If your carpet is wet, you might be tempted to use your vacuum to remove excess water. Here’s why that’s a (very) bad idea!
Can You Vacuum Wet Carpet?
The simple answer is that you should never use your vacuum cleaner on wet carpet. In fact, you should never use it to clean anything that’s even slightly damp.
Regular vacuum cleaners are electrical devices that are not designed for fluids. If water is sucked into the vacuum, there’s little protection against liquid entering the electronics and causing a short circuit.
The result is that vacuuming fluids with a regular vacuum is very dangerous. It could potentially lead to:
- A broken vacuum motor
- Damaged internal electronics
- Short circuits that could lead to a fire
- Electrical shock
Even if moisture doesn’t reach electronic components, it can still cause problems for your vacuum cleaner.
Moisture causes dirt and grime to stick to the sides of your vacuum’s internal tubes, which can cause clogging, blockages, and unpleasant odours. Mould can also grow when there’s moisture inside the vacuum.
Wet and Dry Vacuums Are Suitable for Wet Carpets
While regular vacuums should never be used for wet (or even damp) carpets, there are vacuums that are suitable: wet and dry vacuum cleaners.
Wet and dry vacuums (also called shop vacs outside of the UK) are designed for vacuuming fluids, making them a great choice for removing excess water from your carpets. They also have large capacities and ultra-durable designs.
These vacuums aren’t the same as carpet cleaners, as they don’t dispense cleaning solution. Instead, they are powerful vacuums with an insulated motor, which allows them to pick up water without risk of damage.
Tip: Wet and dry vacuums won’t completely dry a carpet, but they are great for removing most of the moisture and speeding up drying times. You can then use the tips below, such as increasing ventilation and using a dehumidifier, to finish the rest of the drying process.
How to Use a Wet and Dry Vacuum for Drying a Wet Carpet
Start by making sure that the wet and dry vacuum cleaner has the correct filter fitted. Many wet and dry vacuums have a separate float filter for vacuuming liquids, so it’s important to make sure you’re not using the dry filter.
Vacuum the wet area of carpet until there’s no more water coming out. Even then, there may still be dampness in the carpet underlay, so you should provide plenty of ventilation and delay covering the previously wet patch.
Make sure to periodically check whether the drum needs to be emptied. This is only likely to be an issue if you’re drying a large area of carpet.
Other Methods for Drying Wet Carpet
If you don’t have access to a wet and dry vacuum cleaner, then here are some other tips for drying a carpet.
It’s important to dry carpets as soon as possible. The longer water sits on the carpet, the greater the chance of mould, damage, and a musty smell.
These tips only apply to carpets that are moderately wet with clean water. For large leaks or sewage water, contact a professional immediately.
One of the easiest ways to dry a patch of wet carpet is with towels. This only works for small areas, however, and probably won’t dry the underlay.
Spread the towels over the wet area, then walk over them to soak up as much water as possible. Walking on the towels is more effective than just placing them on the carpet or using your hands to soak up liquid.
Once the towels are fully saturated, replace them with dry ones. Repeat this process until the towels aren’t picking up any more water.
Tip: Make sure the room is ventilated even after drying with towels, as it’s important for any remaining moisture to dry.
The greater the airflow in the room, the faster a carpet will dry. To speed things up, open windows (if it’s not raining outside) and consider using fans to create extra airflow.
A regular house fan can help with airflow, but a higher volume fan is likely to be more effective. You may need to use multiple fans for drying a large room.
For small sections of carpet, you can even use a hairdryer to speed up the process – but make sure to continuously move it around to avoid burning the carpet fibres.
Run a Dehumidifier
Water evaporates faster from carpets when the room has a lower humidity. For this reason, running a dehumidifier in a room with a wet carpet can help it to dry faster.
A dehumidifier will also keep the air humidity lower, which reduces the chance of mould or mildew. Make sure you regularly check the dehumidifier’s tank, as you’ll need to empty it regularly in a damp room.
When to Hire a Professional
If your carpet is drenched in a lot of water (such as from a burst pipe,) then it’s best to hire a professional with access to a water extraction machine.
The longer that water is left to sit in the carpet, the more likely it is that mould or mildew could start to grow (this process can start in around 24-48 hours.) You probably won’t be able to dry a severely damp carpet fast enough to prevent mould unless you have professional equipment.
Note: If your carpet has affected by a burst sewer pipe, then you shouldn’t use any of the methods above. Instead, call an expert who has experience dealing with water that may contain pathogens.
You should never use a regular vacuum cleaner on wet carpet. This can be dangerous, as water may reach the internal electronics. Moisture can also cause clogging and mould growth inside your vacuum cleaner.
The exception is if you have a wet and dry vacuum cleaner. These are safe to use on fluids, making them useful for removing excess water from carpets.
Do you have any questions about drying wet carpets? Please let us know in the comments section below. You may also want to read our guide to things you should never vacuum clean.