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I recently had my carpets professionally cleaned, and spent a little while researching the cost and effectiveness of various methods. But now I'm wondering about the environmental impact as well. There seem to be two main methods of professional carpet cleaning:

  • Steam cleaning, as provided by many commercial services
  • Dry cleaning, as provided by Chemdry (and perhaps others)

And Wikipedia mentions a few other methods that are less common.

Chemdry claims to be more environmentally friendly than "traditional" steam cleaning. But the name Chemdry alone makes me weary of this claim.

How can I choose the most sustainable and environmentally-friendly method to clean my carpets next time?

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    Install wood floors, and use rugs that you can take outside and beat clean... – bstpierre Jan 30 '13 at 0:57
  • Traditional Steam cleaning can use some pretty nasty chemicals that then have to be either removed from the water before reuse, or more often just get released into the sewer/water-table. Not saying that chem dry is actually better just that I doubt its much worse. – user141 Jan 31 '13 at 22:23
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The most sustainable way to professionally clean your carpet is not to. It's a lot easier to sustainably clean wood, tile, or stone, so to the extent you can, the best thing to be thinking about is replacing carpet with more sustainable flooring generally.

However I don't think that's what you had in mind, and so I will discuss alternatives.

National Geographic recommends looking for the seal of approval of the Carpet and Rug Institute but something about these ideas of trusting advocacy groups to rein in corporations makes me a bit suspicious long-term.

I am generally suspicious of large green enterprises. I would suggest in fact going the opposite route, and talking with a small business, and asking to work with them to sustainably clean your home. Ask if they could try a vinegar and water treatment via their steam cleaning machines. The worst they can say is no. Keep trying around until you get someone who is interested in working with you and is willing to put in some of the research time.

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