Can You Use Laundry Detergent in Carpet Cleaner?
Author: Anne Cowart | Editor: Omar Alonso
Review & Research: Jen Worst & Chris Miller
Do your carpets look filthy? It's time to clean them and return them to their former glory. Everyone loves the feeling of a clean, fluffy carpet underfoot, but when they get dirty, walking across them barefoot is no more comfy than wearing dirty clothes. Which makes you think… can you use laundry detergent in carpet cleaner?
Renting a carpet cleaning machine is an affordable fix. You get the cleaner and the chemicals included in the hire, and your carpets look great after they dry. However, some hire places want to charge you extra for the cleaning agents – it's how they make their money.
You can take the cleaning agents, or leave them and use your own. If you're trying to clean your carpets on a budget, you might wonder if you can use regular laundry detergent in carpet cleaner machines.
After all, laundry detergent works on clothing, and that's the same as carpet fibers, right? So, why can you load the cleaning machine with laundry detergent and get the same results as those expensive cleaning agents offered at the carpet cleaner hire?
Short answer – yes. You can use laundry detergent in carpet cleaning systems. But before you dump the bottle of laundry detergent into the machine, there are a few things to consider the effects it has on your carpet and the outcome you get from adopting this strategy.
The last thing you want to do is overload the detergent and see frothy bubbles all over the room. If the detergent dries, it will make the carpet feel sticky underfoot, and that's almost as bad as walking on a dirty carpet.
Fortunately, we have expertise in using laundry detergent in carpet cleaner machines. We'll advise you on how to apply it for the best results with your carpet cleaning experience.
Use "HE" Laundry Detergent in Your Carpet Cleaner
There are dozens of laundry detergent brands and hundreds of products on the market. So, which one is the best choice for cleaning your carpet? Not all detergents are the same in terms of their chemical composition and the effects produced when using them in carpet cleaning machines.
We recommend using a laundry detergent featuring "HE" on the ingredients list or marketing material. What is HE, and why does it matter? HE products are safe to use in carpet cleaning machines. See, people have thought of this hack long before you, and most detergent companies realize people use their products in carpet cleaning machines occasionally.
The "HE" labeling on the detergent product stands for "High Efficiency." It means that the detergent doesn't foam as much as other products and holds soils and dyes differently for lower water-usage scenarios, making it ideal for cleaning carpets. The detergent disperses fast, even when used in combination with low water volumes in a carpet cleaning machine.
Manufacturing brands issue the HE classification, not purely for use in carpet cleaning machines. It's mostly for modern washing machines that use less water than older models. As a result, you get less residue left behind when doing the laundry and when using it to wash carpets.
So, by using a HE calcified product, you don't have to worry about hosting a foam party in your living room when cleaning the carpets.
Tips for Using Laundry Detergent in Carpet Cleaner Tasks
Despite HE products being safe to use in carpet cleaning machines, there are a few more tips we need to give you for optimal cleaning and safe use. Keep these points in mind before loading the machine and getting to work.
Don't Over-Use the Detergent
Using more detergent than required won't make your carpets come out any cleaner; it will only increase the chances of producing foam that dries, forming a sticky layer. Use the water tank on the carpet cleaning machine to gauge the right amount of detergent to use.
While you can use laundry detergent to clean carpets, it's not the same as using official carpet cleaning agents. As a result, the detergent is more likely to leave that sticky residue you want to avoid. This goes for laundry detergent substitutes, too. Don't use too much.
So, in this case, less is more when it comes to loading the machine. We recommend using a tablespoon of detergent for every gallon of water for the best results. Don’t fall for the temptation of “more is better” because it’s not.
Avoid Powders & Use Liquid Laundry Detergents
Laundry detergent is available in liquid and powder versions. We recommend you go with the liquid variety and avoid using powders in the machine. The powder might not mix properly in the machine and clog it or leave a powdery residue on the carpet when you finish cleaning and drying.
If you must use the powder, we recommend taking a bucket, filling it with warm water, and adding the powder. Mix it thoroughly until all the powder dissolves before adding it to the storage tank in the machine.
