I’ve been discussing carpet cleaning for a while now, covering everything from commercial carpet cleaners to DIY cleaning methods. However, quite a few people have asked me how I deal with wet carpets. And as someone who has had some water-related issues in the past, I definitely feel their frustration; after all, drying something out is not as easy as it seems. With that in mind, I’d like to share with you some of the best ways of drying carpets.
Before I go on, I should point out that this article will only focus on drying house carpets. If you’re interested in how to dry car carpeting, eHowAuto’s got you covered.
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Why Should You Dry a Carpet Anyway?
It might sound strange, but lots of people ask this question, and quite frequently so. Their reasoning is usually straightforward — ‘it’s only water, it’ll evaporate quickly.’ And while I personally disagree with that statement, I can at least understand where they’re coming from; not only does a little spill dry quickly, but it also leaves no stains.
However, we’re not talking about little spills here. Sometimes a natural disaster like flooding or a storm can cause a lot of water-related damage. When water accumulates, it can soak into the carpeting and stay there for a while, causing mold and mildew growth.
Mold and mildew can affect our health in many ways. If you’re allergic to mold, having it in your house can cause a reaction. In addition, your immune system can drop, making you susceptible to other diseases. Moreover, if your skin comes into contact with the mold, you can expect lots of rashes and irritation.
But the health issues don’t stop there. A mildewy carpet can have a distinct, moldy scent. Not only does it smell awful and tend to linger, but it can also severely affect your concentration. In addition, the mold forms on both sides of the carpet, making it look like you just got the rug from a junkyard.
In short, a moldy carpet looks, feels, and smells horrible.
How Do You Know If Your Carpet Is Wet?
The obvious answer to the question above is ‘Well, there’s a stain or a puddle there.’ However, I didn’t include it for no reason.
There are times when we just can’t spot a source of moisture in our house. Sometimes there will be a leak in a far off corner, and the water will drip away, causing mold to grow. Moist evaporation can also provide a good environment for mildew to thrive. In fact, even an open window during a windy day can lead to some mold spores entering the house.
But how do we know that our carpet is hiding away some wet spot? After all, it’s not just the top side of the rug that can get wet. More often than not, people don’t flip their rugs, so if there’s some water on the underside, mold will follow.
Some telltale signs of a wet carpet are similar to early signs of mold growth. The most obvious one is the smell. When water stays under a carpet for a long time, it can have a foul reek that won’t go away after airing the room. When you spot a smell like that, it’s time to start flipping rugs.
Another, less-common way of locating wet spots on carpets is noticing the changes in your health. Sneezing, coughing, and irritation are all signs of an allergic reaction to mold. However, even non-allergic people show these signs if there’s too much of the fungus in the house. So, if you suddenly start to sneeze a lot more than before, you might want to check the carpets for wet spots.
Carpet-Drying Methods That I Recommend
Now that we know why wet carpets are bad, let’s focus on how to get them dry quickly and efficiently. I should point out that there are different things to consider depending on what kind of rug you have. With that in mind, I will point out specific steps you need to follow when you have wall-to-wall carpeting instead of a regular rug.
Step 1: Remove the Water Quickly
The most important thing to do is to remove the liquid from the carpet. You can’t leave it on for too long since it will soak up and stay there. But what method should you use?
Wet Vacuum Cleaners
In general, vacuum cleaners are only used for dry vacuuming. If I were to soak up the water using a dry vacuum cleaner, it could cause the device to break down. In fact, I could even get electrocuted.
However, there are wet vacuum cleaners out there made specifically for picking up liquids. They are reasonably priced, and if you can get your hands on one, it could be a great cleaning tool for later.
Rags and Towels
If you don’t have a wet vacuum cleaner handy, you might want to try a low-tech method using old rags and towels. By placing a piece of cloth on the carpet, you can soak up the excess water and make your drying easier.
Of course, I have to stress that you either use old rags or towels. Firstly, an old rag isn’t something you will need to wash, so if it does get moldy, just throw it away. Next, a towel can absorb a lot more water than a rag, or even the carpet. In addition, it won’t wear down easily, and it doesn’t catch mold as quickly as other fabrics.
Aside from rags and towels, microfiber cloths also do a fantastic job at soaking up liquids. The reason I mention them separately is that they don’t cover as much “ground” as a towel might, so you’ll need to use several of them. In addition, a regular kitchen sponge can also help, but if you squeeze it hard by accident, you can spill the water somewhere else on the carpet.
Interestingly, I’ve heard some people use baking soda to pick up the excess water from their carpets. While I’ve never tried it myself, I know how useful baking soda can be in everyday activities. Therefore, I highly recommend you check the linked article and give this method a go.
Step 2: Checking Everything Else
Once you find out where the water stain is on the carpet, you ought to check everything around it. For example, if you have furniture near the wet spot, check it for early signs of mildew. Another good idea would be to inspect the floor and the walls.
Depending on the water damage, you can either clean up the damp area or replace the furniture altogether. In the case of walls and floors, you might have to talk to an expert.
Step 3: If Sunny, Use the Sun
Sunlight can help disinfect almost any household item. The process is simple enough: take your carpet outside and leave it out in direct sunlight. After a while, the water from the wet spot will evaporate, leaving your carpet dry and ready to get back inside.
Interestingly, you can perform this step even if the weather outside isn’t hot. As long as the sun is up, it will get rid of the wet spot. However, I do recommend checking the weather for the day before pulling the carpet out.
Step 4: If Not Sunny, Use the Air
People who own wall-to-wall carpeting can’t take their rug out quickly, which is quite upsetting if you have a huge water spill. The same goes for people who have a huge, thick rug that takes more than one person to carry.
Luckily, there are methods that we can use in order to dry a heavy rug inside.
The second a spill happens on a wall-to-wall rug, I open all windows and doors to that room. That way, the air can circulate, and any nasty smells will be gone quickly.
Of course, there are ways to speed up the circulation. Different fans (standard, high-powered, ceiling) will definitely be of great help. However, you don’t have to get too many of them. One or two fans will do the deed just fine.
A typical dehumidifier will remove excess moisture from both the carpet and the air inside the room. Most people recommend using them alongside the fans, and I agree, that will help with the airflow greatly. However, I’ve tried using a dehumidifier with no fans, and it worked just as well for me.
Buying a dehumidifier and portable fans can be a pricey endeavor. So, if you don’t have the money to get the equipment you need, here are a few low-tech methods you can use.
If you can, get yourself a regular portable heater. The next step would be to affix it so that it blows heat onto the wet spot. An even better option would be to lift the wet patch of the carpet and place it vertically to face the heater.
Average hairdryers can be just as effective as heaters. The only setback is that you have to hold the dryer in place for a long time. Affixing it to something is also possible, but because of their shape, hairdryers don’t tend to ‘sit still.’
A Few Final Words
Most of the methods I listed are DIY. Of course, you won’t always get to save your carpet in time; sometimes, mold is just inevitable. If that should happen to you, I advise contacting the nearest carpet cleaning service.
In addition, you might want to look into mold removal businesses near you. They can estimate the damage and provide decent mold and mildew removal services that work within your budget. However, there are some DIY methods of detecting and removing mold in your house, which I’ve touched upon in a few articles. Whatever your choice might be, make sure that your carpet does not stay wet, for your own safety and convenience.