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How to Dry Wet Carpet

When floods or rain hits your town, it can mean bad news for your home with all the water it brings. When harsh weather or other sources reach carpeting in your home, it’s important to act fast and speed up your dry time.

Basement of home with clear wall

Categories of Water

There are three categories that describe the source and purity of water that has soaked carpet or flooded your home. These categories affect how the water should be removed and the potential risks involved when drying the affected area.

See the tabs below for descriptions of each category of water.

  • Category 1 Water

    Category 1 water originates from a sanitary water source and does not pose substantial risk from dermal, ingestion, or inhalation exposure.  Examples of Category 1 water sources can include, but are not limited to: broken water supply lines; tub or sink overflows with no contaminants; appliance malfunctions involving water-supply lines; melting ice or snow; falling rainwater; broken toilet tanks, and toilet bowls that do not contain contaminants or additives.

    Category 1 water can deteriorate to Category 2 or 3.  Category 1 water that flows into an uncontaminated building does not constitute an immediate change in the category.  However, Category 1 water that flows into a contaminated building can constitute an immediate change in the category.  Once microorganisms become wet from the water intrusion, depending upon the length of time that they remain wet and temperature, they can begin to grow in numbers and can change the category of the water.  Odors can indicate that Category 1 water has deteriorated.  

  • Category 2 Water

    Category 2 water contains significant contamination and has the potential to cause discomfort or sickness if contacted or consumed by humans. Category 2 water can contain potentially unsafe levels of microorganisms or nutrients for microorganisms, as well as other organic or inorganic matter (chemical or biological). Examples of Category 2 water can include, but are not limited to: discharge from dishwashers or washing machines; overflows from washing machines; overflows from toilet bowls on the room side of the trap with some urine but no feces; seepage due to hydrostatic pressure; broken aquariums, and punctured water beds. 

    Category 2 water can deteriorate to Category 3.  Once microorganisms become wet from the water intrusion, depending on the length of time that they remain wet and the temperature, they can begin to grow in numbers and can change the category of the water.  

    Note: If your carpet is wet from category 2 water, you should call professionals immediately before posing a greater risk to your home.

  • Category 3 Water

    Category 3 water is grossly contaminated and can contain pathogenic, toxigenic, or other harmful agents and can cause significant adverse reactions to humans if contacted or consumed.  Examples of Category 3 water can include, but are not limited to: sewage, waste line backflows that originate from beyond any trap regardless of visible content or color; all forms of flooding from seawater; rising water from rivers or streams; and other contaminated water entering or affecting the indoor environment, such as wind-driven rain from hurricanes, tropical storms, or other weather-related events. Category 3 water can carry trace levels of regulated or hazardous materials (e.g., pesticides, or toxic organic substances).

    Porous and semi-porous building material that comes in contact with category 3 water is far more likely than not to be discarded. The health concern associated with Category 3 water is based in part on regulations, human exposure and the difficulty in cleaning up and disposing of regulated hazardous and unsanitary waste. The longer the water sits in a structure, the greater the decline in the home’s conditions. Microbial growth can begin in as few as 48 hours given the conditions. OSHA states the general rule is if a porous has been wet for over 48 hours, it is best to remove and replace it. This is why it’s important to dry carpet as quickly as possible. Since carpet is porous, wood subfloors and drywall can become wet and become damaged beyond repair. The single most effective way to prevent or slow this growth is to speed dry the affected materials.

    • Porous materials: drywall, carpet, insulation, ceiling tile
    • Semi-porous materials: wood, concrete

    Note: If your carpet is wet from category 3 water, you should call professionals immediately before posing a greater risk to your home.

Before You Dry

Before you go to dry the carpet, it’s important to do the following first. Remember to…
  1. Stop the source of water if possible. If you have a pipe leak, be sure to get this fixed ASAP.
  2. Dispose of any damaged items.
  3. Remove any furniture you can that could get damaged as well
  4. Limit traffic on carpet during this time. (More foot traffic means moisture is getting pushed down further into the carpet fiber.) 

Note: If any electrical outlets or devices are wet or at risk of getting wet, turn off electricity in the room for safety purposes. 


Water flooded on carpet in basement

Drying Wet Carpet

  1. Remove Water
  2. A first common step to drying carpet is using a wet-dry vacuum to remove as much water as possible. Remember to empty the wet tank before use and remove any dry dust bags if possible. Most wet-dry vacuums will indicate when they’re full and need to be empty again. If the motor starts to make a high-pitched sound, unplug the vacuum and empty the tank. Running the vacuum with a full tank is also bad for the motor and can cause damage. Repeat these steps as necessary while removing water from the carpet. 

  3. Soak Up Water
  4. After vacuuming up as much excess water as possible, it’s time to soak up water from the carpet that you can. Using towels, preferably microfiber, spread over your carpet and pat down to saturate the towels. As towels become oversaturated, replace them with fresh towels and repeat the process. Be sure to move any furniture during this process and blot for water in those areas as well.

  5. Create Air Flow in Room
  6. After removing and soaking up water, your next course of action is to create airflow in the room. You can do this by setting up fans throughout the room. 

    When we create air movement, we use centrifugal and/or axial fans during this process. Centrifugal fans produce higher pressure airflow which makes them ideal for drying. Despite this, centrifugal fans require more electrical power input which is difficult if you have an older home. Axial fans are larger round fans where the airflow is focused on a direct target. These are used for general purposes but are still a good option if you can’t use centrifugal fans in your home. 

    All in all, it’s important to use any fans you have and set them up evenly amongst the room. Hairdryers can also be used for speeding up dry time in especially wet and damp areas. If weather permits, you can also open windows and screen doors for more air movement.

    Tip: If your carpet is beginning to smell musky, sprinkle baking soda over carpet to deodorize. Vacuum up after leaving it on for an extended period of time like overnight.

  7. Check Subfloor
  8. Once you’ve completed these steps, you should check subflooring to make sure the water is not deeply embedded underneath the carpet. Go to the corner of the room and pull back the carpet to assess the level of moisture that seeped through. If the carpet padding is wet, there’s a possibility of mold growth.

  9. Call the Experts
  10. If your carpet padding is, in fact, wet or you’re unable to successfully dry carpet, it’s best to call the experts. We specialize in 24/7 water damage mitigation and restoration services and can work directly with your insurance company to process claims.

    We can help extract water you can see and water you can’t. We can remove water from carpet, carpet padding, tile and grout, hardwood floors, natural stone, concrete, laminate floors, and vinyl floors. We also have the technology to detect water hidden in drywall and insulation. No matter the issue you’re facing, we’ve got your back and will help mitigate the problem at all hours of the day.

If your home is ever experiencing flooding or other water-related emergencies, 

call us 24/7 at 1-800-STEEMER.

Thank You



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