Can You Vacuum Wet Carpet & How?

From small spills to flood damage, wet carpets are a tiresome thing to deal with and a large expense to replace. It goes without saying that it’s better if you can fix it yourself before calling a professional (or just moving the wardrobe to cover the stain!). Oftentimes, the first thing that comes to mind in such a situation is your trusty vacuum cleaner. 

Unfortunately, you shouldn’t use a regular vacuum cleaner to vacuum a wet carpet. In fact, we strongly recommend that you do not try to use your vacuum cleaner in such situations. It may seem like a fairly harmless thing to do, but regular household vacuum cleaners are just not designed or built to handle liquids. For starters, the vacuum won’t remove water, and what’s more—it could actually be extremely dangerous to use. However, that’s just the case for ordinary household vacuums, otherwise known as ‘dry vacuums’.

In order to vacuum your wet carpet, you should use a wet-dry vacuum, which is a specialized tool that can actually suck up water! There are other options to get your carpet dry, too, including fans, dehumidifiers, towels, and hair dryers. Some of these options are things you may find in your own house at any time.

There are a lot of tools and techniques you can make use of to try and save your carpets. Keep reading for all the tips and details you need to take on the challenge yourself!

can you vacuum wet carpet

Can You Vacuum Wet Carpet?

The short answer: it depends on the vacuum. A household dry vacuum is built to catch dry dust and dry dust only. Any large bits of dirt or liquids that get sucked up will damage the filter in the vacuum and shorten its lifespan.

Dust bags are also not designed to handle liquids: they’re not waterproof and the water will seep out. It will create a mess of dirt both inside and outside of the bag, create smells, and even mold. Mold can be very hard to get rid of once it’s there, so you’ll want to avoid it at all costs. 

In case you’re still not convinced, you should know that trying to vacuum a wet carpet with a normal vacuum cleaner will not actually give you good results. Dry vacuums are not as powerful and don’t have the right attachments for sucking up liquids. You can vacuum as much as you want, but that carpet is not going to get very dry, so it’s better to turn your mind to specialized tools for wet carpets.

Reasons Why Vacuuming Wet Carpet is a Bad Idea

There are plenty of reasons why you don’t want to vacuum your carpet when it’s wet. Let’s go over them one by one.

It’s dangerous to vacuum wet carpet with a dry vacuum

Let’s start with the most important reason, because it’s crucial, and we don’t want you to miss it! Trying to vacuum a wet carpet with a dry vacuum is a bad idea because it could lead to blown motors, electric shocks, or fires. These are real dangers that can potentially happen when your home vacuum is forced to deal with liquids. 

The reason this can happen is fairly simple: since dry vacuum cleaners are only built to suck up dry dirt, they do not have a way to store water. The filters and dust bags cannot keep liquids from passing through them and spreading to other parts of the vacuum. One of the places water can get to is the motor.

When water makes contact with the motor, it could result in the motor shorting out, creating sparks that lead to fire or causing an electric charge that passes through the water and can reach you. It can also continue to pass through all the water around you and reach other living beings nearby.

It is, in fact, possible for regular vacuum cleaners to send out an electric shock strong enough to cause serious, potentially lethal, damage. This is why we do not recommend using normal vacuum cleaners to vacuum wet carpets, be it in your house or outside of it.

It is also important to note that these dangers apply no matter how much water you’re dealing with. You may think you’re in the green because you’re just cleaning up a spill or a stain, not battling with flood damage—but this is not the case.

Any drop of water that enters the vacuum could be the drop that reaches the motor. If you’re dealing with a large amount of water, the chances of it happening are, of course, higher. But with a bit of bad luck, it could easily still happen even if you’re just cleaning half a cup of spilled orange juice. In order to be safe, you want to make sure that no moisture or liquid ever reaches the tank, and subsequently, the motor.

To summarize, do not try to vacuum wet carpet with a normal dry vacuum cleaner. You could cause severe harm to yourself and those around you. Turn to a safe carpet cleaning solution like one of the ones we will describe in the sections below.

Vacuuming wet carpet with a dry vacuum will damage the vacuum

Even if you’re lucky and don’t cause extreme damage to the motor, you will damage other areas of the vacuum cleaner. Water will damage the filter and the waste bag in your vacuum, and since these cannot hold water, it can pool up in other parts of the vacuum as well. If this happens and the water turns stagnant, it can start to smell. The wet contents of the waste bag could also begin to form mold. 

Prolonged exposure to water could additionally cause rusting in any metal components within the vacuum. Water getting into places it shouldn’t be is always problematic. After all, this is the reason you’re trying to dry the carpet in the first place! Simply put, it’s not wise to move the water from one place it shouldn’t be to another. Instead, you should move it to a place that can deal with it: a wet/dry vacuum cleaner from a reputable brand, such as Tineco.

