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Do Homemade DIY Carpet Cleaners Actually Work?

Updated: Aug 31, 2023


homemade carpet cleaner

The Internet is awash with so many examples of different homemade carpet cleaners that claim to be a solution to the expensive professional-grade cleaners that are offered on the market.


Many of them are so ineffective that you can barely scratch the surface of your carpet with them while others are, to be fair, contenders (like our homemade mould cleaner recipe) but aren’t that much cheaper anyway.


In this blog post, we will look at some of the homemade carpet cleaners and give some insights into whether or not they actually work.


Finally, we will explain the very important point that even if they did work, it doesn’t really matter much for a homeowner anyway.


Do Homemade Carpet Cleaners Actually Work?


As a professional carpet cleaning company, you might expect our instant reaction to be a flat-out no. However, some homemade cleaners can do a decent job of cleaning your carpets if they are used for the right purpose. While there is no magical homemade solution, some DIY alchemists have managed to come out with some decent ones.


While they do work, our argument has always been that it doesn't matter much unless you are planning on just doing spot stain removals with them. We will expand more on this later.


Laundry detergent for cleaning carpets


It seems to make sense, doesn’t it? If you can use this stuff on your clothes fibres, surely they can be used for carpets too.


However, a quick scan of the sheer thickness of your carpet should be enough to dispel this myth.


It’s impossible to compare upholstery fabrics with the fibres of your clothes. Carpets are a much more substantial material than clothing and need a greater concentration of cleaning chemicals as a result.


When we look a bit deeper into the making of homemade laundry detergent cleaner, they seem to understand this as we discover that a few more ingredients are required.


Here is what ‘in the wash’ recommends:


  • 2 tablespoons of liquid laundry detergent

  • 1 gallon (4.5 litres) of hot water

  • 3 tablespoons of liquid oxygen bleach

  • 1 teaspoon of fabric softener (optional)

So really the main ingredient in the homemade laundry detergent carpet cleaning solution is oxygen bleach, something we have highly recommended in the past.


The problem with oxygen bleach though, as we will discover in more detail later on, is that it’s not as strong as other cleaners on the market and while it does a good job, it doesn’t do a great job.


Now to mention the different kinds of carpet and upholstery. Each material type needs a specific cleaning method.


Cleaning these fibres never has been a one size fits all solution and laundry detergent is not the answer to all of your upholsteries requirements. While oxygen bleach may work for synthetic fibres for mid-level staining, you would not be able to get away with using it for heavier soiling or more delicate fabrics.


Ammonia carpet cleaner


ammonia for carpet cleaner

This has been praised as just as effective as professional carpet cleaners. With just a teaspoon worth of ammonia mixed with warm water, you can clean your carpets or upholstery to a professional standard.


The companies selling this product claim that it can break down dirt and deodorise carpets at the same time.


Sounds great, but is it true? Only partially, unfortunately. While ammonia is a good cleaner for carpets, it’s not a magic solution by any means.


Most professional carpet cleaners will have ammonia inside as part of their chemical structure but not on its own.


If you use just ammonia on its own then it won’t be enough to break down heavy soiling, nor will it be able to get rid of stubborn carpet stains.


The other problem with adding ammonia to a homemade solution is that you have to be careful which other cleaning chemicals you mix as they can end up being dangerous for the user and your carpets.


Washing up liquid


This idea that washing up liquid could deep clean your carpet came from its uses in helping to remove certain stains such as ketchup.


While it is a decent ingredient to use in a homemade “spot stain” removal product, washing up liquid will not break down soiled carpets.


It doesn’t have the strength to do so and attempting to use this as a carpet cleaner will just give you a wet, soapy dirty carpet.


Never use washing-up liquid on its own to clean carpets for the following reasons:

  • It won't clean your carpets

  • You will need to re-clean the carpet adding even more unwanted water

  • The carpet will simply be sudsy which will make removing the water inside carpets even harder than it already can be

  • You will end up clogging up your carpet preventing real cleaners from breaking down the dirt


Vinegar & baking soda


This one is all over the Internet so it must work, right? Well, just like all great myths there are few details that are true with the rest being absolute hogwash.


We have set things right when it comes to using vinegar on our blog previously. Many professional carpet cleaning companies like to demonise vinegar insinuating that it can stain your carpets which is not the case.


We on the other hand have recommended doing so for a number of different stains, the same with baking soda. They are good for getting rid of biological odours and some stains but can they deep clean your carpets in their entirety? No, they can’t.


