Drying Carpet After Water Damage: 9 Steps to Drying Wet Carpeting After A Water Leak or Another Type of Water Damage
A water leak can leave your carpet a soggy mess for days. Regardless of the cause, it’s important to dry wet carpeting quickly to prevent damage to sub-flooring and walls, as well as limit the potential for mold. Depending on the extent of the damage, drying carpeting after water damage is something you can do on your own. The longer you wait to begin cleanup, the greater the risk of mold and lower the chances of completely restoring your carpeting.
9 Steps to Drying Wet Carpeting
- Pump Out Standing Water – Pump or bail outstanding water to limit damage and increase the chances of salvaging your carpet.
- Suck Up Excess Water – Use a wet/dry vacuum to suck up as much remaining water as possible, leaving the carpeting just barely damp.
- Separate the Wet Carpeting From the Flooring – By separating the carpet from the subfloor, you improve airflow and decrease the chances of mold growing.
- Dispose of the Carpet Padding – While you may be able to save your carpeting, it’s very hard to save the carpet padding. Throwing it away is the best option.
- Dry the Carpeting and Sub-flooring – With the carpet propped above the subfloor, uses fans or air movers to dry the area as quickly as possible.
- Sanitize the Sub-flooring – There is still a chance for future mold problems, so it’s best to sanitize the area. Use a commercial disinfectant to prevent mold and odors in the future.
- Install New Carpet Padding – Install new carpet padding before laying down your carpeting. Available at most big-box hardware stores, it’s typically inexpensive compared to completely replacing your carpeting.
- Reinstall the Carpeting – Use a knee kicker to reinstall your carpeting. Check the tack stripes first for damage and replace sections as necessary.
- Shampoo Your Carpeting – Shampooing or steam cleaning your carpeting will help extend the life and remove microbial contaminants left over from the water damage.
Things to Consider Before Drying Carpeting After Water Damage
The sooner you can begin cleaning and drying wet carpeting after a water event, the greater the chances you will be able to restore it. However, before you being drying carpet after water damage, you should consider a few things.
The Age of the Carpeting
If your carpeting is very old or has already been damaged in the past, it may be difficult to save. Over time, the backing will deteriorate or even pull away from the carpeting. Previous water damage is likely to weaken the backing as well.
The Extent of the Damage
While you can likely dry your carpeting if there is an inch or two of water, it will get increasingly difficult to dry carpeting when more water is involved. If there were several inches of water or the water sat for an extended period of time, it may be troublesome to salvage.
The Source of the Water
The type of water involved impacts how easy it is to clean and dry water-damaged carpeting. If the water is from a clean source, such as a supply line, drying is usually straightforward. Flood waters will contain dirt and contaminants that are difficult to remove from carpeting. A sewage backup can be especially difficult to clean up.
Whether There is Mold
Mold requires a source of moisture and some type of organic material and wet carpeting is the perfect environment. It’s likely that mold will grow on, in, or under wet carpeting if it is not cleaned and dried quickly. The source of the water can also increase the chances of mold.
What To Do Before Trying to Dry Wet Carpeting
While you want to try to dry carpeting as quickly as possible, you should take these steps before starting.
Fix the Source of the Water
Starting to dry carpeting if you still have a water leak is a losing battle. Whether you shut off your main water supply or wait for floodwaters to subside, it’s going to make cleaning and drying much easier.
Dispose of Water Damage Items
Now is the time to bag and dispose of any item that you can’t dry quickly. This includes cardboard boxes, newspapers, magazines, and any other clutter. Use heavy duty or construction style bags and
Remove the Furniture
Furniture sitting on top of wet carpeting will not only slow the drying process, but the water may ruin those items as well. Clear the room carefully, moving items to a clean, dry space. If they are wet too, put them on a tarp or plastic sheet to prevent them from damaging carpeting or floors in other rooms.
Limit Traffic on Water Damaged Carpeting
The more you walk on wet carpeting, the more likely you are to wear out the backing, rub in dirty, and generally wear out your carpeting. This includes you, your children, and your pets. Try to dispose of items and empty the room as quickly and efficiently as possible. Divide the room into quadrants, clearing each before moving on.
How to Drying Wet Carpeting
If you are attempting to dry your wet carpeting, it’s important to move quickly to limit damage to sub-flooring and prevent mold from growing.
1. Pump Out Standing Water
The sooner you can remove the excess water, the better your chances of salvaging your carpeting. If standing water is completely covering your carpeting, you may need to use a pump to extract the water from the room. Most equipment rental companies will have pumps available. They should be able to recommend the right pump for the circumstances.
2. Suck Up Excess Water With a Wet/Dry Vacuum
Use a wet/dry shop vac to remove excess water from saturated carpeting. Work slowly and methodically to suck up as much water as possible, emptying your shop vac as needed. The goal is to lead the carpeting damp, with no water squishing around. You may need to vacuum the same section of carpeting several times in order to accomplish this.
3. Separate the Wet Carpeting From the Flooring
Now that the majority of the water is removed, you need to separate the carpeting from the floor. Carefully pull it away from tack strips, starting along the wall and moving throughout the room. Wet carpeting is more fragile than dry carpeting, to avoid using excessive force that may damage or tear your carpet.
4. Dispose of the Carpet Padding
Most carpet padding is made of a urethane foam called rebond, but older homes may have wool or fiber pads. While rebond is more resistant to water damage than wool and fiber pads, water takes its toll on all of them.