What is a Wet/Dry Vacuum Cleaner?

A wet dry vacuum is a type of heavy-duty vacuum cleaner that you usually will not use at home. They can also be called a ‘shop vac’, ‘shop vacuum’, ‘bucket vacuum’ or a ‘wet vac’. They are referred to as such because they are often used in workshops, look like buckets, and can vacuum water. Even if they’re common in workshops, there’s no reason why you wouldn’t use a shop wet vac for your own carpet cleaning needs.

Wet-dry vacs are equipped with strong motors, high suction power, a large waste bag, and a durable hose so they can deal with the kind of large debris and high volumes of dry dirt and wet dirt that you might find in a construction or woodworking shop. It should be noted, however, that not all shop vacs can deal with water. Some cheaper wet-dry shop vacs may not come with this ability. 

How to Use a Wet/Dry Vacuum Cleaner?

The fundamentals are no different than a regular vacuum: just point at the thing you want to make disappear, and it shall disappear. But there are some differences. Firstly, a shop vacuum is unlikely to have an attachment at the end of its hose (though such attachments can be bought, often in convenient sets).

The main job of a wet vac is to suck up large debris like wood scraps and screws from workshop floors and under normal circumstances, it will not be used on carpet or other textiles. This is why they will often not come with attachments meant for carpets or other tools used for carpet cleaning.

Another difference is that a shop vacuum will often need to be turned upside down to empty the dirty water, instead of just removing a dust bag. This is because a shop vacuum is intended to collect high volumes of debris in a short amount of time, and would require a change of bags far too often to be practical. They would also have to be very durable bags that could withstand the sharp objects housed within them, which would result in additional expense. It’s simply easier to empty it yourself, be it in your house or in a workshop.

How to Use a Shop Vac for Carpet Cleaning

To use a wet vacuum on wet carpet, you will need to buy a flat extension or carpet attachment for it. This will turn the wet/dry vac into a super heavy-duty vacuum capable of vacuuming wet carpets, picking up large debris, and sucking up all types of moisture and liquid. Once you have this, you can begin to vacuum the wet carpet in the same way as you would with a normal vacuum. 

Depending on how much water you are dealing with, you may have to vacuum your wet surfaces for a very long time, or vacuum multiple times. You may also need to empty the shop vacuum multiple times during this process. Depending on how comfortable you are with lifting and where you will be disposing of the water, you may want to empty it regularly before it becomes too heavy.

The shop vacuum will be able to remove all of the water from the fibers of your wet carpet, but you can also combine this method with some of the other methods below to help the drying process speed up! Using several methods will put an end to all moisture and bring your carpet to that desirable state of a “complete dry.”

Different Ways of Making Wet Carpet Dry Faster

how to faster dry wet carpet

First, you should make a quick assessment of the situation. One important question is whether your carpet has been soaked with clean water or black water. If it’s the latter, you should not start cleaning, because you will need to throw the carpet out. It’s common sense that you don’t want to keep a carpet that has been contaminated by sewage!

Are any of the affected areas rugs or small carpets that can be removed and dried outside? If so, you should do that immediately. Only wet carpets that cannot be removed (such as wall-to-wall carpets) should be dried where they are.

Is there a heavy object or any furniture on the wet carpet? If so, you should remove the furniture and place it somewhere else for the time being. You want to make sure that you can see all of the area that is affected so you can measure the progress. Leaving the furniture on the wet carpet could also cause damage to both parties, so it really is best to get it out of the way before you start trying to use a shop vac to suck up all the liquid.

Once your carpet is clear and everything removable has been placed outside, make sure to turn the lights on to improve visibility, and open all the windows to enable air flow (unless you live in a very humid place). The more air can get in, the better for your carpet.

Baking Soda

Arm & Hammer Baking Soda Fridge-n-Freezer Odor Absorber, Orange 14 oz, Pack of 12

Before we get started on our recommended methods, let’s touch on one that we don’t recommend. Some people will say that using baking soda to clean carpet and remove all the moisture from a damp area. However, you would need a very large amount for absorbing water in a large wet area, and it is not very practical.

Additionally, baking soda is abrasive and can actually damage the filter in your wet vacuum cleaner. Some people will also recommend using a scrub brush to work the baking soda into the carpet while removing water, but we do not recommend this at all because using a scrub brush will damage the fibers in your carpet.

In short, let us dispel that myth. Leave your baking soda and your brush far away from your carpet. Your dirty carpet can be dealt with in much less abrasive ways!

Towels

This may sound like the most basic thing you could do to clean carpet, but the basics are important. Towels are made for absorbing water after all, and they can be very useful during the first stages of drying your carpet.

