How To Dry Carpet: A Step-by-Step Guide

Gladys K. Connelly
As a HouseKeeping Technical Writer, Gladys actively enjoys writing guides and tips about housekeeping for Thehousewire's audience. She's a professional housekeeping specialist with just shy of 9 years' experience to boast. That, combined with seven years prior experience in teaching, helps her create content that is both captivating and insightful.
Learn more about The Housewire’s Editorial Process
Updated May 21, 2023

Breathe a dry of relief with these carpet drying hacks

How To Dry Carpet: A Step-by-Step Guide

A wet carpet is a quick way to ruin your home and your mood. Standing in a room with a damp water-soaked carpet is never pleasant, and you need to watch out for mold.

But there are ways to rescue the situation and have fluffy carpets once more. From folding the carpet pad to air-drying like a boss, we’ll share our top tips on how to dry wet carpet.

Whether it’s a small spill or a full-on flood, these effective methods will get your home right as rain again.

How to Get Water Out of Carpet

  • Get the air flowing by taking the carpet outside or using fans
  • Use a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture in the air
  • Remove as much water as you can with towels, dry compounds, or a shop vac
  • Leave the carpet to dry
  • Clean the floor and backing while it’s drying
  • Replace the carpet or rug when everything is completely dry

Before You Start

There are a few things you need to know before drying your carpet. So keep these in mind whenever you’re faced with some mushy matting.

Make sure you:

  • Wear rubber gloves when dealing with damp carpet.
  • Keep an eye out for tacks or staples in the carpet that could scratch you.
  • Stay off the wet carpet, if you can. Excess water damages the backing and walking over it makes it worse.
  • Act fast! You need to dry wet carpet quickly, ideally within 24 hours. Otherwise, fungi and mold growth can occur, which could lead to breathing difficulties or throwing the entire carpet away.

The water source is another important consideration when dealing with wet carpets.

If your carpet is wet from a clean water source, then it’s safe to try and dry it yourself. But in some scenarios, you’re better off leaving it to the pros.

One such scenario is gray water, which is unsanitary water like leaks from washing machines and dishwashers. If your carpet is soaked by one of these, then you should have it professionally cleaned and sanitized before laying it back down.

But if your wet carpets are caused by black water or floodwater, it’s another story. You need to remove and dispose of the carpets, no exceptions.

This kind of water contains contaminants and pathogenic agents, making it extremely unsanitary. It can cause all sorts of health issues, so you need to get rid of the carpet and start fresh.

And all wet carpet padding needs to be replaced, regardless of the water source. It seems extreme, but these measures are to protect you and your family members.

What You’ll Need

* :like kitty litter, cornstarch, or diatomaceous earth.
** :An office desk fan or ceiling fan is ideal.


1. Take Outside or Create Airflow

Airflow is important to get your carpet dry.

If you can’t remove your carpet then you need to get creative and get some air flowing inside. If your carpets are glued, it’s best to leave them where they are or you could destroy the foam backing when you try and lift them up.

Instead, open windows and doors to get fresh air circulating around the entire room. Then get the fans and dehumidifiers set up.

Point the fans to the wet area to start drying the carpet fibers. The dehumidifiers will help to dry the air and prevent mold damage.

Drying wet carpet indoors is tough, and it’s even harder in summer because of the extra humidity. So it’s always better to roll up your carpet and take it outside wherever possible.

Lay it flat on a dry surface, like a concrete driveway or patio to dry your carpet. A sloping area is best as this allows water to drain away rather than pool around the fabric.

2. Remove or Extract Water

You can use towels, a dry compound, or a shop vac for this stage and it depends on how much lingering moisture there is in the wet carpeting.


Absorbent towels will work on damp carpets and you can weigh them down to make them quicker and more efficient. Simply place towels down over the damp area and apply pressure.

Keep doing this with fresh towels until you’ve removed as much water as you can. If you’re satisfied, move on to the third step.

Dry Compound

If your carpet is wet rather than damp, try a dry compound instead. These soak up more water than towels do.

Spread the absorbent around the area and wait for it to soak up as much water as possible. Then remove the dry compound with towels or a clean cloth and wait for it to dry.

You might have to repeat this step a few times. Or you can try the next option if it’s not working.

When the carpet is thoroughly dry, run the vacuum around to remove any final residue. A household vacuum cleaner is fine for this job.

Wet Vacuum and Pump Options

If the other steps don’t work, or your carpets are completely saturated, then it’s time to bring out the big kit. A submersible pump and a shop vac are ideal for tackling the fall out from a pipe leak, as they remove large amounts of water.

