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How to Clean Wet Carpet and Minimize Damage

Updated on January 18, 2017
Jason mackenzie profile image

Jason Mackenzie is the proprietor of Perth Home Cleaners, a reputed and reliable firm that specializes in cleaning carpets and rugs.

Carpet Submerged in Water - A Truly Overwhelming Sight
Carpet Submerged in Water - A Truly Overwhelming Sight

Is Your Carpet Wet?

To clean wet carpet, not only do you need to gear up mentally but also prepare a comprehensive to-do list enumerating the procedure in detail.

Few things can be as overwhelming as seeing your carpet submerged under water. In such a situation, many people make the mistake of simply discarding the carpet, assuming that it is beyond salvage. What they don’t realize is that it is indeed possible to restore a carpet to its normal state in spite of the damage caused by water.

Ask any professional carpet cleaning service and they will urge you to first understand the ways in which water can cause damage to your carpet. This knowledge would not just enable you to ascertain which cleaning method to employ but also learn how to prevent such incidents in future. Of course, your best bet would be to get in touch with a professional carpet cleaner that is based in close proximity and fix an appointment at the earliest.

Cleaning Wet Carpet - Do-It-Yourself or Hiring A Service Provider?

Although you might feel confident of going the Do-It-Yourself way to clean wet carpet, the task calls for a certain degree of expertise and physical labour. Under the circumstances, the decision to hire a reputed and reliable carpet cleaning service provider can accrue multiple benefits. All you need to do is sit back and relax while your wet carpet is restored to its normal state by experts.

How Water Travels through The Carpet

Passage of water through the Carpet
Passage of water through the Carpet

Effect of Water on Carpets

As a home owner, understanding how water would affect your carpet is important since it could influence your decision –

  • Carpets can be residential or commercial. The only difference between the two is the presence of a thick pad under residential carpets while commercial carpets do not have any underlying cushion.
  • While the purpose of the pad in residential carpet is to provide a soft feel, this layer also has a massive absorption capacity. As a result, in case of flooding, a residential carpet is likely to soak double the amount of water as compared to that soaked by a commercial carpet.
  • Courtesy of its fibrous nature, a carpet facilitates easy passage for water, thus enabling it to travel quickly from one end to another and seep on to the floor in the direction of the slope of the room.
  • Subsequent to flooding, much of the water accumulates along the walls of the room that lie at the lower end of the slope.
  • 30 minutes after flooding, the surface of the carpet might feel dry even though the pad might be saturated and there might be water along the edges in wall-to-wall carpeting. Such a situation calls for the use of an infra-red camera which reveals the extent of damage even though the same may not be obvious at a cursory glance. .

Water Damaged Carpet

If  Left Untouched, Water Can Cause Irreparable Damage to Your Carpet
If Left Untouched, Water Can Cause Irreparable Damage to Your Carpet

Cleaning Wet Carpet - Common Myths

Common myths pertaining to cleaning wet carpets are discussed as follows –

Myth 1A Carpet Dries By Itself

People advocating this particular myth put forth the logic that after having been flooded and damaged by water, a carpet need not be touched and it will dry out by itself. May be it will eventually dry out by itself but this would take a number of days and by that time your carpet will have become an active breeding ground for bacteria, mould and other harmful pathogens. Moreover, it will also have started to emit a bad odour which is a result of continued dampness and if left as it is, the water might even seep from the pad and damage the sub-floor.

Therefore, do not assume that a carpet will dry by itself because even if it does, it will be at the risk of your family’s health.

Myth 2Removal of Pad Would Dry Out The Carpet

Self-proclaimed experts in DIY carpet cleaning maintain that the only way you can dry a wet carpet is by removing the pad which lies underneath while it is still soaked with water. This is to corroborate another belief which maintains that drying a pad completely is not possible. An antidote to this myth is that it is possible to extract water from the pad till it is completely dry and to achieve this you need to use extraction equipment.

There is an old-school theory which suggests floating the carpet to dry out its pad but using machines is a lot easier. Secondly, if the water is heavily contaminated, replacing the pad is a better option since it is bound to contain some pollutants in spite of having been fully dried.

Myth 3Drying Out A Pad Is Virtually Impossible

As per this myth, it is either impossible to dry a wet pad or you need to have multiple heavy-duty blowers to float the carpet. This reasoning might have held up a decade back when technology in this sector was still in its nascent phase. It stands null and void in today’s date when there are a number of machines to choose from that would extract water from the carpet’s pad without having to move it at all.