The first thing you should do is grab as many towels as you have. You may have nice towels that you don’t want to use for a job like this, but if the water damage to your carpet is severe and it urgently needs drying, you should consider using everything you can to soak up the water. Replacing the towels will be easier and less expensive than replacing the carpet.

You may also want to prepare somewhere to put the towels once they are wet. You don’t want to leave them on the floor and create a puddle, so prepare plastic bags or a basket so you can use and dispose of the towels quickly. That way you can take them all to be cleaned later on.

Once you’re ready to start, simply lay the towels over the wet carpet and pace back and forth over the towels. This will help them absorb the water quickly, and it’s a lot less effort than trying to use your hands to apply pressure instead! As soon as the first towel or set of towels is soaked through, remove them and set down new ones.

Repeat this process until you’ve run out of towels or your carpet is dry enough that the towels stop picking up much water. It could take a while, so feel free to put the TV on while you pace! 

This method can remove a surprising amount of water, but it may not remove as much water as you need. You may still need to follow up with another method to make sure you end up with a completely dry carpet. 

Fans

Honeywell HT-900 TurboForce Air Circulator Fan Black, Small

Once your carpet has been downgraded from sopping wet to just ‘damp carpet’, it could be helpful to create some good air flow to help the carpet dry further. Simple home fans can be pointed at the affected area, or positioned around the area and pointed at each other in order to create a vortex. 

Simple Deluxe HIFANXDRUM24 24 Inch Heavy Duty Metal Industrial Drum Fan, 3 Speed Air Circulation for Warehouse, Greenhouse, Workshop, Patio, Factory and Basement - High Velocity , Yellow

You can also buy or rent heavy-duty fans that can move around larger volumes of air and get the job done more quickly. The air flow will help you dry wet carpet just the same as the wind helps to dry the clothes you hang out on the clothesline. 

This method will take time, but it won’t take effort. Once the fans are set up, you can move on to doing something else, and even walk away.

Dehumidifiers

Dehumidifiers,TABYIK 35 OZ Dehumidifier, Small Dehumidifiers for Home Quiet with Auto Shut Off, Dehumidifiers for Bedroom (280 sq. ft), Bathroom, RV, Closet

Dehumidifiers are machines that collect water from the air and store it in a container. Small ones will often be found in houses to help regulate the humidity to the person’s liking. If you own any dehumidifiers, you can place them in the room while you dry your carpet to help the process move along smoothly and quickly. 

Most dehumidifiers will beep to let you know when they are full, and if there is a lot of water in your room you will find that they can fill up quite quickly! So be on hand to empty them when needed, and they will help speed up the drying of your carpet. 

Whether you are using a shop vac, towels, fans, or any of the methods mentioned, you can also use dehumidifiers at the same time to increase the effects and work towards a nice dry surface. It’s also healthier to have a dehumidifier or two on hand if you’re going to be in the room while you do this, especially if you have any respiratory illness, such as asthma.

Call the professionals if your water damage is severe

While dealing with the problem yourself may seem like the most desirable outcome, if you are dealing with flood damage or a large quantity of water, you may not be able to dry carpets well enough alone. If your wall-to-wall carpet is so wet that the water has seeped through the bottom, you will need to lift the carpet up to dry it properly. This can be a difficult job for a non-professional. 

If this happens and you leave the job half done, the damage will likely worsen and you may end up having to replace your wet carpet. The leftover water will damage the floorboards and potentially cause mold on and under your carpet. In a worst-case scenario, you’d be left to strip the floorboards, too.

Replacing an entire carpet will likely be more expensive than the bill for a professional cleaning job, so you should keep this in mind when deciding what to do. You will be able to find companies that can come and dry your carpet both on top and underneath, and give you advice about what to replace and how to look after the carpet going forward. 

We recommend that if you do attempt to dry the carpet yourself, if you do not succeed in getting the carpet completely dry within 12 hours, you should call in professionals. Act fast, because it could be the difference between saving and losing your carpet.

Rest assured that if you’re only dealing with a stain or a small spill, you won’t need to resort to calling professional carpet cleaning services. Use a shop vac to deal with any kind of stain, big or small.

Conclusion

The main takeaway from this article is to not attempt to dry a wet carpet with an ordinary vacuum cleaner. It won’t work, it will harm the vacuum, and in severe cases, it could harm you too. 

Carpets should be dried as quickly and urgently as possible, so your best course of action is to combine as many of the methods listed above as you can. If you do, your carpet will definitely become a lot drier! But sometimes the damage will have spread through the bottom of the carpet and into your floorboards. If this is the case over a wide area, calling in professionals will be the best thing to do in the long run. 

We hope this article has given you some insight into how to deal with wet carpets and convinced you not to use your regular vacuum cleaner. With our tips, we’re confident that you will be able to save your carpet and enjoy it for many more years to come!

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