to wipe their shoes and then leave them at the door. The majority of dirt in carpets is brought in on shoes.
  • Vacuum regularly so that dirt and dust don’t accumulate. Vacuum at least once a week and consider using a carpet sweeper in between times to gather any fluff and dirt.
  • Mop up! Deal with spills as they happen. Remember to blot, not rub stains, otherwise you push them further into the carpet. Keep a pile of old towels handy for this job. As soon as a spill touches the carpet, pour soda water over it to fizz up the stain. Then immediately put some old clean towels over the area and stamp on them to draw out as much liquid as possible. Keep going until the carpet is just damp. You’ll be amazed how much liquid you can pull from the carpet in this way.
  • If your carpet has seen better days, why not switch to hard floors and rugs? Hard floors should be brushed at least once a day. You would not believe the amount of dirt, dust, hair and food you sweep up every day!
  • Steam clean your carpets at least once a year to keep them clean and the fibres in good condition.
  • Use rugs or mats over your carpets. Rugs can be taken outside and aired, and some can be washed in a washing machine. These help to protect your carpets and keep them clean.

Homemade carpet deodorizers

One of the simplest and safest carpet deodorizers is baking soda. Add dried, crushed lavender flowers if you wish, or a few drops of your favourite essential oil. Baking soda scented

1 Tbsp dried, crushed herbs of your choice
2 cups baking soda

Mix the two ingredients together in a lidded, wide-topped, jar. Sprinkle liberally around a freshly-vacuumed or brushed carpet and leave to work overnight. The following day, brush up any excess baking soda mix with a clean dustpan and brush. Vacuum thoroughly to remove any last traces of the mix.

To personalize your scent, select the herbs to match your mood. Dried peppermint will give an invigorating, fresh smell. Lemon balm is relaxing. Rose is warming and floral. If you don’t have any dried herbs, baking soda alone will work wonders. It won’t add a fresh smell, but it will effectively remove and neutralize offensive odours.

Shampoo recipe used with carpet cleaning machines

If you want to shampoo a grubby carpet, then it is easy to make your own. The following mix can be put into the cleaning reservoir of a carpet cleaner.
Mix 1/8 cup liquid castile soap or non-toxic dishwashing liquid in 9 litres of hot water.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of borax or soda crystals per quart of water for really dirty carpets

Homemade spot cleaner

Borax is an effective spot remover. Make sure you test on an inconspicuous area of carpet first. Although borax is safer than many conventional products, it is still toxic, so wear a pair of rubber gloves.

Dissolve 1/2 cup of borax in 1 litre of hot water. Apply with a stiff brush and work from the outside of the stain inwards. Remember not to saturate the carpet, just keep it damp. When you have finished, absorb any excess moisture with old towels.


  1. Small Footprints on May 11, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    Thank you for these tips, Mrs. Green. I have wall-to-wall carpeting. Since I live in an apartment, I don’t have much say in flooring (I’d much rather not have carpets at all). Our carpet is also very old so the slightest “anything” seems to cause a spot. I typically use vinegar and water which works reasonably well but depending on the stain doesn’t always completely lift it. I’m definitely trying out your recipes.

  2. Alaiyo Kiasi-Barnes on May 12, 2013 at 1:54 am

    We’ve taken our shoes off before entering our home for years. Neighbors and friends thought we were weird but then got used to it. My husband is highly allergic to many things outside, and it’s also helped to keep our floors clean. Great post!

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