If you attempt to do so your carpets will end up smelling of vinegar pretty badly which in many cases can be worse than the smell you had in the first place! The reason is that it is really hard to get the balance right. You need a lot of vinegar in order to clean carpets properly, but using that amount will stink out your home.


There is no chance of getting rid of dirt, grease and heavy soiling either since the chemical compounds just aren’t made for breaking these substances down.


So, as we say, great for certain stain removal and biological odour treatment but not so good for cleaning up dirt.


Oxiclean


This is an interesting one. Oxiclean is basically an oxygen-based bleach with hydrogen peroxide inside which can be used on carpet and upholstery.


It’s actually a really good option for homeowners who want to remove a number of different stains from their carpets. It has all of the components of baking soda and more.


As far as breaking down dirt…it's OK, but not great. It will do a reasonable job of breaking down a lot of the soiling in your carpets. Oxiclean is comparable to dry carpet cleaning in its ability to get dirt out of your fabrics.


So, is this finally a home remedy for cleaning your carpets that you can rely on? Well, it’s only one-tenth of the puzzle unfortunately as we will now explain.


Can I clean carpets myself with OxiClean?


The problem with cleaning carpets yourselves was never the cleaning chemicals. After all, you can buy professional-grade pre-cleaner for £20 per 2 litres which is pretty cheap.


The issue with cleaning carpets yourself has always been having powerful enough equipment to draw out all of that cleaner, break it down, and remove the dirty water sitting on top of your carpets.


Without a proper carpet cleaner, all you can do is bring dirt to the surface. A professional carpet cleaner with be able to steam clean your carpet (which will work together with the chemicals to break down dirt) and suck up all of that dirty water from your carpet and upholstery.


We have spoken in length about the uses of the rug doctor carpet cleaner as well as the true cost of hiring a carpet cleaner that doesn’t end up working anyway.


What about upholstery?


Generally, you don’t need as powerful machines for upholstery as you do for carpets so surely that means you can use the oxiclean home remedy for it, right?


Well, yes and no. As long as you understand your upholstery fabric material and that it’s safe to use then yes you will be fine.


The bad news is that there are tons of different types of upholstery fabrics to consider before deciding on which cleaning process is best.


If you have a synthetic upholstery item that needs cleaning, oxiclean will do a decent job at it. If however, you own something a bit more delicate like suede then you are out of luck.


The carpet cleaning method is essential in carpet cleaning


Have you ever wondered why there are so many different methods of carpet cleaning?

The reason for it isn’t to confuse you, with so many variables to consider, the method of carpet cleaning is essential in not damaging often quite fragile fabrics.


For example, wool carpet needs a low water volume method in order to safely and effectively clean it. Many carpet cleaners will opt for the dry carpet cleaning method if it’s not too bad, or steam cleaning if it’s heavily soiled.


Likewise, some stains require different water temperatures in order to effectively clean them. Blood removal needs a cold water solution, whereas coffee is better removed with a hot water method.


That is why even professionals argue about whether or not steam cleaning or shampooing carpets is best.


What if I clean carpets wrongly?


If you attempt to clean your carpet without the proper equipment or with the wrong method a number of adverse consequences can happen.


Over-wetting carpet


A very common issue with people who clean their carpets with a rental carpet cleaner is that they soak their carpets in the process.


This leads to:

  • Stinky carpets

  • Mould and mildew growth

  • Damage to the underlay

  • Dirt will simply dry into the carpet again

*for a full guide on this, take a look at our ‘How to avoid over-wetting carpets when cleaning’ guide.


Damaging the fibres


You can easily damage your carpets or upholstery beyond repairs with improper chemicals or techniques. Many fibres are quite frail in comparison to others.


For example, wool is a very sensitive material to water and the wrong chemicals. You can also shred the fibres if you are too rough during the agitation process.


This is why hiring someone who knows how to treat your carpets correctly is essential. You could end up costing yourself a small fortune with the wrong method.


Conclusion


Having a carpet cleaner is only a tiny portion of what it takes to properly clean a carpet. Even though you may be able to make yourself a mediocre cleaner, that will by no means guarantee a good cleaning experience.


The only way to truly deep clean your carpets is to either hire or be a professional. No shortcut exists and we do not recommend trying to clean a carpet yourself without prior experience and good equipment.


Many customers feel like hiring a professional is too expensive. In reality, the cost of doing it yourself will match if not end up costing you more than hiring someone to do It for you.

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