Your baby probably sits, lies, rolls and crawls around on the carpets in your home. She also sticks toys in her mouth that have been on the carpet. Obviously, you want to keep your carpet clean to protect your child's health. But many commercial carpet cleaners contain harsh or toxic ingredients that can be just as harmful -- if not more so -- to your baby as the dirt or germs that may be residing in the fibers.
Minimize the dirtiness of your carpets with basic preventive and care measures. Place doormats outside entrances to your home so everyone can wipe their feet instead of tracking dirt, debris and other undesirable stuff onto your carpets. If you reside with a forgetful or messy crew, put a large mat or area rug inside entrances to collect crud. Or, make everyone take off their shoes upon entering. Vacuum the carpets at least twice per week, too. This helps ensure there aren't any small dangerous bits your baby might encounter, that no dirt gets ground into the carpet and that you're controlling dust, dust mites and other irritants. Invest in a strong vacuum with a HEPA filter.
For baby-safe carpet cleaning, use nonirritating, nontoxic alternatives to chemical cleansers. Soak up liquid spills right away by gently blotting with a paper towel or absorbent cloth; don't rub. Scrape off -- don't scrub -- sticky or hard substances with silverware; harden sticky stuff first with ice. Then, mix 1 cup warm water with 1/2 teaspoon liquid dish detergent or mix 2/3 cup warm water with 1/3 cup white vinegar and use the homemade, baby-safe solution to clean the spot. Plain club soda removes some stains, too, including red wine. Sprinkle cornmeal, cornstarch or baking soda over greasy stains. Keep your baby away for six hours, then vacuum the spot. Baking soda also makes an ideal deodorizing agent. Another effective option is steam cleaning with plain water or, for stubborn stains, 2 1/2 gallons of water mixed with 1 1/2 cups of white vinegar.
To keep your carpet completely baby-safe, there's an additional concern on top of its cleanliness and the substances you use to clean it. Carpets that don't dry efficiently are prone to mildew, mold and fungal growth. When wetting your carpet to clean it, open some windows for fresh air circulation. Unless it's an emergency, don't wet-wash a carpet on humid days or when the weather prohibits opening some windows for ventilation. If you have some fans, direct them over damp carpeting. Of course, make sure your baby has no access to them.
If your home remedies just aren't getting your carpet clean, you may need additional help. Many carpet cleaning companies offer baby-safe services. Inquire with local providers and make sure you get the specifics on what makes them so baby-safe. Also, environmentally-friendly cleaning products are available that are often safe for use in homes with little ones. Review labels carefully and use some common sense. For example, terms like "hazardous to your health," "poison," "danger," "irritating," "corrosive," "highly flammable," "highly combustible" and "strong sensitizer" are obvious red flags that a particular product isn't baby-safe.