Can You Use Laundry Detergent In A Carpet Cleaner?

Although cozy and inviting, carpets are more challenging to clean than solid floors, and specially formulated cleaners can be expensive. If you don’t want to pay for a carpet cleaner, you may be tempted to use laundry detergent instead. After all, it cleans your clothes, so why not your rugs?

Can You Use Laundry Detergent In A Carpet Cleaner

In this article, we’ll explain the risks and benefits of using laundry detergent instead of carpet cleaner and give you some tips on how to do so safely.

If you’d rather not use laundry detergent to clean your rugs, scroll to the bottom of the article for a list of excellent alternatives to expensive specialty carpet cleaners.

Can You Use Laundry Detergent For Carpet Cleaning?

Since laundry detergent is a cleaning agent, it’s certainly possible to use it to clean your carpets. That said, it may not be advisable to use it to replace your usual carpet cleaners.

Let’s take a look at some of the risks and benefits of cleaning your rugs with laundry detergent.

Benefits of Using Laundry Detergent To Clean Your Carpet

  • Easily accessible: One of the biggest benefits of using laundry detergent instead of a special carpet cleaner is that it’s easy to find in any store. Most people also have more than enough laundry detergent on hand at all times since it’s a household staple, which means you’re more likely to have it when you need it.
  • Inexpensive: Laundry detergent only costs a fraction of the price of most carpet cleaners. In this economy, every penny counts, so if you can swap out an expensive cleaner for an affordable solution, the savings alone might be worth it.
  • Leaves a fresh scent: Most carpet cleaners have a strong chemical odor that lingers for a few days after cleaning. On the other hand, laundry detergent is lightly scented with a pleasant fragrance since it’s meant for washing clothes.

Risks of Using Laundry Detergent To Clean Your Carpet

  • Not formulated for carpet: Laundry detergents are created with the sole purpose of making your clothes clean, soft, and smelling good, whereas carpet cleaners are made to lift dirt from your carpets. Though they’re both made for cleaning, the ingredients in the two products are drastically different.
  • Can leave residue behind: Since laundry detergent isn’t made for cleaning carpets, there’s a chance that your shampooer won’t be able to get all of the soap out of your rugs. Any residue left behind will attract dirt and make your carpet look worse than it did before you cleaned it.
  • Could ruin equipment: Since the manufacturers of laundry detergent don’t expect you to use it in a shampooer, it’s not formulated for that type of equipment. As such, it could clog up the inner workings of your machine.

How To Use Laundry Detergent As A Carpet Cleaner

Now that we’ve explained the risks and benefits of using laundry detergent as a carpet cleaner, let’s take a look at how you can reduce the risks of using it to clean your rugs.

1. Choose The Right Detergent

There are all sorts of laundry detergents on the market today, and you can only use a few of them to clean your carpets.

If you’re going to put laundry detergent in your shampooer, make sure it’s formulated for high-efficiency washing machines. If you see the “HE” label, you’ll know it won’t make as many suds, which makes it relatively safe to use on the carpet. 

You’ll also want to be sure that your detergent doesn’t contain bleach. If there’s any bleach in your cleaner, it will stain your rugs. You may also want to err on the side of caution with dyed laundry detergent.

Personally, if I were going to use laundry detergent to clean my carpets, I would use a “free and clear” formula to be sure that there are no harsh ingredients that could ruin the fibers.

2. Use Sparingly

The phrase “less is more” is highly appropriate when using laundry detergent to clean your carpets. Remember, laundry soap often has more foaming action than the average carpet cleaner, which can lead to a huge mess.

Using only one tablespoon of detergent for every quart of water you put in the reservoir will also reduce the amount of residue left behind on your carpet.

3. Add Vinegar

We’ve talked a lot about how laundry detergent can leave a residue when you use it as a carpet cleaner. This is because the detergent is formulated to be rinsed from your clothing after you wash it.

Since you won’t be rinsing your carpets, you should add ½ cup of white distilled vinegar to the water in your shampooer’s reservoir to reduce the amount of soap residue left behind.

Other Carpet Cleaner Alternatives To Consider

If you’ve decided that the risks of using laundry detergent as a carpet cleaner outweigh the benefits, but you still don’t want to keep shelling out the money for specialty products, here are a couple of cleaning solutions for you to try instead.

carpet cleaner alternatives
  • Vinegar: White distilled vinegar is one of the best all-purpose cleaners around, and it’s so easy to use. All you need to do is mix half a gallon of warm water and half a gallon of vinegar in a large bucket. Pour the mixture into the water reservoir on your shampooer and clean your carpets as usual.
  • Baking Soda: Baking soda is an excellent choice if you want to get tough odors out of your carpet. If you’re not concerned with stains, you don’t even need to get out the shampooer to reap the rewards of this fantastic cleaner. Instead, just vacuum your floor and sprinkle a thick layer of baking soda. If the odors are particularly strong, you can get a scrub brush and work the baking soda down into the fibers. Leave it to sit for a few hours or overnight, then vacuum it up.

Conclusion: Is It Safe To Use Detergent For Carpet Cleaning?

As with most things in life, using laundry detergent instead of carpet cleaner comes with risks and benefits that you must weigh before deciding to interchange the products.

On the one hand, laundry detergent is inexpensive and often readily available in your home. On the other hand, these detergents aren’t formulated for carpets and may leave a sticky residue behind.

If you decide to use laundry detergent on your carpets, you can reduce some risks by choosing a product meant for high-efficiency washing machines.

These formulas don’t produce as much foam, so they won’t leave as much residue behind. You should also make sure your detergent doesn’t have any bleach or dye, as they may stain your carpets.

If you feel that the risks of using laundry detergent to clean your rugs outweigh the benefits, you can try using white distilled vinegar or baking soda to refresh your carpet instead.

Shauna Stone