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What Can You Use In A Carpet Cleaner? [11 Options]

Our carpets are comfy to walk on and serve as essential parts of our home decor but get dirty quite easily. To clean your dirty carpets, you are wondering what you can use in your carpet cleaner. We have scoured the internet to answer just that question in this post.

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You can use a wide range of products in your carpet cleaner. This includes materials designed to be used alone and other materials that mix well with other ingredients. Eleven things that you can use in a carpet cleaner are as follows:

  1. Carpet Shampoo
  2. Carpet Spot Remover
  3. Water
  4. Pet Enzyme
  5. Laundry Detergent
  6. Vinegar
  7. Baking Soda
  8. Borax
  9. Liquid Soap
  10. Hydrogen Peroxide
  11. Salt

Keep reading the rest of this post for details on each of the above-listed items. We include the relevant pros and cons of each product and, when necessary, which other products to mix each detergent with. To conclude, we provide an additional reading list and the answers to several related questions.

people-housework-and-housekeeping-concept-close-up-of-woman-in-rubber-gloves-with-cloth-and-detergent-spray-cleaning-carpet-at-home, What Can You Use In A Carpet Cleaner? [11 Options]

Cleaning Products for your Carpet Cleaner

Considered here are the many types of carpet cleaning ingredients for carpet cleaning machines tested and favored by both professional and do-it-yourself home cleaners.

Click here for a carpet cleaner from Amazon.

However, there is no tried and true best solution for cleaning carpets. If you spend enough time searching internet sources, you will likely find carpet cleaning concoctions that mix and match most of the following cleaning agents.

1. Carpet Shampoo

Spring cleaning in house

This list would be incomplete without the inclusion of specialty formulated carpet shampoo, often called carpet detergent. These products are sold both as a concentrate and in pre-diluted bottles.

Click here for a carpet shampoo from Amazon.

All carpet cleaner manufactures recommend that you only use either their own brand of carpet cleaning shampoo or very similar products in their carpet cleaners. This recommendation implies that to maximize the life of your carpet cleaner. You should only use the soaps that are recommended.

In fact, given the significant amount of product research put into carpet cleaning detergents, the use of these products is likely to produce high-end results. Further, if carpet cleaner companies recommend faulty soaps, it would hurt their reputation and profits.

2. Carpet Spot Remover

Closeup of man hand cleaning stain on carpet with spray bottle

As the name implies, carpet spot removers are generally used on spot stains. Usually, their directions include application, a setting period, and hand scrubbing. However, diluting these spot removers into carpet cleaning machines is also possible. 

Click here for some Folex from Amazon.

For example, Folex and Resolve are both recommended as carpet cleaning shampoos. Specifically, Folex representatives recommended diluting 1 part of their spot remover into 4 to 6 parts water and adding this solution to your carpet cleaner.

Make the spot remover solutions stronger for dirtier carpets and weaker for cleaner carpets. Further, you can also use these products as a spot cleaner when needed.

3. Water

Many sources agree that water is the best, safest, cheapest, and easiest material to use in a carpet cleaner. Especially when hot, water has the power to break down the bonds holding stains to your carpet and leave the surface just like new.

Further, most carpet shampooing options include using both water and some added soap - so there is no way to avoid putting water into your carpet cleaner.

Can you use just water in a carpet cleaner?

Yes, you certainly can. Using water alone is oft-recommended because the technique leaves no residue in your carpets like most soaps are prone to do. Soaps are designed to stick to dirt and grime in your carpet, and then the carpet cleaner machine is supposed to rinse and suck all the soap away.

However, no carpet cleaner does a perfect job of this rinsing step. This leaves soap particles in your carpet that hold dust and dirt to your carpet. Using water alone has no such downside.

Take note, according to the EPA, the hotter the water is when cleaning your carpets, the better it functions as a disinfecting agent to kill bacteria and viruses.

4. Pet Enzyme

Pet stains, like blood, urine, vomit, and feces, are tough to clean because they are protein-based stains. The Carpet and Rug Institute recommends enzyme-based cleaners for urine and other pet messes as the best option to remove both visible stains and odor.

Click here for a pet enzyme carpet cleaner from Amazon.

