sisal carpet

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The type of sustainable flooring you choose often depends on your lifestyle and budget. Older people (and those with small children and pets) often prefer carpet as it’s warmer and sometimes safer for slippery areas. Others prefer the more natural look of wood or bamboo flooring, and others prefer to tack down rugs. Offices may install carpet tiles, and bathrooms or kitchens often have linoleum flooring.

Conventional flooring is not that sustainable, but it’s likely most people will have to save up to replace. Most companies offering new flooring will take existing flooring to recycle. Or you can cut it up yourself and take it to your nearest recycling centre. Old carpets are sometimes welcomed by local animal shelters to provide soft areas for sleeping in cages etc – contact local ones to see if you can help.

  1. Eco-laminate flooring is similar to conventional laminate, but often contains a high percentage of recycled material.
  2. Cork flooring is very warm and comfortable and provides good sound insulation. It’s from a tree in the Mediterranean that is not cut down (the bark is simply ‘stripped’ every few years). Keeping the cork industry alive in a world of plastic wine corks, is a good way to help preserve native forests and wildlife.
  3. Bamboo grows much faster than trees, so is often a good alternative to natural wood flooring. It’s very strong and looks lovely. Industrial (moso) bamboo is not the same as fresh shoots eaten by pandas.
  4. Econyl is made from ghost fishing waste (old nets etc recovered by volunteers from the ocean). Unlike used for plastic clothing, this is a good idea for office tiles, as they won’t be laundered, and the carpet is hard-wearing and will last for years.

natural carpeting material choices

Most modern carpet contains plastic, so is not really healthy for homes, and this means when disposed of, large amounts of plastic waste ends up on landfills. Some are useful to easily absorb accidents (pet pee, wine spills etc). Wool is natural but has ethical issues on sourcing (and not suitable for vegans). And natural flooring is still very expensive.

  1. Sisal is a durable carpet material, and good for insulation and high-traffic areas. This material is particularly good on stairs, as it has a natural grip for safety. It’s also good for living rooms and halls. Sisal is from an agave plant related to cactus, and is often sold in nice colours.
  2. Seagrass is good for living and dining spaces. It’s thinner but easy to clean and less likely to have water marks if you spill something.
  3. Coir (from coconut shell husk fibres) is a naturally coloured insulating choice, and good to insulate from noise too.
  4. Jute is a very strong light brown carpet with a ‘tweed’ texture, that’s made from spinning vegetable fibre in Bangladesh. It’s less hard-wearing so best for living rooms and bedrooms.
  5. Eco-underlay is made from cork, sisal or recycled materials.

biodegradable flooring & carpet cleaners

Spruce eco floor cleaner

Whichever sustainable flooring you choose, there are ways to clean it naturally. Conventional carpet cleaners contain chemicals that cause asthma and hormonal imbalances, so just securely bin them (or take to your landfill’s toxic waste department). Companies that ‘kill 99.99% of bacteria’ are not any use, as the single cell remaining can repopulate in just 20 minutes.

To spot-clean stains or pet accidents, spray with white cleaning vinegar and dab dry (do not scrub). Sprinkle bicarbonate of soda, then leave for 15 minutes or overnight and vacuum.

Clean wooden floors witih pure liquid soap. For pet-free homes, you can use a soda crystal solution before painting or varnishing (mop with fresh water to remove suds). 

better brands of biodegradable floor cleaners

Avoid essential oils for allergies, pregnancy/nursing, babies and pets (citrus oils can be toxic if paws walk on floors cleaned with them). Muck Munchers offers a scent-free biodegradable floor cleaner.

Spruce Floor Cleaner is scented with organic oils of bergamot, patchouli and geranium. Suitable for sealed wood, tiles, stone, laminate, lino and other hard surface floors, add one teaspoon to three litres of warm water (or one quarter teaspoon for 750ml spray mop). One bag lasts 75 uses and composts at end of life (store in a cool dry place).

Bio-D Concentrated Floor Cleaner (also in 5L version) is ideal for laminate, polished floors, ceramic tiles, stone, slate and vinyl. Sold in refillable bottles, it can remove dirt, grease and grime, tackle stains to leave floors clean and shiny.

