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Got Kids? Naturally Cleaning Carpets (because you know you need to)

My toddler loves shoes.

I think it must be a developmental milestone, because all three of mine have done it. I could write in their baby books:

  1. rolled over
  2. crawled
  3. took first steps
  4. started trying on other people’s shoes
  5. incessantly steals shoes and wears them around the house

As much as I value the habit of taking shoes off when one enters a house, and my kids are well-trained to do so, I can’t always quell the powerful primal instinct my littlest one apparently has to scuffle around in every pair of shoes he sees.

Typically when my older children’s friends are trying to leave after playing here, their shoes are nowhere to be found.

Between this and normal kid/family wear and tear, my carpet has taken some hits since we moved in.

Branch Basics natural carpet cleaner spot removal

Some would recommend a good carpet cleaning every few years I’m sure.

The one time we paid to have our carpets cleaned, I was entirely disenchanted by the process.

My whole house smelled like cleaner, the “professionals” allowed a few pieces of furniture to touch the wet carpet, causing awful, dark brown stains, and it didn’t really look all that much cleaner to me.

One of the helpful tips these guys shared was that when most people try to clean a carpet stain themselves, they end up setting it in.

Lo and behold I apparently didn’t listen, and I used vinegar in a steam cleaner for the carpets in my whole (new) house, including a nasty red-dye stain in the living room. Plenty of commenters reminded me that vinegar is used to set dyes into fabrics, and I may have lost any chance I had of getting that one out.

So you see, even if it’s a “natural solution” it’s not always a good idea.

A Natural Carpet Cleaner That Really Works

Branch Basics all purpose natural cleaner (5) (475x317)

We’ve been testing out a new cleaning product made of natural ingredients, Branch Basics (new formula, even better!). The company sponsored this post to share safe carpet cleaning info after I had great success with it on all sorts of stains and odors in our house.

From the company: This is a human safe (which means if you accidentally ingested some it would not harm you) virtually odorless enzyme product made from green leafy vegetables that is a degreaser, odor neutralizer, and stain remover.

As a carpet cleaner, Branch Basics can be used in a couple ways:

  • diluted 1:50 for home steam cleaning (in other words if your carpet cleaner takes a gallon, you would use 2.5 ounces of concentrate mixed with water)
  • shampoo carpet using 1:50 ratio of Branch Basics to water and then have a professional truck do their hot water extraction process
  • diluted 1:5 with water (a standard multi-purpose cleaning solution and the way I mixed up a spray bottle for all sorts of uses) for spot cleaning. (The Branch Basics Spray bottle comes with marked fill lines to make it easy.)

Serious Stains and Steam Cleaning Carpets

For any whole carpet cleaning, Branch Basics recommends using a high quality, HEPA vacuum cleaner, and even running it three times before treating the carpet. Even though this product is totally safe for people and pets, doesn’t have any odor and shouldn’t cause any bad reactions, it is still best for anyone that is ill or immune compromised in any way (or kids!) to stay away while the home is being cleaned, because chemicals and odors can be released in the process before they are completely neutralized.

Also, always test the solution on an inconspicuous area of the carpet for colorfastness and compatibility.

That New Car Smell

You know that “new car smell” that most people just love because it says they have a new vehicle? We’ve been taught that the smell is “clean and new” and it’s positive to most folks.

Those of us who know that the “new car smell” is really volatile organic compounds (VOCs) offgassing chemicals into the air are wiser. When I smell “new car” or “new house” or “new furniture” or “new carpet,” I wrinkle my nose in disgust and try to get out of there.

I thought the coolest part about the Branch Basics carpet cleaning instructions was the offgassing thing. This is one of the first products I’ve ever encountered that says it can neutralize the chemicals in new carpet and help speed up the offgassing process.

How cool is that?

It also may help to kill the mold that causes the “old house smell” and that is almost inevitable if you have wet carpet for more than 24 hours. (You know the EPA says we can’t say it actually kills mold, right?) Winking smile

Whether you have a new house or old house smell, it’s worth trying Branch Basics to see if it will neutralize the chemical odors (especially since there are 100 other ways to use it if that doesn’t work).

