Cleaning carpet by washing

When it floods, the carpet in your home suffers—understanding how to clean carpet after a flood is the only way to protect this critical piece of property. 

A wet carpet smells terrible, but it’s not just the smell; it can bring water damage and discoloration to your flooring while encouraging mold contamination.

Mold is toxic and produces allergens.

Drying up your carpet is the only way to protect your health and home. 

When your carpet is soaked, take action immediately.

If it is left unattended to damage will occur on the carpet, the padding beneath, and the subfloor too.

Protect yourself

If it’s flooded, you can assume it is contaminated. While handling a wet carpet, you must protect yourself. Wear a pair of rubber gloves, and you should wash your hands with soap and water after. 

Allow airflow

Open up your windows and turn on your fans to create airflow in the room. High-powered fans and dehumidifiers are needed in removing moisture from the air. While this will help circulate the air, it won’t necessarily remove the humidity.

Change your carpet padding


Man changing out the carpet padding

If your carpet is thoroughly saturated to the point, it cannot be remediated, replacing it is vital to prevent further damage and mold contamination.

Use baking soda

You can use baking soda’s absorbing property to lift and remove moisture in your carpet.

By applying a large amount of baking soda on the wet carpet and letting it sit for 30 minutes, you can dry up carpet significantly. After 30 minutes, vacuum up the baking soda.

Take out the carpet if you can

For non-glued-down carpets, rolling it up and taking it outside your garage floor, patio, or driveway is essential.

And if you’re pulling up wall-to-wall carpets, ensure you’re not injured by the staples or carpet tacks.

While taking out the carpet, remove the spongy pad beneath and discard it if it’s not salvageable.

Find a dry concrete space outside and lay the carpet fat in full sunlight. 

Use a garden hose

If you have gotten the carpet outside, a garden hose with a powerful spray nozzle can do the job. “Sweeping” the face and backside carpet is a cleaning strategy, mainly if the floodwater contains sewage. A durable spray nozzle is capable of flushing out mud and floodwater.

Use liquid ammonia 

Apply all-purpose liquid ammonia on the carpet and let it sit for three minutes.

Ensure the ammonia is diluted and not too strong.

Ammonia’s bleaching property might fade your carpet, but it’s effective against mold spores. 

Or use chlorine bleach

Mixing 1/2 cup of liquid chlorine bleach with a gallon of water to create a cleaning solution.

With a plastic brush or a rag, wash the carpet with the solution.

Ensure you’re wearing rubber gloves while scrubbing.

Allow the solution to sit on the carpet for a few minutes, and then rinse it again with water to remove residual bleach.

Thoroughly hose down your carpet until it is clean.

Note: never mix chlorine bleach with ammonia to prevent producing toxic fumes.

Drying the carpet

  1. Sun-drying: Quickly dry the carpet to prevent mold growth. If you are sun-drying, keep the carpet flat under direct sunlight. Place it on a sloping surface if possible. Keep turning the carpet frequently for quick drying. For small rugs, you can line-dry in the sun. 
  1. Wet-vacuuming: If the weather is not sunny enough to dry your carpet, a wet vacuum is useful in taking out water from the affected area. The wet vac sucks out water from the material. While using the wet vac, ensure the electrical cords don’t get wet. Monitor the fill tank of the wet vac and keep dumping the water before it reaches overflow. Depending on how flooded the carpet is, you may do this several times. 
  1. Steam cleaning: You should consider steam cleaning as well. When it comes to wet carpets, investing in steam cleaners may be the right way to go. Steam cleaning your wet carpets kills toxins, sucks up mold spores, and deodorizes your carpet. An alternative to steam cleaning is renting a hot water extraction unit.
  1. For large, irremovable carpets: Irremovable wall-to-wall carpets or large carpet pieces can be dried by spreading towels over the surface of the wet carpet. Then walk back and forth continuously until the towels are saturated. Replace the wet towels with fresh ones and continue the process until the area is dry—then use a wet vac to remove more water from the carpet. 
  1. Drying the pad and flooring: A wet vac may not be effective in removing water from the damp padding beneath. You can overcome this challenge by improving airflow in the room using dehumidifiers, ceiling fans, and even hair dryers.

When dealing with wall-to-wall carpets, you may have to move the furniture off the wet space to lift the carpet and dry the padding beneath.

Note that leaving furniture on a damp carpet will do more damage to the furniture as well as the flooring.

If your carpet is still sopping, lift it carefully, separate it from the padding and flooring.

Work from the edges and fold the corners of the carpet.

Drying the flooring and padding can be done by using a dehumidifier in a closed room.

You can also open the windows and use a fan to circulate air in the room.

Consider turning up the heat to help with the drying.

In the end, a steam cleaner blowing hot air will aid the drying process.

Get professionals


A van with equipment in the back for cleaning carpet.


If your wall-to-wall carpet is too wet to dry DIY-style, get the services of professional carpet cleaners immediately.

The company should be able to dry the carpet, the pad, and the flooring.

It’s also essential you look at your renters or homeowners insurance to know if your policy covers the cost of the carpet cleaning.

Final note

During a flood, your carpet shouldn’t be the only thing to protect from water damage or mold contamination.

It’s crucial that you clean and dry surfaces of the room, including the baseboards and walls.

Note that if your carpet has been submerged in dirty floodwater for weeks, you might have to discard this carpet, as it may be far beyond remediation.

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