It is possible to use any pet enzyme, in a diluted form, in a water-based carpet cleaner. However, there are specially formulated enzyme products designed to be used in a carpet cleaner. These products are best for carpets that have significant areas with pet damage.

5. Laundry Detergent

Laundry detergent, like carpet shampoo, works well to clean carpets. However, this process does come with a slight downside.

Namely, laundry detergent is designed to clean a whole load of laundry with just a small amount of soap. This can lead to significant over-sudsing of the laundry detergent in the carpet cleaning machine.

To avoid this, only use a small amount of laundry detergent at first. Test a teaspoon or so of soap to see if it comes to good effect. Ideally, you want it to clean your carpet well, not overbubble your catchment tank, and clean many square feet.

6. Vinegar

Of all the natural options for cleaning your carpet, vinegar is only eclipsed by water alone. Vinegar acts to remove stains and neutralize odors without the need for any type of potentially harmful chemicals. 

Generally, it is recommended that you use between one-to-one and a one-to-two of vinegar to water ratio.

While vinegar smells strongly like pickles, this smell, and the residual vinegar, will evaporate as your carpet dries. Therefore, all you have to do is wait after shampooing your carpet, and the vinegar smell will all be gone.

Most home recipes include vinegar and other ingredients like a little soap or baking soda.

Does vinegar ruin carpet?

Vinegar is very acidic by nature, so it does run the risk of damaging natural fiber carpet. Therefore, if your carpet is wool or silk, use a weaker 1:2 or 1:3 mix of vinegar to water in your carpet cleaner. To be particularly safe, first test the mix on an out-of-the-way place.

Further, only use white or apple cider vinegar on your carpet. Darker vinegar, such as balsamic vinegar, does run the risk of staining or discoloring your carpet.

7. Baking Soda

top view of baking soda on the blackboard

Baking soda is well established as a safe and effective cleaning agent and can also be used in carpet shampooing machines. As a base, baking soda serves to break down the bonds that hold your dirt, grime, and grease to the carpet.

If you mix the base of baking soda with vinegar acid, the result helps clean the carpet even further.

8. Borax

Click here for borax from Amazon.

Borax is often used as a cleaning solution. It softens the water, which it is mixed into and billed as a detergent booster. This means that if you mix one teaspoon to one tablespoon of borax into your carpet cleaner's reservoir, you can expect a cleaner final result.

9. Liquid Soap

Sources do not agree, but many people report good results by adding liquid soap to their carpet cleaner's reservoir. Generally, folks add a bit of liquid soap to natural carpet cleaner mixes to boost the grease-fighting capabilities of the mixture.

10. Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen Peroxide, topical solution USP in a brown bottle

According to The Independent, mixing hydrogen peroxide with liquid soap is an effective way to clean your carpets. You only want a solution of about 2 to 3 percent hydrogen peroxide to water and other liquids.

As always, test any hydrogen peroxide solution on an out-of-the-way area before spreading it over a significant amount of square feet. 

11. Salt

Unlike the other items on this list, salt is not intended as a cleaning agent. Instead, use salt in your catchment reservoir as a defoaming agent. If you have trouble with your reservoir over foaming, add a small amount of salt to keep those bubbles down.

Can you use any shampoo in a carpet cleaner?

No, avoid using hair shampoo in your carpet cleaner. Instead, only use shampoos intended for use on carpet or other clothlike materials.

How do you make a homemade carpet cleaner?

Glass of juice fell and spilled on floor

Make a homemade carpet cleaner by mixing vinegar, baking soda, and maybe a little liquid soap. At first, make a weaker mixture to avoid staining or damaging your carpet, and strengthen the mix as needed. Try one part vinegar, two parts water, with a bit of soap and baking soda.

Can you shampoo a carpet once a week?

Shampooing a carpet is rough on the carpet fibers. Therefore, it is generally recommended that you only shampoo the carpet four times to one time per year. Instead, be sure to vacuum at least once a week or even more often as needed.

Additional Reading

Read these great articles from Home Decore Bliss to learn more about carpet cleaning:

Should Carpet Be Stretched Before Cleaning?

What Types Of Carpet Are Easiest To Clean?

How To Use An Enzyme Cleaner On Carpet

In Closing

This post provides a list of eleven materials that you can put in your carpet cleaner. We cover why these products work and how to use them. To conclude, we answer a few related questions. Good luck!