Spot Cleaning Carpet

Branch Basics natural carpet cleaner (3) (475x317)

I don’t really have the time or motivation to completely steam vac my carpets again, but I do have plenty of reasons to spot clean: Their names are Paul, Leah, and Jonathan, plus a little help from sloppy Mommy and careless Daddy. We don’t have pets, thank goodness, but if we did this would be me. (Impressive before and after photos!)

So far, Branch Basics has gotten the following stains out, either on the carpet or on laundry (all with a 1:5 dilution):

  1. Black marks made by the rubber leg-bottoms of a little boy’s trampoline. I thought we were goners when I saw them, since it’s a synthetic stain, but Branch Basics nailed it in seconds with a quick scrub.
  2. Unknown ugly spots that were probably ground-in dirt. I was thrilled (and again surprised).
  3. Tomato sauce stains (yes, I dripped salsa on the carpet, plus tomato sauce on a light blue tablecloth and various clothing items)
  4. Blueberry/green smoothie both before and after it’s been in a child’s stomach (and that story, of how daily throwing up became our new normal for a while, is coming in October…)
  5. In the laundry, Branch Basics does always seem to make an immediate difference on the stain, but it doesn’t always get it all the way out. For example:
    1. Coffee on white shirt took a treat, wash, treat again, then wash on hot. Then it was out!
    2. Mud = no contest. Mud still totally on shirt, but it was left for a week w/o stain treating. No fair maybe? On another test on a synthetic running-shirt type fabric, my 8yo got dirt all over the shirt but it went through the washer and dryer without me noticing. Yikes. The Branch Basics completely annihilated the stain, and I was taking before and after photos that were SO impressive…until I noticed the card wasn’t in the camera. So here’s my nice clean shirt, that I promise you was an embarrassing “can’t wear that except for play clothes” mess about 3 minutes earlier:
      Branch Basics got the mud out (1) (475x317)
      It really was pretty dirty, like 20x this little spot:
      Branch Basics got the mud out (4) (475x317)
      And I use the end of the spray bottle to scrub – gone before the washing machine touched it:
      Branch Basics got the mud out (5) (475x317)
    3. This is the first stain removal option to get mustard off a white shirt in my history!!!
    4. Grape popsicle all down the shirt = came right out, one wash, no soak.

I was also inspired by the claim on the very long list of stains Branch Basics can tackle that it will get out permanent marker. I did a little test, and you can see the results in the photos below:

Branch Basics permanent marker test (2) (475x317)

What you see is two columns of sets of two lines, one that was already treated (left) and one to be treated in two days (right).

In the left column:

  • Branch Basics full strength
  • BB diluted 1:5 with water
  • Biokleen Bac Out diluted 1:3
  • plain water

Right column:

  • rubbing alcohol, straight
  • vinegar, straight, (then some baking soda since vinegar alone wasn’t helping much)

Hands down, the Branch Basics (new formula, even better!) undiluted did the best job, followed closely by rubbing alcohol, although that tends to spread out the marker a bit rather than completely making it disappear.

Here’s the same rag after two days, treating the second line in the same way with the same solutions:

Branch Basics permanent marker test (4) (475x317)

Lesson learned: If you’re going to test a stain treatment, use a solid color. I just grabbed the first natty rag I saw!

Branch Basics, both diluted and full strength, and Biokleen Bac Out all did an admirable job. The rubbing alcohol wasn’t as effective after two days, but still did better than vinegar or plain water.

After washing in the washing machine on hot (with Molly’s Suds detergent), the rag looked like this:

Branch Basics permanent marker test after washing (2) (475x317)

Pretty much the same results.

I would recommend this: don’t get permanent marker on your clothing. But if you do, Branch Basics will be one of your best tools! Winking smile

Potent Odor Eater

I’ve tested other products that were supposed to take odors out, including out of the air. One was called “What Odor?” and it claimed to neutralize about a zillion nasty smells in a “natural” way. We tried it, and it was just another cover-up for odors. Absolute disaster on every test.

When we were visiting my parents, we had a vomit issue on their carpet, and my brother immediately took charge of the situation and squirted Resolve carpet cleaner about 30 times on the spot (which didn’t need it on the dark carpet). I was overwhelmed by the chemical smell and agitated that my oldest son was about to go to sleep in the room.

