How to Dry Your Wet Carpet

It’s one of the worst nightmares for a homeowner. You open the front door after a long, fun-filled weekend and you get that ominous whiff of too much humidity inside the house. The aroma of saturated carpet is one you don’t forget. A mix of musty stagnant air with just the slightest overtones of dirt. The smell isn’t the worst part.

Waterlogged carpets are a problem. They can be difficult to dry, lead to mold growth and are often extremely expensive to mitigate, and may require costly new carpet. Luckily, drying a carpet is a relatively easy process if you follow the right steps.

carpet wet clean
A wet spot on a carpet demands immediate attention – Photo by Randy Tucker

Step 1: Locate The Souce Of The Water

When you discover a wet carpet, don’t panic. The first step is to find the source of the water and stop the flow. If it’s a roof leak dripping onto the carpet, grab a bucket, large pan, or even a picnic cooler and catch the dripping water.

A roof leak requires a lot of investigation and skill to repair, but that’s another issue. Stopping the inflow of water is the immediate need.

ManMade Suggests: How To Locate and Repair a Roof Leak

If you have a leaky pipe, turn off the water supply to that area of your home. If you have just one shutoff valve, use it. The temporary inconvenience of not having water in the sink or a toilet to flush is much less heartache than continuing to saturate the carpet. A leaky pipe, valve, or fixture will need to be repaired quickly. If it’s out of your skillset, call a plumber.

Step 2: Assess the Damage

With the water stopped, it’s time to assess the damage. If the wet area is small, start with towels. Grab a handful of bath towels and lay them over the wet spot. Stand on the towels and march in place on top until they’re saturated. Repeat with other dry towels until you don’t see any water on the towel. That probably solved the problem.

Step 3: Remove The Water

Towel Dry then Shop Vac

If the area is larger, start with towels, then begin vacuuming the area with a shop vac. You’ll be amazed at how much water a carpet can absorb. The shop vac will take some, but far from all of the water out of the carpet.

A large, nearly room-sized wet carpet requires immediate vacuuming and carpet drying fans if you hope to save the carpet.

carpet wet shopvac
A shop vac can remove surface water quickly from a wet carpet – Amazon.com

Carpet Fans

After a thorough vacuuming, you’ll need to set up the carpet fans. This requires pulling up the carpet in a few spots so the fans can direct air underneath the carpet. The best fan locations are next to a wall close to the wet areas. You’ll likely need to put two or three fans in place to dry out your carpet.

carpet wet clean
Find a metal boundary between vinyl flooring and carpet to open a carpet edge for drying – Photo by Randy Tucker

The carpet is held in place by tack strips. Take a pair of pliers and pull the carpet towards the wall while lifting. You’ll hear a tearing sound as the back fibers of the carpet pull loose from the nails in the tack strip. Don’t worry, they’ll reattach just fine once the carpet is dry.

Tack strips are arranged along walls and entry points – amazon.com

Lift an area large enough to get the fan spout under the carpet about a foot. Repeat the process with the other carpet fans. Hook each fan to a separate circuit if you can since some draw a lot of amps and place them together on the same outlet they may pop a circuit breaker.

Turn on the fans. If you’ve done it correctly your carpet will balloon up several inches like a descending parachute.

carpet dryer
A high volume carpet dryer – Amazon.com

Step 4: Wait Patiently

The best thing to do after the fans are running is to walk away. If it’s warm outside, open the windows for increased air circulation. This isn’t a quick process, it might take several days to dry out the carpet.

Check periodically to see if it is drying. The carpet will dry faster than the pad underneath it. You want the pad dry as well, so let the carpet fans do their work.

carpet wet fan
A high-speed fan can aid in drying a wet carpet – Amazon.com

Once you are satisfied that the water is gone, turn off the fans, pull them out from under the carpet and take them out of the room. Reattach the carpet by pulling it back into place with either your hands or a pair of pliers to hook it on the tack strip. Once it is hooked, take a 1×4 inch board about 18 inches long and put it on the area where you pulled the carpet. Tap it a few times down the length of the removed section and it should reset nicely.

Step 5: Go Back Over With Carpet Cleaner

The final step is to clean the entire carpet with a carpet cleaner.

carpet clean
A carpet cleaner is the final step in renewing water damaged carpet – Amazon.com

That’s it for the carpet damage, but make sure you fix the source of the water as well.

Randy Tucker
Often described as a modern-day renaissance man, I hold a BA in History from the University of Wyoming and an MS in Computer Science from George Washington University. I taught history, math, and journalism from seventh grade to graduate school, and coached varsity football, basketball, and track. While academics paid the bills, writing, farming[...]