Can You Use Laundry Detergent in a Carpet Cleaner?

Carpet Cleaner is one of those household cleaners that is easy to run out of. You rarely use it, because carpets only need to be deep cleaned every three to six months. Often, if you have run out you can simply wait to do the routine cleaning of your carpet until after you can get more, but what if there is a mess of emergency proportions?

A red wine spill, or a pet mess needs to be cleaned up right away to avoid ruining the carpet. In this case, you can use laundry detergent in your carpet cleaner to tackle the mess.

Will my Carpet Cleaner Break if I Use Laundry Detergent?

When using laundry detergent in your carpet cleaner, there is a small amount of risk. Mostly, this is related to dosing, as a laundry detergent will not tell you how much cleaner to use in your carpet cleaner. Another concern is that some detergents have dyes, although this is not common. Using too much detergent can cause excess foam in your carpet cleaner which will make it impossible to clean your carpet properly until the machine has been completely flushed out. In extreme cases, this can damage the carpet cleaner. If you are careful however, breaking your carpet cleaner is unlikely.

How Much Laundry Detergent Do I Use in my Carpet Cleaner?

To start, you will want to start with a small amount of laundry detergent to see how it reacts with your machine. Some detergents foam more than others, and too much foam is what will cause problems. Start with 1/8th of a teaspoon to spot test. If all appears well, then you can proceed up to 1/4th of a teaspoon. 1/4th of a teaspoon is the maximum amount you should be using but finding the sweet spot of bubbles for your specific laundry detergent might take some trial and error.

Will Laundry Detergent Clean Carpet Just as Good?

Since both carpet cleaner and laundry detergent are designed to cleanse and preserve fabrics, both will do an excellent job at cleaning your carpet. If you make the proper adjustments in using laundry detergent, you will be unlikely to tell the difference between the two.

What type of Laundry Detergents are Best in a Carpet Cleaner?

Not all laundry detergents are created equal for the purpose of carpet cleaning, however. Some detergents have bleaching agents or dyes, which you will want to avoid. Additionally, as I mentioned some detergents foam more than others, and a detergent with less foam is better for a carpet cleaner. The best detergents to use in a carpet cleaner will have these two labels:

  • Free and Clear
  • HE (High Efficiency)

Seventh Generation Concentrated Laundry Detergent, Stain Fighting Formula, Free & Clear Unscented, 40 oz (53 Loads)

Free and Clear guarantees that there are no additives to stain your carpet. HE detergents are High Efficiency, meaning they were designed to be used with less water without over foaming or failing to fully dissolve. Examples of good detergents to use in your carpet cleaner are: Seventh Generation Concentrated Laundry Detergent and Tide Free and Gentle

The Pros of Using Laundry Detergent in a Carpet Cleaner:

Using laundry detergent instead of carpet cleaning solution on a regular basis has gained some popularity in homecare circles. Here are some of the most common reasons for using laundry detergent:


The average price of laundry detergent is cheaper than the average carpet cleaner. However, most detergents suitable for use in a carpet cleaner are not the lowest price options. In the end, you end up saving a couple of cents, but not an outrageous amount.


Unlike Carpet Cleaner, laundry detergent is such a staple that you are not likely to run out. Additionally, double dipping like this with products reduces the number of things in your house thus freeing up mental and physical space.


In the same vein as the previous pro, this one is all about what you already have in your house. Its easy to find a laundry detergent in a store or in your home. You might need to go somewhere special for a carpet cleaning solution which is not ideal.
The Cons of Using Laundry Detergent in a Carpet Cleaner:

However, many experts likewise advise against making laundry detergent your default carpet cleaning option. We have talked a little about these reasons, but I will explain them more.

Risk to the Machine and the Carpet Tineco CARPET ONE Smart Carpet Cleaner Machine, Lightweight Carpet Shampooer and Portable Upholstery Cleaner with LED Display, Pet Carpet Cleaner with App Connection, Voice Prompts


You can use laundry detergent in your carpet cleaner without hurting it, but if you make a mistake, you might break it. This can be more pressure than some people are comfortable with. The same is true of the carpet. Even though some detergents are good for cleaning carpets, not all of them are suitable. Because they are not designed with this use in mind, it can be hard to tell which ones are safe. Additionally, companies can change the formula without notifying consumers which could be a disaster for your carpet.