Myth 4It Is Impossible to Salvage A Wet Carpet

Once the carpet is water damaged, there is no way wherein it can be salvaged and has to be discarded. The decision as to whether a carpet can be salvaged or not depends on the type of water that has caused the damage.

A professional carpet cleaner would judge the damage by categorizing the water into three types wherein type 1 refers to clean water, type 2 refers to grey water namely washing machine or shower run-off and type 3 is black water which is totally contaminated. Carpets damaged by type 3 water should be immediately discarded since they are contaminated beyond repair. Those damaged by type 2 water can be salvaged by removing the pad and those flooded with type 1 water can be salvaged completely after having been handled by carpet cleaning service.

Myth 5Odours Can Only Be Neutralized By Carpet Cleaning Service

If anyone claims that all you need is a professional carpet cleaner to get rid of its bad odour, you should accept it as nothing more than a myth.

Not all carpet cleaning services are born equal and this implies that you must practice alertness and caution while choosing a service provider to handle your carpet. In this regard, the onus is on you to select a service that has state-d’art equipment and trained staff which is adept at handling it. Only when the service provider is appropriately equipped with all the different machines and has staff that knows how to operate them will it be able to clean wet carpet to your satisfaction.

Myth 6Water Damaged Carpet Does Not Emit Odour

On being dried, a water damaged carpet does not emit any odour. In an attempt to debunk this myth, research has proved that emission of odour from the carpet depends on when and how it dried up. A carpet which has been made to dry almost immediately by applying appropriate methods is less likely to emit any odour as compared to one that has been left in soaked state for a longer duration.

If left to dry on its own, the carpet would not just emit strong odour but also have mould, bacteria and other micro-organisms growing between its fibres, thus being unsuitable for further use.

It is common for professional cleaning services to deploy industrial machines to dry out wet carpet.
It is common for professional cleaning services to deploy industrial machines to dry out wet carpet.

Myth 7Heavy Equipment Is A Must to Clean Wet Carpet

Some people feel that to clean wet carpet, only heavy equipment is effective. The type of equipment to be used for cleaning carpets depends on the nature of job at hand. To this effect, a job that requires industrial cleaning is best handled via high-powered heavy machines and one that is spread out requires small portable machines. As opposed to these, spot cleaning is carried out with a detergent and a mop before the machines are employed.

Now that you are aware of these common myths, you would be better prepared to take decisions to clean wet carpet in a manner that is both suitable and sensible.

Mould and Wet Carpet

Mould needs dark, humid and warm environment to thrive and a wet carpet presents an ideal platform wherein it can multiply exponentially. Usually flooding is followed by power outage and this creates an ideal condition for mould, mildew and other bacterial contagions to thrive unhindered. Eventually, they form colonies and nestle among the fibres of your carpet and often escape the brushes of a vacuum cleaner.

How to Prevent Growth of Mould on Carpet

An important aspect to clean wet carpet pertains to preventing the growth of mould because this one factor alone is capable of causing lot of harm. Your objective as a home owner is to ensure that this does not happen and following are the steps that can protect your carpet from being infested with mould –

Swift removal of water – The first priority is to establish the level of contamination by determining the type of water flooding the area and then employ appropriate tools and equipment to remove as much of it as possible. Carpet cleaners not only try to remove maximum amount of water but also work towards achieving it within the shortest possible time.

Drying of carpets – Next the carpets are dried by using industrial fans so that the air is circulated sufficiently to facilitate quick drying.

Dehumidifying the room – Flooding causes a sharp rise in humidity and temperature both of which foster the growth of mould. Using dehumidifiers is strongly recommended to clean wet carpet because these serve to reduce moisture content of the air and have a cooling effect, thus inhibiting the mould from multiplying.

Steam cleaning – After flooding, it is mandatory to steam clean wet carpet as this method is particularly effective in sanitizing the entire rug owing to its high temperature. Once again, choice of method depends on the discretion of the home owner.

Ridding Your Carpet of Foul Odours


It is common for carpets to suffer water damage at some point of time but the onus is on you as the home owner to maintain calm and make informed decisions that would control the damage and salvage your carpet. Being aware of the nuances involved to clean wet carpet goes a long way in handling the situation well as and when it arises.


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    • Jason mackenzie profile imageAUTHOR

      Jason Mackenzie 

      3 years ago from Perth WA 6000

      Thanks Sakina for your comment!

    • SakinaNasir53 profile image

      Sakina Nasir 

      3 years ago from Kuwait

      Great article! Such detailed information. Good job. Keep up the good work! :)


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