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6 Best Substitutes for Steam Cleaner Solution

A steam cleaner cleaning carpet

When it comes to deep-cleaning carpets and upholstery, steam cleaning is often the go-to method for homeowners. With the right solution, steam cleaning can be an effective and eco-friendly way to tackle dirt, grime, and bacteria. Unfortunately, many traditional steam cleaner solutions contain harsh chemicals that can harm the environment and your wallet.

In this article, we will list the six best substitutes for the standard steam cleaner solution that are equally or more effective, cost-efficient, and eco-friendly. Our recommendations consist of DIY mixtures, most of which are made with ingredients easily found in the average home.

1. White Vinegar

A Bottle of White Distilled Vinegar on Carpet

If there’s one pantry item that consistently receives praise for its versatility and cleaning power, it’s your basic white vinegar.

The reason mainly comes down to the liquid’s acidic pH level. White vinegar’s acidity helps break apart dirt and grime for easy and thorough removal, while its acetic acid kills off bacteria, germs, and other pathogens. This makes it an excellent choice for disinfecting surfaces.

White vinegar is also:

  • Non-toxic
  • Biodegradable
  • Vegan
  • Hypoallergenic

Therefore, it is a natural and eco-friendly alternative to most steam cleaner solutions at a fraction of the cost. On average, steam cleaner solutions cost $24.26 per gallon (128 fl. Oz.) when considering budget-friendly to renowned brands like Bissell. White vinegar only costs about $3.23 per gallon comparatively.

Not only is this significantly cheaper, but the method for cleaning with white vinegar is easy and straightforward. Just combine one part white vinegar with two parts hot water (ex., 1 cup white vinegar for every two cups of water) and load the mixture into your steam cleaner.

Rinsing your carpets or upholstery with plain water isn’t necessary after using this solution, but doing so can help eliminate the residual vinegar smell faster.

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2-4. Baking Soda

Baking Soda Box with a Glass Bowl of Baking Soda in Front

While the combination of white vinegar and hot water can work wonders for routine cleanings and light stains, it isn’t always the most efficient option for deep stains and heavily saturated or dirtied surfaces.

In these instances, we recommend opting for an ingredient that people have been using to clean teeth, clothing, and nearly any household surface for centuries. Yes, we’re talking about baking soda.

This white, abrasive powder is a mild alkali that can absorb and disintegrate organic material, like dirt, food remnants, pet urine, and other contaminants needing disinfection and removal.

As opposed to vinegar, baking soda is basic in nature, allowing it to absorb and neutralize odors, as most smells are acidic. This includes that residual vinegar smell we mentioned previously.

There are three ways you can use baking soda in your steam cleaning routine.

2. Dry Clean Method3. Spot Clean Method4. Deodorizer Method
Sprinkle baking soda over your dry surface.
Use a broom or bristled brush to spread it evenly and work the baking soda in the material’s fibers.
Vacuum the surface thoroughly (the baking soda will help loosen and trap contaminants for easy removal).
Rinse with steam cleaner using only hot water.
Sprinkle baking soda over a heavily saturated or stained section, covering it completely.
Pour a minimal amount of white vinegar on top of the baking soda (start with 1 tbsp at a time). Use a bristled brush to mix the ingredients and scrub them into the surface.
Leave the mixture to soak and dry for 5-20 minutes.
Vacuum up the residue.
Rinse with steam cleaner using only hot water, if necessary.
Add 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of baking soda to a gallon of hot water.
Load into your steam cleaner and use as normal.

Of these options, we recommend the spot-cleaning method most for its effectiveness and safety.

There is ample debate regarding whether baking soda can stain various materials or damage flooring underneath carpets, so it might be best only to use it in small amounts when faced with an uncommonly challenging or dirty section.

5. Boosted White Vinegar Solution

If you’d rather not take the chance with baking soda but prefer to use a white vinegar solution that is a little more powerful and less smelly, then we recommend using this boosted white vinegar solution.

Amanda Carlisle provided this mixture at A Few Shortcuts. Combine:

  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 1 cup hydrogen peroxide
  • 2 tbsp clear dish soap

After thoroughly blending the solution in a bowl or bottle, mix one cup with your steam cleaner’s tank filled with hot water.

The result is a powerful but pleasant-smelling steam cleaner solution substitute that can leave any high-traffic area in your home looking brand new with just a wash. A follow-up rinse with hot water is recommended to remove the dish soap completely.

4. Happy Money Saver’s DIY Solution

Another incredibly powerful and budget-friendly steam cleaner solution substitute you can make in bulk at home for a grand total of $1.00 per gallon is this concentrated mixture provided by Happy Money Saver.

To make it, combine:

  • 2 Tbsp liquid Tide laundry detergent
  • 1/4 cup LA’s Totally Awesome cleaner
  • 1 scoop Oxiclean (3 tbsp)
  • One teaspoon Downy fabric softener (optional)
  • 1 gallon hot water

Mix the cleaning agents in a small bowl and then add them to the gallon of hot water. Stir the solution gently until all of the OxiClean particles have dissolved. Once that occurs, you can use the solution immediately and store whatever remains for up to 6 months. Rinsing the solution after cleaning with a final run of hot water is optional.

Remember that this is a concentrated mixture, so you’ll only want to add a maximum of ¼ cup of the solution to a gallon of hot water (this is not the gallon used to make the mixture) loaded into your steam cleaner tank.

If you want to pre-treat a tough stain, you can create this mixture and load it into a spray bottle using a 50-50 ratio of solution to water. Spray a minimal amount of the new solution on the desired area and allow it to sit for 5 minutes before going over it with your steam cleaner using the standard mixture.

Final Thoughts

Steam cleaners are a great way to deep clean carpets and upholstery, but the cost of steam cleaner solutions can add up over time. To help save money, try using some of these homemade substitute solutions that can be just as effective without the high price tag.

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