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Carpet Water Damage: Should You Clean or Replace?

My Pro Cleaner™
Josh Almanza, Owner SINCE 2004

Dealing with carpet water damage is always a huge hassle, whether it resulted from an unexpected flood of rainwater, burst pipes, or — even worse — a broken sewer line. A water-damaged carpet isn’t just a huge inconvenience; it could cause serious health problems for you and your family if you don’t handle it properly. What should you do next? Do you soak up the water with towels or throw away the carpet and buy a new one altogether? How can you tell if the water damage is too extensive to fix? If there’s not a lot of water, is it safe to let the carpet air dry? All of those questions and more are probably swirling around your mind, adding to your stress. In this article, we’ll answer all your most important questions about carpet water damage. We’ll explain how to deal with a water-soaked carpet, including damage assessment, instructions on the cleaning and drying process, and why leaving a carpet with water damage is a serious health hazard.

Evaluating Carpet Water Damage: How Much Is Too Much?

It’s a fact: water and carpeting don’t mix. If you have a family, you have enough responsibilities on your plate without dealing with the extra hassle of restoring carpet water damage. However, before you decide to keep or replace your carpeting, you’ll need to assess the damage. Here are the questions you’ll need to answer: How long was the carpet wet? If you can clean up the excess water quickly, you have a good chance of restoring the carpet. According to FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), the limit for cleanup is 48 hours. Any longer, and you’ll need to replace the carpet because mold will start to grow. How much water is there? The bigger the flood, the less chance of completing a successful restoration. Carpets with an inch or less of standing water are relatively easy to clean up yourself using a wet vacuum and fans. If you’re unsure, get a professional opinion. Where did the water come from? Determining the water’s origin is crucial. If it’s clean water (i.e., the water that runs to your faucets), you can likely restore the carpet. If the water is dirty (i.e., floodwater, clogged drains, toilet backups, or sewage from a broken line), you’ll need to throw the carpet away and buy a new one. What is the age and condition of the carpet? If the rug in question is new, like-new, or in good condition, it’s probably worth going through the cleaning and drying process. However, if the carpet is older, dirty, stained, or in poor condition, you’re better off just replacing it. Are you still unsure whether you should clean your carpet or buy a new one altogether? If so, it might be a good idea to get a professional opinion. My Pro Cleaner can inspect the water damage and give you an expert opinion on the best course of action. Just give us a call.

How to Dry Out Your Carpet After Water Damage: Step-By-Step Instructions

We’ll cut to the chase: cleaning, drying, and restoring a wet carpet without professional help is only a good idea if the damage is minor. The instructions below are for wall-to-wall carpets with little to no standing water. If the room has extensive flooding and a lot of standing water, your best bet is to hire a professional carpet cleaner. Here’s what you’ll need to start the cleaning process:

  • Towels
  • Five-gallon bucket
  • A wet/dry vacuum or shop vac
  • Large box fans
  • Empty spray bottle
  • Dehumidifier(s)
  • New carpet padding (if applicable)
  • Bleach
  • Rubber gloves
  • Fabric refresher

Once you have all the things you need, follow these instructions:

Remove Excess Water

  1. First, put on your rubber gloves. Then, move any remaining furniture or belongings into a different room until the floor is clear.
  2. Use a shop vac to remove excess water, going slowly and carefully over every inch of carpet. Repeat as needed to remove as much excess water as possible. Pro Tip: If you don’t have a shop vac, you can use towels to soak up the water, although it’s more time-consuming. Lay them down flat and press firmly to soak up the water, wring them out, and repeat.

Dry the Carpeting

  1. To dry the carpet without removing it, place fans around the room along with dehumidifiers. Be sure the windows are closed. Pro Tip: House fans work in a pinch, but they’re not very fast or powerful. If you have the budget, rent high-volume fans and commercial dehumidifiers from an equipment rental business.
  2. Check the fans every few hours and move them as necessary to dry the carpet evenly. If possible, remove the entire carpet to make the next steps easier.

Inspect the Carpet Padding

  1. Next, inspect the carpet padding for moisture. If contaminated water soaked down into the padding, throw it away.
  2. If the water came from a relatively clean source and the soaking is minor, dry the padding with fans and reuse it. If the padding is contaminated, follow the steps below to replace it.

Dry and Disinfect the Subfloor

  1. Next, remove the padding to check the subfloor. If it’s wet, use the fans and dehumidifiers to dry it thoroughly. Pro Tip: If there are sections of the subfloor that are warped, curled, or buckled, you’ll need to replace them before you keep going.
  2. Grab your five-gallon bucket and mix one cup of bleach with one gallon of water.
  3. Pour the solution into the empty spray bottle and spray it onto the dry subfloor. Let the bleach solution air dry. Pro Tip: Bleach will stain fabric and carpeting. Only use the bleach solution to disinfect the subfloor.
  4. Now, grab your shop vac again to clean the subfloor and remove all traces of debris, dirt, or dust.

Install the New Carpet Padding and Replace the Carpet

  1. If you had to throw away your old carpet padding, get the new padding and install it over the subfloor.
  2. Did the new padding come on a large roll? If so, measure twice, cut once, and cover the entire space between tack strips.
  3. Next, inspect the original carpeting for signs of damage. If it’s still in good condition, you can reuse it. If it’s too damaged, throw it away and buy a new one.
  4. Evaluate the condition of the tack strips. Replace any that are too damaged.
  5. Lay down the carpeting over the padding and secure it in place with tack strips.

Deep Clean and Refresh

If you salvaged the original carpet, it will need a deep clean to remove stains and prevent odors from lingering in the carpet fibers. Hiring a professional is the easiest and fastest way to clean water-damaged carpets. Plus, you won’t have to rent the commercial equipment necessary to give your carpet the deep clean it desperately needs.

  1. If you choose to clean the carpet yourself, start by vacuuming thoroughly.
  2. Use a store-bought carpet cleaner or shampoo and follow the instructions on the bottle.
  3. After the carpet is completely dry, spray it generously with a fabric refresher (not an air freshener).

Why Should You Replace a Carpet with Water Damage?

Nobody wants to deal with the hassle and hard work of cleaning a flooded room and water-damaged carpet. You might think it’s okay to let it air dry on its own, especially if there’s not a lot of water, but we can’t stress enough that you should avoid this. Neglecting to clean a wet, flooded carpet properly can cause serious health problems. Within the first two days, wet carpets begin to grow colonies of black mold and mildew, which thrive in dark, moist environments. Black mold is dangerous enough for healthy people, but it’s downright deadly for people with preexisting medical conditions. It lowers your indoor air quality and can cause numerous health problems, including

  • Allergies
  • Skin irritation such as rash, hives, and eczema
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Respiratory and lung infections
  • Asthma attacks
  • Fungal infections
  • Sinus infections
  • Neurological conditions (with long-term exposure)

We are a small, locally-owned carpet cleaning business providing superior quality work, competitive pricing, and extraordinary customer service. Since 2004, My Pro Cleaner has been helping hundreds of homeowners in the Spring Texas area and Houston to keep their carpet and upholstery deeply cleaned and maintained — for its health, its beauty, and to keep it smelling fresh! Happiness guaranteed!

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Josh Almanza Expert Carpet Cleaner

If you have any questions about this article, or anything related to cleaning carpet, upholstery, tile and grout, and maintaining a healthy home, please feel free to give me a call, and let’s talk!

Josh Almanza
My Pro Cleaner™