Dirtier in the Long Run

Detergent is designed to be thoroughly rinsed out, which the carpet cleaner will not accomplish. This can leave a residue on the carpet, which will attract and stick to dirt and dust. You may notice you need to clean the carpet more often as a result, or that you will have to go over the carpet again without any detergent in the machine.

Not Great for Allergies

Finding detergents completely free of irritants or fragrances can be tricky depending on your location. Using a laundry detergent with either of these things will make life difficult for anyone with allergies or sensitive skin.

Specific Models and Brands:

Can I Use Laundry Detergent in My Full-Size Bissell Carpet Cleaner?

Like most brands, Bissell discourages the use of laundry detergent in their products because of the room for consumer error. However, they do not list it in their warranty as a disqualifying action. The hoses and materials look adequate to handle a free and clear detergent following the dosing directions in this article.

Can I Use Laundry Detergent in My Bissell Little Green Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner?

This specific model is much smaller than the full-size Bissell machines, which means it will need even less detergent to avoid over foaming. At this point, I would worry that the carpet is not getting cleaned sufficiently and would choose the carpet cleaning solution.

Can I Use Laundry Detergent in My Bissell Pet Stain Eraser PowerBrush?

Like the Little Green, I would find the tank on this machine too small to accommodate enough laundry detergent. Because it is specifically geared toward spot cleaning pet messes, I would be more likely to using the baking soda paste method if I could not access carpet cleaning solution. This method entails making a paste with two parts water and one part baking soda, spreading it on the stain, letting it dry, vacuuming up the baking soda, and then using the carpet cleaner without any detergent in the machine.

Can I Use Laundry Detergent in My Hoover Carpet Cleaner?

Hoover advises against laundry detergent, saying that it will clog the smaller than average hoses. Instead, they have endorsed the use of a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and water, and a few drops of an essential oil if desired.

Can I Use Laundry Detergent in the Rug Doctor Might Pro Carpet Cleaner?

This carpet cleaner is designed for some tough messes, as well as having a decently large tank. I would feel comfortable using laundry detergent in this model.

Related Questions:

Can You Use Laundry Detergent in a Steam Cleaner?

Can You Use Laundry Detergent in a Steam Cleaner

A steam cleaner works differently than a carpet cleaner, in that it uses steam instead of brushes to lift dirt from the carpet. Additionally, it usually does not suck the moisture back out of the carpet when you are done. For this reason, I would not suggest using detergents in a Steam Cleaner, as they will be deposited in the carpet but not effectively removed.

Can You Use Bleach Laundry Detergents in a Carpet Cleaner?

I would not use bleach in a carpet cleaner. It is likely to damage the fragile tubing inside the machine, especially over time. Additionally, it might cause discoloration in your carpet.

Will Laundry Detergent Clean Wine Spill in Carpet?

The laundry detergent may or may not be enough to remove the wine spill on its own. However, you can first treat the carpet with a two parts cold water to one part baking soda paste. Lay the paste on thick and let it dry completely. Vacuum up the baking soda, then clean the carpet with the carpet cleaner and laundry detergent. This method has a much better chance of getting the wine spill out of the carpet.

Is Laundry Detergent More Affordable than Actual Carpet Cleaner Solution?

Laundry detergent is often cheaper than actual carpet cleaner, which is one of the pros to using it. If you only clean your carpet a couple times a year, then the actual savings will not be noticeably big, but if you are constantly using your carpet cleaner it might be a different story.

Should Laundry Detergent Just be Used as an Emergency Carpet Cleaner Solution?

Many people stand by using laundry detergent as a regular carpet cleaner. Personally, I do not think the pros are big enough to justify the extra work and risk to use a product not designed for my carpet cleaner. I would (and have) used it in an emergency, but not as a first choice.

Final Thoughts

Most full-size carpet cleaners can handle the use of laundry detergent. However, it requires some careful measuring, and I would not exclusively use laundry detergent. Over time, the residue from the detergent will make you have to clean more often, and the room for consumer error simply is not worth the modest savings. If you have a smaller machine, you might more success with a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water in a pinch. For extra cleaning power, use a baking soda paste first.

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