We opened up a lot of windows and my son was happy to be given many minutes extra reading time…out in the living room. Eventually it aired out, but I found myself wishing Branch Basics had a travel size…

We unfortunately had another opportunity to test the odor-eating capabilities of Branch Basics.

When vomit is your “new normal” and you’re away from home, over someone else’s carpet, with no extra sheets for the pack-and-play, and you are certain a small child is about to upchuck – what’s a mom to do? I aimed the puke down my shirt.

So I’ve had the wonderful experience of my chest being a vomit receptacle and hoping my best nursing bra would recover from the unmistakable smell of stomach contents after about 36 hours in the laundry bag before I got home. You know the scent, where one whiff turns your nose?

I squirted Branch Basics on the stain and rubbed it in, and, being the glutton for punishment incredible product tester that I am, I sniffed. Up close. My professional opinion is that only 5% of the odor was left, and this is 30 seconds after nose-turning vomit stench. Impressive!

Final Thoughts

Branch Basics natural carpet cleaner (1)

When it comes to cleaning, my kids are my priority. If 2yo John dropped his ball and picked up the bottle and squirted the carpet – or his hands – which is a fairly likely possibility when I leave it on the floor, I need to know that it would be safe. With Branch Basics (new formula, even better!), that wouldn’t be a problem in the least. I leave the bottle on the floor all the time.

It didn’t get everything out, but it did a really admirable job on just about everything I threw at it, including some stains that I didn’t expect anything to get out.

For carpet, Branch Basics is a great all-purpose natural cleaner, both for odors and stains. It’s not going to work every time – I noticed a stain I treated a few days ago with BB had discolored a bit, so although it doesn’t look the same as it did before treating, it doesn’t look like the rest of the carpet either (it’s not lighter because it’s more clean; it’s darker). That’s happened before, and I just treated it again and it was gone. We’ll see how this one goes…

But overall, I’m really enjoying putting Branch Basics through its paces, and if you’re looking for an all-purpose natural cleaner (or a carpet spot treatment, foaming hand soap, shampoo, laundry pretreatment, produce wash, etc.) – go for it!

Oh, and that red stain in the living room? I’d say it’s a little lighter now after I spot cleaned with Branch Basics.

What others have to say about Branch Basics:

Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Branch Basics and will ear a commission if you purchase through the links in this post.. See my full disclosure statement here.


Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

10 thoughts on “Got Kids? Naturally Cleaning Carpets (because you know you need to)”

  1. I love Branch Basics! So many uses and not harmful to my kids. I always try to catch a special to afford it. Love the new foaming pumps so it’s easy to wash hands & in the shower

  2. I’ve always used Nature’s Miracle for rug cleaning, you can even rent a rug cleaner and put the solution in it.

  3. I can’t stand ‘new car smell’. It makes me nauseous. I also can’t stand ‘new paint smell’. I used VOC free paints when I repainted my house a couple years ago and didn’t have problems so I guess I have a sensitivity to VOC’s. Any strong smells – esp perfume – make me nauseous and dizzy. I recently purchased my own cleaners for the cleaning lady to use because whatever she was using in my bathroom was so heavily scented I could still smell it when I got home 5 or 6 hours later.

  4. Susan Alexander

    We had grand success cleaning our carpets with bacout in the carpet cleaner… I suspect it’s a somewhat similar formulation since they are both enzyme-based.

  5. Most of the time I use plain hot water in my steam cleaner and I know it works because the water I dump out is very dirty, so it’s taking dirt out without soap of any kind. Only if there’s a spot left after ‘water only’, will I spray on the spot with something….anything handy:) A family member works in carpet/upholstery and says water is best as soaps/vinegar etc. take some protective stuff of the carpet and from then on it will always pick up stains easier.

  6. I’ve not tried Branch Basics but am now excited to! Would I just get the Starter Kit on their site?
    Carrie, it looks like the Kit is pricey at $32, but you can make 7 bottles of cleaner it seems. Maybe it would last awhile? 🙂

    1. Melissa,
      Awesome! I got the starter kit to review, so if you want the foaming handsoap pump and the spray bottle to keep things simple, that’s the way to go. The 32 oz. concentrate would be just as good if you have some empty spray bottles around though – for most purposes, you just mix 1:5 with water. 🙂 Katie

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