Do Not Use Detergents Containing Bleach
Don't use any detergents in combination with bleach. It's common for people to add bleach to their laundry compartments to assist with getting rid of tough stains in clothing. However, avoid adopting this approach with your carpet cleaning practice.
Chances are you'll bleach the carpet a lighter color, ruining it. You don't want to heat up bleach either or mix it with hot water due to the fumes it emits that are very dangerous. We understand that your carpet smells like stinky feet and you want the odor gone, but you also don't want to be walking barefoot across bleach residue.
Avoid Using Laundry Detergents Containing Micro-Scrubbers
Micro-scrubbers are great for bringing out the best in your laundry, but they're unsuitable for carpet cleaning applications. Leave them alone and stick with the detergent only.
Does Laundry Detergent Leave Residue on the Carpet?
The major factor with using laundry detergent in carpet cleaner solutions is its potential to leave behind the sticky residue we discussed. We can't impress it enough. The sticky residue will cause you to curse the gods if you feel it under your feet.
Add a dash (no more than half a cup) of white spirit vinegar to the gallon of laundry detergent and water, and you remove the risk of the sticky residue. You might think you don't want your lounge smelling like vinegar after you finish, but we promise that won't happen.
The detergent masks the smell of the vinegar. Even if you notice a slight hint of vinegar, it will dissipate in a day or two after cleaning, and all you'll smell is the detergent.
Can You Use Dish Soap with Carpet Cleaners?
Don't ever be tempted by the prospect of adding dish soap to the carpet cleaner machine; you'll regret it. These types of soap are high-foam detergents, and you're guaranteed to leave behind a sticky residue on the carpet.
Dish soap isn't intended to wash fabrics, so it's also harsh on the carpets, reducing its service life, meaning you'll need to make a costly replacement of the carpet sooner than expected. Some experts think using liquid dish soap in the carpet cleaning machine is okay, but we recommend against this practice.
If you have to use Dawn or a similar product, dilute it with vinegar and a touch of hydrogen peroxide to eliminate the possibility of leaving behind a sticky residue. If you have a greasy stain on the carpet in a specific area, you can dilute dish soap and vinegar with some peroxide and work it into the particular area before cleaning the carpet.
Follow these guidelines for the best results with cleaning a specific area on the carpet using dish soap and vinegar.
You'll need the following items for the task:
- Two rags
- A towel
- Two buckets
- White spirit vinegar
Dish soap is great at cutting through grease on dishes, so you'll have good success using it to get the stain out of the carpet. It's a useful strategy for removing greasy food stains, cat urine stains, and spilled milk.
The enzymes in dish soap are effective at removing these stains, but we recommend against using the “Plus” or more concentrated versions of products if your carpet features sensitive fabrics like wool or silk.
The Plus versions might erode the carpet and damage the fibers, leaving a noticeable difference between the cleaned area and the rest of the surrounding surface, even after using the carpet cleaning machine.
How to Use Dish Soap to Remove Stains From Carpets
Follow these steps for successful manual stain removal from carpets:
- Combine a tablespoon of liquid dish detergent with two cups of warm water in a bucket.
- Combine a 1/4 cup of white spirit vinegar and a quart of warm water in the second bucket.
- Dip the rag into the solution. Please don't use a colored rag as it might result in the dye transferring to the carpet fibers, staining the area.
- Dab the stain with the soaked rag to lift it. Try to avoid damaging the carpet fibers with aggressive rubbing.
- Dip the second rag into the vinegar solution and blot the cleaned area to remove the Dawn mixture. Don't oversaturate the carpet; dry it with a clean towel when you finish.
Pro Tip – We recommend spot-testing the dish soap mixture on a hidden part of the carpet in an area of the room that's not visible to the common area, like in the back of a closet.
So, Can You Use Laundry Detergent in Carpet Cleaner Machines?
It's safe to use HE labelled detergents in the carpet cleaning machine. Don't use too much, or you'll leave a sticky residue behind. Use liquid detergents, not powders. Don't use dish soap in the carpet cleaning machine because it foams too much, leaving behind residue. You can use dish soap and vinegar to manually remove severe stains from the carpet. And that’s how to use laundry detergent in carpet cleaner applications.