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The $1 DIY Carpet Cleaner Solution That One Carpet Pro Swears By

Plus 5 more homemade cleaners you can make from items you have on hand

Anyone with carpeting knows how dirty it can get over time, especially if we have kids and pets.  But store-bought cleaners are expensive and can be loaded with chemicals. The good news is DIY carpet cleaner solution mixes are a fraction of the cost of commercial cleaning solutions, says Karrie Truman, creator of the Happy Money Saver blog. “Store-bought cleaners can be so expensive and often have chemicals in them that you might not want lingering in your living space, but with DIY cleaners, you’re in control. You can mix up an effective solution using ingredients like vinegar and dish soap that are gentle on your carpets and won’t break the bank.” Here, several recipes to choose from that you can whip up the next time your carpets need freshening up. 

How to make then use a DIY carpet cleaner solution

First, vacuum your carpet

Before using any cleaning solutions on a carpet, vacuum thoroughly to remove any surface dirt so that it doesn’t get embedded into the carpet and cause stains.

Next, treat stains with…

DIY carpet cleaner solution: Removing Stains From the Carpet
sefa ozel/Getty

It’s important to note that lipstick and paint stains likely can’t be cleaned with the DIY solutions below. Cleaning those typically requires the use of an acetate-based nail polish remover. The solutions below will work on food, drink, dirt and pet stains. And no matter which DIY stain remover you choose, you’ll want to have a wet/dry vac handy to extract the liquid you’re putting onto your rug or carpet. That’s because things like alcohol, ammonia, lemon juice and even too much water can cause your carpet’s fibers to break away from the backing. But using a wet/dry vac to remove both the cleaner and then a clear water rinse will help keep this from happening. Finally, be sure to spot check any solution on an inconspicuous area of carpet first. 

Related: How to Get Paint Out of Carpet — The Genius Shop-Vac Hack That Makes It So Easy

1. DIY carpet cleaner solution: Baking soda 

For a cleaner that works well on nearly any surface in your home and is safe for your carpet, turn to baking soda, says Andrii Gurskyi, co-founder of Rainbow Cleaning Service in New York City. “You can utilize this method in lots of instances and it works well,” says Gurskyi. Baking soda can be used to remove stains, but the method of removal differs just a bit by stain type. For non-greasy stains (think mud or wine), moisten stained areas with a damp towel, and allow it to sit on the carpet overnight — keeping the area both damp and covered. Vacuum the carpet to remove the baking soda — and repeat if needed.

For grease stains from, say, pizza or cooking oil, sprinkle on the baking soda and allow it to sit for as long as possible before vacuuming it away to view the stain. If the stain remains, scrub it gently with a drop of clear Dawn dish detergent before sprinkling again with baking soda, waiting overnight and vacuuming it away. It also absorbs odors and is safe to use around pets and children! 

Related: 7 Genius Baking Soda Hacks Guaranteed to Save You Time and Money

2. Alcohol + dish soap

A combination of 91% household alcohol and dish soap can be used to clean a wide variety of stains from carpets, according to the folks at CitruScrub Carpet Cleaning in Indianapolis, IN. Begin by mixing 1 cup warm water, ½ teaspoon dish soap and 2 tablespoons of alcohol and stirring gently to avoid creating too many bubbles. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle, spray any stains and use a spoon to work the mixture into the marks. Then, use your shop vac to extract the cleaner from the area. Repeat as needed, adding a bit more alcohol for stubborn stains. Finish by spraying with clear water and then extracting that as well. 

See a demonstration of this method in the YouTube video below:

Related: 20 Brilliant Uses for Vinegar and Dish Soap —Clean the Entire House for Under $8!

3. DIY carpet cleaner solution: Hydrogen peroxide + baking soda + dish soap

For tough stains on light-colored carpets or rugs, a mixture of 3% hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dish detergent can be used, according to Prestige Carpet Cleaners in Tallahassee, Florida. For fresh stains, begin by blotting up as much of the stain as possible. Sprinkle it with baking soda, and then mix together ½ cup of peroxide and one teaspoon of dish detergent. Pour the mixture slowly on top of the baking soda-covered stain, and work it in with your spoon. Allow it to sit for about 15 minutes before using your wet/dry vac to extract the liquid. Repeat the process as needed until the stain is gone.