You can use a wet-dry vacuum or shop vac for drying carpet due to their strong motors. They suck up just about anything and have the bonus of an added filter to remove water.

Best of all, you can rent wet/dry vacuums and pumps from your local hardware store. So you don’t have to splash out and buy the kit for yourself.

Once you’ve got the appliance you want to use, set it up as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Then you’re ready to begin.

To remove a few inches of standing water, start with the largest attachment on the vac. Work your way across the surface several times to remove as much water as you can.

Keep an eye on the water tank and empty it when it’s full. Otherwise, it will stop removing water.

When you’ve got most of it out, move onto the smaller attachments to remove any remaining water. Make sure you work tight into the corners and tricky areas of the carpet that are likely to retain water.

3. Clean and Rinse the Backing

This step is important for preventing mildew from creating a bad odor on the carpet. It’s best to use a carpet cleaner on the backing.

Apply a light layer of the carpet cleaner with a soft bristle brush. You don’t want to use too much, or it could soak through and damage the carpet fibers.

Then rinse the cleaner off with clean water until there’s no foam or residue left.

4. Air Dry the Carpet

How to dry carpet differs depending on if you’re doing it outside or inside. It’s easier to do this outside, but it’s not always possible with the weather and carpet type.

Drying Outside

The heat of the sun is the best way to dry rugs or carpets outside. Place them in full sun and turn them over every now and again to speed up the drying process.

And don’t worry about a bit of rain. It won’t cause any further damage, provided you leave them laying flat.

Keep an eye on your wet carpet and check to see how it’s drying. Don’t replace it until it’s dry, or you’ll end up with a foul odor wafting from it.

Drying Inside

Using the sun isn’t always possible, so here are a few ways to dry wet carpet in a closed room.

Get dehumidifiers and air conditioning running to remove excess water from the air and the room. This will help to reduce any allergy symptoms at the same time, so it’s worth doing this as fast as you can.

Turning fans on helps circulate the air and speed up the drying process. It won’t remove any remaining moisture, but it’s still a useful way to save wet carpeting.

Opening the windows will help dry the carpet if it’s not too humid outside. But if there’s high humidity, you’re better off keeping them closed.

A hairdryer is a quick fix if you’ve only got a small moist area that you’re trying to dry. Hold the hairdryer a few inches away from the wet carpet and keep moving it to circulate the hot air.

Check to see if the wet area has dried off, but allow the carpet to cool first if you’ve used a hairdryer. If you touch it when it’s warm, it might feel dry when it isn’t.

Before trying to replace the carpet or walk on it, make sure it’s thoroughly dry with no trapped moisture. It’s best to give it a few hours extra, even when you think it’s ready.

5. Replace the Carpet

You can prep your floors while your wet carpet is drying. It’s important to clean the floors and get rid of any germs or smells that were in the water that caused the problem in the first place.

Scrub your floors with hot water and detergent until they’re squeaky clean. For the best results, use a bleach rinse afterward.

Mix ½ a cup of bleach per gallon of hot water and rinse your floors with it to remove any final residue and bacteria. Then leave the floor to dry off and prevent a musty odor.

As for windows, the same rule applies as before. Leave them open if it’s not very humid outside, but close them if it is.

When everything is dry, you can lay your carpet back down. Just remember to replace any carpet padding beneath the carpet if you had to get rid of it.

Related Topics

FAQs about How to Dry Carpet

Rescuing a wet carpet is stressful, and you’re bound to have questions. Fortunately, we’ve got answers!


How Long Does Carpet Take to Dry?

This depends on if it’s a damp carpet, wet carpet, or totally saturated carpet.

  • A damp carpet can dry in as little as a few hours.
  • But a wet carpet takes longer, so expect 12 to 24 hours or so before you can use it as usual. Avoid walking on it during this time so you don’t damage it further.
  • For a flooded carpet, it’s going to take much longer depending on how you’ve decided to try and dry wet carpet. Three to five days is a realistic wait time in this scenario.

Does Baking Soda Dry Carpet?

Baking soda is often cited as a magical cure for all kinds of carpet issues, including drying them. In theory, you could use it as a dry compound for absorbing moisture.

But baking soda is actually bad for carpets and you should avoid using it!

It’s an abrasive cleaner that damages the fibers and the backing. If it soaks through, it could even ruin the carpet padding.

In the worst-case scenario, it will damage the latex adhesive and you could end up with delamination. If this happens, you’ll have to replace your carpet altogether.

The best dry compounds to use to dry wet carpets are things like kitty litter, cornstarch, cornmeal, talk powder, or diatomaceous earth. This is the stuff used in swimming pool filters, so you know it can handle lots of water!

Related Reading

1 Comment