Sprinkling carpet refresher powder over a stinky rug is certainly easier than pulling out a carpet cleaning machine. Just let the powder sit for a few minutes and then vacuum it away, hopefully leaving behind a clean-smelling carpet. While it's a quick and fairly effective way to deodorize floor coverings, using carpet freshener might make you cautious if you have pets or small kids in the house. Luckily, there's not a lot of cause for concern. These are relatively safe cleaning products, and you can even make an easy nontoxic substitute.
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What's in Carpet Freshener?
Exactly what ingredients are included in carpet freshener varies from manufacturer to manufacturer and from product to product. Commonly, carpet freshener powder is made from sodium bicarbonate (also known as baking soda) plus fragrances and additives to prevent caking. The sodium bicarbonate absorbs odor molecules that are then lifted away from the carpet when the powder is vacuumed up.
Check labels for specifics because not all carpet fresheners are made from sodium bicarbonate. For example, Glade uses benzyl benzoate as the odor eliminator in its products. Naturally, carpet fresheners that are formulated as foam or spray products are made with different and/or additional ingredients, including chemicals that act as propellants (to force the product out of the can and onto your carpet) and surfactants (which help water pull up dirt from the carpet's surface). Manufacturers make ingredient lists publicly available online.
Is Carpet Freshener Safe?
Generally speaking, carpet fresheners made by major manufacturers are safe for home use. Unless you or someone else in your household has an allergy or sensitivity to some component of the carpet freshener you use, you shouldn't notice any adverse health effects from these products. However, people who are sensitive to fragrances might want to steer clear. Mild irritation could occur if anyone in your household is sensitive to fragrances, but there's no evidence that carpet fresheners are otherwise dangerous to use.
Commercial carpet fresheners are also safe to use on most carpet types assuming you're using a powdered product. Don't spray carpet with a liquid or foam cleaner before checking the care label and/or testing it in an inconspicuous spot.
The other potential concern that people might have around using carpet freshener is whether it will damage your vacuum cleaner. It's certainly possible to clog your vacuum by covering your carpet with a thick layer of powder, but if you apply a light dusting, it shouldn't be an issue for most vacuums.
Making a Safe DIY Carpet Freshener
Sure, most people can probably use commercial carpet fresheners without noticing any adverse effects, but you still might want to skip buying these products if only because you can make a nontoxic version at home that's just as effective and costs less than prepackaged carpet deodorizer powder.
As you might expect, baking soda is the central component in DIY carpet freshener. In fact, it can be the only component. Plain baking soda is all you need to remove odors from carpets, though you can also add essential oils to make the room smell nice. Start by mixing about 10 drops of essential oil into a cup of baking soda; add more oil if you want a stronger scent.
Make a shaker by punching holes in the top of the lid of a Mason jar or sprinkle baking soda over your carpet using a sifter or metal sieve. Dust the carpet with an even layer of baking soda. Let it sit undisturbed for a few hours or overnight to give the powder time to absorb odor molecules. Then, vacuum until there's no sign of baking soda left. Baking soda is generally safe for people and pets unless it's ingested in large quantities. Still, keep everyone off the carpet while the powder works.
- Bob Vila: The Best Carpet Deodorizers to Freshen Your Home
- Children's Hospital of Philadelphia: 10 Non-toxic, DIY Cleaning Products
- Church & Dwight Co.: Ingredient Disclosure: Arm & Hammer Extra Strength Carpet Odor Eliminator
- S. C. Johnson & Son: Glade Carpet & Room - Clean Linen
- Bissell: Febreze Heavy Traffic Carpet Foam
- American College of Veterinary Pharmacists: Baking Soda