Trying to dry carpet padding is usually much more effort than it’s worth, considering that new padding is reasonably inexpensive at 30¢ to 60¢ per foot. The fibrous nature of carpet padding makes it ideal for harboring mold and bacteria as well, which is another reason to toss it.
5. Dry the Carpeting and Sub-flooring
After separating the wet carpeting from the flooring and removing the carpet padding, it’s time to start drying. Prop the carpeting above the sub-flooring or move it another area completely
Use high powered blowers whenever possible, most equipment rental companies should have them available. You can use regular house-hold fans in a pinch, but it will take longer to dry your carpeting. Run blowers and fans until the carpeting and flooring are completely dry. When in doubt, let them run longer than you think is necessary.
While you may think heat will speed up the drying time, it really doesn’t have that much effect. However, humidity plays a much more significant roll in drying time so turn on a dehumidifier if you have them.
6. Sanitize the Sub-flooring
Regardless of the source of water, it’s important to use a chemical sanitizer on the subflooring to prevent odors and mold from developing over time. Ideally, use a medical grade sanitizer, as bleach is not effective at killing mold. Thoroughly wipe down all surfaces that were wet and allow them to air dry.
7. Install New Carpet Padding
Once the sub-flooring is sanitized, use a shop vac to suck up any dirt or debris on the floor before installing the carpet padding. Most carpet padding will come in rolls, but some products may come as individual sheets or tiles. Cut the padding so it fits perfectly in the space, covering the entire area between the tack strips.
8. Reinstall the Carpeting
Once the padding is installed, you can begin to reinstall your carpeting. Check that the tack strips are still in good condition and replace as necessary as well. Then lay the carpeting down on top, using a knee kicker tool to tack the carpeting down to the tack strips.
9. Shampoo Your Carpeting
While your carpeting is dry, it’s likely dirty or even contaminated with mold or bacteria. Shampooing your carpeting will help remove set in stains as well as prevent against mold and bacteria.
Use your regular vacuum first to remove as much dirt and debris as possible and use a stain remover to treat set in stains. While consumer-grade carpet cleaners may work, a commercial grade carpet cleaner is much more effective.
Follow the instructions included with your carpet cleaner, taking specific note the correct amount and type of soap to use. Allow your carpet to dry per the instructions after shampooing. Typically, it takes carpeting between 6 and 8 hours to dry after shampooing.
How to Dry Wet Carpet Without Vacuum
While more difficult, it is possible to dry wet carpet without vacuum. As outlined above, you need to get rid of the standing water as soon as possible. Remove the standing water first, using either a pump or a bucket. Then roll up the carpeting and take it outside.
Lay it down flat on your driveway or another solid surface. Gently press towels or sheets into the carpeting to absorb the water. Once you’ve gotten as much water out of the carpeting as possible, prop it up and get fans moving across it. If possible, use dehumidifiers as well.
Then remove and dispose of the carpet padding. The water is likely to weaken the padding, making it more trouble than it’s worth to dry out. Use a mop or towels to remove standing water from the subfloor, then use fans and dehumidifiers to dry out the area.
Allow the carpeting to dry as long as necessary. You can speed up the process by putting it out in the sun. Even in cold weather, it will dry faster in full sunlight. Expect that drying wet carpet without vacuum to take several days to a week, depending on the amount of carpeting involved.
Take steps to prevent the carpeting from getting wet due to rain or snow, as this will increase drying time. Follow steps 6 through 9 as outlined above to finished drying wet carpeting without a vacuum. Additionally, you may need to add in a deodorizing step as well.
Before shampooing the carpeting, sprinkle the carpeting with baking soda. Gently rub it in and allow it to sit for a few hours or overnight. Then use a regular vacuum to suck up the baking soda. For intense odors, you may need to repeat several times. Then shampoo your carpeting as indicated.
What to Know About Drying Carpet After a Water Leak
If the water leak was from a supply line, the source is considered “clean” and is unlikely to contain bacterial contaminants. As long as you begin drying the carpeting shortly after the damage occurred, the risk of mold and bacterial growth is low.
What to Know About Drying Carpet After a Flood
If the carpeting is damaged by flood water, it’s likely the water will contain contaminants like bacteria and parasites. Wear long sleeves, pants, rubber boots, and gloves when cleaning and drying water damaged carpets after a flood for your own safety. Mold may begin to grow in as little as 48 to 72 hours after the flood.
What to Know About Drying Carpet After a Sewage Backup
Carpeting damaged by a sewage backup will contain bacteria and parasites. Take safety precautions when cleaning and drying, including long sleeves, pants, rubber boots, gloves, a ventilator, and a face shield. After exposure to sewage, mold may begin to grow in or around carpeting in as little as 24 hours.
Professional Water Damage Restoration Services
While you can dry and clean carpeting after a water leak or other water damage, it requires significant effort and some specialized equipment. A professional water damage restoration company has the necessary training and equipment to quickly and efficiently dry wet carpeting. This will limit the risk of mold and increase the chances that you can save your carpeting.
Restoration Local is a network of restoration contractors. If you have wet carpeting from a flood, sewage backup, or another type of water incident, the restoration professionals in the Restoration Local network are here to dry your carpeting. Call 1-888-443-3110 now to talk to the on-call restoration specialist in your area or review our list of water damage contractors in your area. Our on-call contractors always offer a free estimate, 24-hour emergency services, and 30-minute response time.