Harmful Ingredients to Your Floor

Learn about what chemicals to avoid in your floor cleaners

These chemicals could be bad for you, the environment, and your flooring

Cleaning one's floors can be one of the most exhausting and time-consuming tasks one does for their household. It can also be incredibly frustrating if you don't know what chemicals to use with which types of flooring. Many people don't know that chemicals that are okay for vinyl and wood surfaces can actually damage carpets, and vice versa. So what chemicals should you use and which should you avoid to best protect your floor?

Carpets and Organic Cleaning

Carpet is incredibly popular because it hides dirt and is generally lower maintenance than hardwood floors. However, when there are stains to carpet, they are often tougher to clean.

There are a number of ways to react to a stain to a carpet. If you act quickly enough, many people can blot out juice or food stains before they set in. Often times, though, some sort of cleaner needs to be applied to remove these spots.

However, a lot of these cleaners have harmful chemicals that are dangerous for your carpet as well as your general health. These cleaning products most often contain the chemicals tetrachloroethylene, butoxyethanol, and ethanolamine.

Tetrachloroethylene is a common industrial cleaner used in manufacturing and textile processing plants. It's also in spot cleaners for carpets. The chemical gives off a harmful that has been linked to neurological, lung, and liver damage. If used on carpet, it's recommended to use in a well-ventilated area and to wear gloves the whole time.

It's best not to use anything with this harsh chemical, though. If you overuse it on your carpet you'll have to wash it out with hot water, which only further exposes you to it.

Butoxyethanol and ethanolamine are commonly found in maintenance cleaners, and are irritants for the eyes, respiratory system, and toxic if swallowed.

In general, it is recommended to use organic or "green" cleaning products when dealing with carpet. Not only is it better for the household's health (including pets), it is also less likely to do damage to the carpet itself. Luckily, many companies are converting to all-natural products for these very reasons.

Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors are a tricky beast to maintain properly. You don't want to use harmful chemical cleaners for the reasons listed above, but you also have to be cautious of what products you use because they will react differently to wood.

For instance, a common all-natural cleaning alternative is water and vinegar. The vinegar helps pull out stains and the acid helps disinfect. However, on hardwood floors the vinegar will actually dull the finish of the wood, which leaves it open to damage.

Soap and water isn't a good alternative either because it leaves a filmy residue. Steam cleaners put too much heat on the wood, and that can cause longer-lasting damage.

So what should you use on hardwood floors?

You will want to find one of the best hardwood floor cleaners on the market, because it ensures your floor will be clean without damaging it with inferior products. You can also go the cheap route and use a pH neutral soap like liquid dishwashing soap. This helps clean the floor without leaving a sticky residue.

Vinyl Floors

Vinyl floors have a similar cleaning routine to hardwood floors, but they are also a little less specific to maintain. Vinyl floors are safe to clean with vinegar, soap and water, and everything else that is dangerous to wood floors.

However, you won't want to use wax or other polishes on vinyl, because they leave a filmy residue, similar to how soap does on hardwood. A few drops of baby oil in a vinegar and water solution will add plenty of shine without leaving residue.

While it's not a chemical, any type of heat is not good for vinyl flooring because it weakens the glue holding the vinyl to the floor. That means you should avoid steam cleaning vinyl floors as well.

Concrete Floors

Concrete floors are most commonly found in garages and on patios, and they often get neglected. However, if you want to maintain your concrete floors, there are ways to do so.

Unsealed concrete floors are pretty durable, so it's safe to use just about anything on them. If there is a severe stain like paint or oil on an unsealed concrete floor, the best way to clean it is with some sort of stain remover combined with agitating with a stiff brush.

Polished concrete is the easiest to clean, because it never needs re-polished. It's recommended to use a pH neutral cleaner on these floors.

To clean painted concrete floors, don't use a lot of moisture because it can cause the paint to peel.

Every type of floor has its own specific needs for maintenance, and you should consult the manufacturer to find what cleaners are best.

Resources — WSPPN, DIY Network, Bona, The Spruce