Check out this YouTube video to see hydrogen peroxide remove set-in stains:

4. Lemon juice

Believe it or not, lemon juice will also work to clean your carpets, says Gurskyi. Because lemon juice is acidic, it works to break down food stains and other dirt — and it will leave your house smelling great. For spot treating stains, use a 50/50 mixture of lemon juice and warm water, say the folks at Heaven’s Best Carpet Cleaning in Birmingham, AL.

First, absorb as much of the stain as possible by blotting (not rubbing!) the mark with a white cloth or towel. Then spray the stain with the mixture and allow it to sit for a few minutes before gently blotting again with a white towel or cloth before using your wet/dry vac to remove any excess liquid. It’s also a good idea to mist the area with plain water and extract that with the shop vac as well in order to avoid leaving any residual juice that could attract dirt later on.  

5. DIY carpet cleaner solution: Vinegar or ammonia

Vinegar or ammonia can be used to remove a wide variety of stains, and the process is the same for either ingredient, so use whichever you have handy. Either mix 1 cup of white vinegar with two cups of water or mix 1 tablespoon of ammonia with one cup of water, and pour the mixture into a spray bottle. Spray the stain, and work the mixture in using your spoon. Then, once again, extract the excess liquid with your wet/dry vacuum. Repeat the treatment as necessary. Truman notes that vinegar works great as a general carpet cleaner and can also be used in a 50/50 mix with water in a carpet cleaning machine if you have one, but recommends checking your owner’s manual to be sure you don’t void any warranties. 

Check out this YouTube video that demonstrates getting out a stain with a 50/50 vinegar and water solution:

6. DIY carpet cleaner solution for your carpet-cleaning machine: This 4-ingredient mix

For an easy and powerful DIY carpet cleaner that will have your carpets looking like new again, you’ll need just four ingredients plus water, says Truman, who’s been using this recipe for years and says it costs about $1 to make versus $20-$25 for store-bought carpet cleaners. Begin by mixing 2 tablespoons of liquid Tide, 1 scoop of OxiClean powder, 1 tablespoon of LA’s Totally Awesome cleaner and 1 teaspoon of fabric softener in a small bowl. Mix ingredients together and add them to 1 gallon of warm water. Then stir gently to avoid creating bubbles.

“This is a concentrated cleaner, so you’ll only need about ¼ cup added to the reservoir of your cleaning machine once you’ve filled it with water,” says Truman, who recommends always checking the manufacturer’s warranty on your machine to make sure you’re not voiding it and testing the cleaner on an inconspicuous area of the carpet. Then vacuum the rug, and get started with your carpet cleaner and this solution. While all of the ingredients will work to clean the carpet, the OxiClean will work on stains, and the fabric softener will have your carpet feeling soft again.

“This cleaner won’t work on nail polish, though,” says Truman, but click here to learn how to remove nail polish from carpet. To avoid having future dirt stick to any residual soap in the carpet, you might want to give the carpet a pass-over using plain water in the carpet cleaner once you’ve cleaned it.

Related: The Viral Swiffer Power Mop Refill Hack Professional Cleaners Swear by To Save Time + Money

See Truman make and use the formula in this video below:

Finish by freshening the carpet

If you don’t have a carpet cleaning machine and have only used spot cleaning for stains, you’ll want to freshen your carpet once the areas are completely dry. Simply sprinkle a thin layer of baking soda and allow it to sit for at least half an hour before vacuuming thoroughly. Because baking soda is both absorbent and a great deodorizer, it will absorb any leftover surface dirt or oils, allowing it to be vacuumed away and leaving the carpet smelling fresh. Have a favorite scent? Add a few drops of essential oil to the baking soda and mix thoroughly before sprinkling on the carpet. 

See this video from Teach Me How To Clean that uses just baking soda to freshen a runner:


For more on carpet and cleaning, click through the links below!

How to Remove Nail Polish From Carpet: Cleaning Pros’ Easy Tricks Really Work

How to Clean Cat Pee From a Carpet + Why Scrubbing Actually Makes the Odor Worse

How to Clean a Shag Rug — Cleaning Pro Reveals The Comb Trick That Works Wonders

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