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Can I Use Laundry Detergent in My Carpet Cleaner?

Can You Use Laundry Detergent in a Carpet Cleaner?

Find out if you can use laundry detergent in a carpet cleaner and if yes, the type of detergent to use.

Carpets are both a blessing and a curse for many of us. Of course, we love the warm, soft texture and luxurious visual appeal they provide, but they can quickly look grimy if they are not kept spotlessly clean.

We have researched the dos and don’ts when it comes to what can be added to carpet cleaners to keep all the carpets in your home beautifully clean and smelling fresh and made a cost-saving discovery. But the question is, can you use laundry detergent in a carpet cleaner?

The short answer is, yes, you can use laundry detergent in a carpet cleaner. However, you need to use the right detergent because, regular laundry detergent may foam too much, leave a residue or damage the carpet cleaner.

arpet cleaner on a carpet with text that says, "Can I use laundry detergent in my carpet cleaner".

Carpet cleaners make deep cleaning a snap but buying specific carpet cleaner chemicals can become expensive. Using laundry detergent can work out a lot more affordable.

But before you hurry off to add a scoop of laundry soap to your carpet cleaning machine, there are a few things you need to take note of.

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Can I Use Laundry Detergent in My Carpet Cleaner?

Carpet shampoo is nothing like ordinary hair shampoo, so if you run out, you may think all is lost until you purchase more. Fortunately, some laundry detergents can get the job done just as effectively, and you may even become your preferred choice because of the familiar clean, fresh smell that stays behind.

The main concern when using other solutions is potential damage to your carpet cleaner. Imagine the horror of seeing frothy white bubbles emerging from every nook and cranny of your machine after you’ve added an incompatible cleaning agent!

What Type of Laundry Detergent Should I Use in a Carpet Cleaner?

Many laundry detergents can be safely used in carpet cleaners; in fact, it is a great choice ahead of most other household cleaning products. However, it is essential that you check that the laundry detergent that you plan to use is marked ‘HE’.

Laundry detergent that is marked ‘HE’ can be safely used in a carpet cleaner. The ‘HE’ symbol indicates that the detergent is low-sudsing and will disperse quickly even in low volumes of water

‘HE,’ which stands for high-efficiency, is specifically formulated laundry detergent for modern washing machines that use significantly less water than older ones.

This means it will foam less, making it ideally suited for carpet cleaners because it is also unlikely to leave any residue behind. It also reduces the likelihood of unwittingly hosting your own private foam party in your living room!

Using laundry detergent can also leave a lingering, pleasant freshly-washed scent that you may like.

What Amount of Laundry Detergent Should I Use?

In this case, less is better. Use one tablespoon of laundry detergent for every quart of water.

Tips for Using Laundry Detergent in a Carpet Cleaner

Carpet shampooer on a carpet

Always remember that laundry detergent was formulated to wash clothing in a washing machine, so if you are using it, keep these handy tips in mind:

Don’t Add Too Much

Using more laundry detergent will not make your carpet any cleaner than using the correct amount. Use the right amount based on the size of the water tank in your machine.

Laundry detergent is not the same as carpet cleaner. It can be used, but it is more likely to leave a residue. Adding too much laundry detergent will increase the odds of this happening, so in this case, less is definitely better.

Check that the Laundry Detergent You Use Doesn’t Contain Bleach

Carefully read the label on your laundry detergent bottle so that you don’t accidentally bleach your beautiful carpet a shade lighter.

Only Use Liquid Laundry Detergent

Powder may work fine, but there is a good chance that it could clog the inside of your machine, and it is more likely to leave a powdery residue on your carpet when it dries.

Powder detergent sometimes clumps into tiny balls even before it is used, and these may stick in the pipes and nozzles inside your carpet cleaner.

If you must use powder laundry detergent, only use a tiny quantity, but I would suggest you avoid it as it’s better to be cautious than sorry.

Avoid Laundry Detergents that Contain Abrasive Cleaning Agents

Although tiny micro-scrubbers may help clean your clothes in a washing machine, it is likely to damage your carpet if you use it too often.

Is It Safe to Use Laundry Detergent in a Carpet Cleaner?

Most carpet cleaners will tolerate any number of cleaning agents. Liquid laundry detergents marked ‘HE’ are among the safest stand-ins for regular carpet cleaning shampoo as they won’t block up the pipes and are formulated to rinse away easily.

Besides being safe for your carpet cleaner, laundry detergent is non-toxic and safe to use on any washable surfaces. This makes it a good option for washing carpets. You will confidently be able to let your kids and pets play on a rug that has been washed using laundry detergent.

Will Laundry Detergent Leave a Residue on a Carpet?

One of the main reasons that most people are hesitant to use alternative cleaning agents on their carpets is the concern about leaving behind a sticky residue. This is a genuine concern, so it is always a good idea to err on the side of caution when choosing a carpet cleaner.

Laundry detergent is made to rinse away – after all, none of us would want to wear uncomfortable, sticky clothing. The truth is that any cleaner will leave a noticeable residue if it isn’t sufficiently diluted.

It is therefore essential not to add more than the required amount of laundry detergent to your carpet cleaner.

White vinegar is an effective additive to any cleaning solution that reduces the chances of unpleasant residues. Adding half a cup of white vinegar to the water in your carpet cleaner tank when using liquid laundry detergent as your cleaning solution will help freshen, clean, and reduce the chance of possible stickiness. 

Can Dish Soap Be Used in a Carpet Cleaner?

Dish soap is a high foaming agent that should never be added to a carpet cleaner. While most carpet cleaners can cope with a variety of cleaning agents, there is a good chance that even if the machine can cope with the foam, dish soap will leave an unpleasant, sticky residue on your carpets.

Dish soap may also be a little too harsh for the soft carpets, and since it wasn’t intended to wash fabric, it may damage or alter the color of a carpet.

Some homemade carpet cleaning solutions do include dish soaps like Dawn, but it is always in a minuscule amount and diluted with other natural cleaners like white vinegar or peroxide.

Dish soap was formulated to cut through greasy residues on plates and pans. It is not a good idea to use it to clean soft materials, especially ones like carpets that you may not be able to rinse thoroughly.

You wouldn’t wash your clothes in dish soap, so the same rule applies to your carpeting. If you don’t have carpet shampoo on hand, use a laundry detergent that is marked ‘HE’.

If you have a fatty stain on your carpet where someone dropped their greasy cheese pizza, you can create a solution of dish soap and vinegar to try to remove it. This should, however, be done by hand and limited to individual stains. You will need lots of dry towels and elbow grease to remove it without leaving a residue.


Laundry detergent can be safely used in a carpet cleaner, especially those that are marked ‘HE’. Liquid laundry detergent works better in carpet cleaners than powder. So long as it is not too concentrated and doesn’t contain bleach, laundry detergent will work well and leave a long-lasting, freshly washed smell.

Now that you have the answer to your question, can I use laundry detergent in my carpet cleaner, go give your carpeting some good cleaning.

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