Delphis Eco-Low Foam Floor Cleaner is a commercial-strength product for floor cleaning machines to remove grease and oil from tiled, concrete and painted floors (used neat, it can remove heavy forklift truck tyre marks). Also used as a low-foam degreaser, it’s safe on paintwork, metal surfaces, glass and rubber. Virtually odourless and biodegradable, it’s non-caustic, petroleum-free and includes water softener. Sold in recycled plastic and not tested on animals. Their domestic floor cleaner is not pet-safe as advertised, as it contains citrus oils.

use a microplastic bucket filter

Modern mops often use microfibers that end up washed down sinks, and go into the sea to harm marine life creatures. If used, use with a Guppyfriend bucket filter (tighten the blue strap around your bucket, pour cleaning water through the filter into the drain, then dispose of resdue in the bin (in a sealed container, to avoid contents washing away down drains at landfill).

Quick Loop is a one-time purchase. Made from oak and steel, you simply pull and loop cotton towels on the end, to secure and make your own mop. use the handle to dust and dry floors. The built-in spring also enables the right force for all floor types.

is it good to use a carpet cleaning machine?

Carpet cleaning machines are best avoided, due to chemicals used. Instead have a ‘shoes off’ policy for guests, and use Hug Rugs (made with recycled materials) to avoid dirt/mud tracking inside. Frequent vacuuming reduces need for cleaning carpets. Use professional steam-cleaning if needed.

Dri-Pak has a recipe for a homemade carpet cleaning machine solution: mix 4 litres of hot water with half cup of white vinegar in the water tank (this also removes soapy residue from past cleanings). Always test an area first. 

For steam mops, run a solution of one-third white vinegar with two-thirds water through the chamber/mop, refill and run through with tap water.

how to clean carpets, naturally

Numatic Eco claims to be the greenest vacuum cleaner. Built to last from high quality plastic, many components are made from recycled post-industrial material that are diverted from landfill or incineration. It also has 30% less energy consumption and good enough for professional use.

Miele vacuum cleaners last around 20 years, they are fairly quiet and do the job well and also are comfortable. The mains-tested models run floorheads for 600 miles and test motors for 1000 hours before simulating 40 miles worth of floor tool collisions. They also are easy to repair by post and there’s a maintenance service. The Triflex cordless vacuum has a replaceable battery. And bagged cleaners hold 25% more dust, so need less replacement. The HEPA filters up to 99.9999$ of dust and allergens, even in low power mode.

The allergy and dog/cat hair and cordless are expensive but the Classic C1 in autumn red is under £200 and just as good. It features a telescopic tube to get into nookes and crannies, and is lightweight and adjusts to your height. It has effortless vacuuming of a 9m radius, so you don’t have to keep pluggin and unplugging. It also features a neat locking system so the floorhead, suction tube and handle all lock into each other, with an audible fit.

You don’t of course always have to use a vacuum cleaner. If you’re on a tiny budget, live on a high floor and it’s too much hassle lugging it up the stairs or your present vacuum cleaner has broken, there are some other ways to clean carpeted floors:

A manual carpet sweeper is the obvious choice. Costing around £50, you probably remember that your parents or grandparents (depending on your age) had one to quickly sweep up anything on the floor. They won’t reach as deep one purchase will last years, you just empty the debris out after each use and they won’t damage carpets.

A broom and dustpan is also good. You can still use good ones on carpets in short strokes to force debris up. You can even use a good dish sponge and a bucket of hot soapy water.

Lint rollers (like the ones to get pet hair off clothes) can also be used on carpets.

For rugs, just hang them over a fence and beat with a tennis racket to force the dust out, and you even can soak and wash the dirt out to dry in the sun, if the weather’s good. Also good for entry mats.

Bissell has been making lightweight carpet sweepers since 1876 and they are ideal to pick up dirt, crumbs and debris, without need for a dustpan and brush or vacuum cleaner. There’s a basic model, a slightly more expensive height adjustable model and a more powerful rechargeable version that gives up to 60 minutes of clenaing time and is narrow for tight spaces, a handle that lies flat to reach under furniture and 3 rows of brushes to remove surface dirt from carpets and hard floors, before empty using the dirt bin. The other main brand Ewbank again offers a more affordable basic version and a deluxe version that is still around £30. Sold with replacement parts.

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