8 No-Fuss Steps on How to Clean a Wet Carpet After a Flood

Ben Kissam
Written by Ben Kissam
Reviewed by Asya Biddle
Updated February 15, 2022
A woman with cute dog reading book at home
Photo: Pixel-Shot / Adobe Stock

Who knew there were three types of floodwater

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There’s no easy cleanup task when dealing with a flood. But among the action items you’ll need to take, cleaning a wet carpet is one of the most important. Homeowners with water in their basement should take swift action to keep their families safe and lower the chances of needing additional services, costing money later on. Here’s how to safely and quickly clean your carpet after a flood, as well as knowing when to bring in a local water damage restoration pro.

Difficulty: 4/5 Challenging – Only DIY if you know what you’re doing

Time Needed: 6 hours–2 days

What You’ll Need:


  • Utility knife

  • Staple remover (optional)

  • Wet or dry shop vacuum

  • Towels or drying cloths

  • Circulating fan(s)

  • Antibacterial carpet sanitizer

  • Baking soda 


  • Dehumidifier

1. Assess the Type of Flood and Damage

Flood damage warrants fast action, but homeowners should assess the situation before diving into dry mode. Namely, you need to determine if the water in your carpet is from a contaminated source or fresh, clean rainwater.

Three types of water can flood your home.

  • Clean water: From rain or a busted pipe not connected to any appliances or mixed with any contaminants

  • Gray water: Contains cleaning chemicals or other contaminants from dishwashers and washing machines

  • Blackwater: Comes from sewage, toilet backflows, or nearby water sources in the event of a hurricane or severe storm, often in urban areas

In the event it’s gray or blackwater, you’ll need to scrap your old carpet, considering it could be contaminated and pose a serious health risk for you and your family.

2. See If Carpet Extraction Is a Better Alternative

Assuming it’s clean water that’s made its way into your home, there’s one other troubleshooting measure to consider before spending hours mopping up water.

If the flooding is severe enough, it might be simpler to look at how your carpet is secured to the floor. If it’s held down with tack strips and extraction may be as simple as pulling the carpet up from the edges and rolling it, you could choose to have a team of professionals steam-extract your carpet.

Although this method costs up to $500, it greatly reduces the chance of mold or mildew growing later. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, you have about 48 hours to prevent mold and mildew from growing. Taking this approach is advisable if you’d like to keep your existing carpet.

3. Get to Work As Quickly As You Can

If DIY drying and cleaning are the appropriate solutions for your situation, it’s time to act quickly. The longer water soaks into your carpet, the greater the chance of mold and mildew formation, as well as irreversible damage to the flooring. 

A combination of wet/dry shop vacuuming and applying pressure with dry towels to corner areas and hard-to-reach spots is your best bet for removing floodwater as fast as possible. Once an area is dry or slightly damp instead of soaked, turn circulating fans on and open nearby windows.

When using your shop vac, go slow. It’s best to slowly pull large quantities of water out and chip away at each affected area. Going back and forth across the entire affected area will take hours longer.

4. Turn Your Attention to the Carpet Pad

If your carpet has a carpet pad underneath, you’ll need to remove it. It’s better to do this once you’ve gotten the water situation under control. 

"This step is imperative,” says Asya Biddle, Angi Expert Review Board member and manager of The Dust Busters janitorial company in Williamsport, PA. “If the homeowner doesn’t remove the carpet pad, cleaning and drying the carpet are useless, as bacteria and mold will grow on the padding and may cause further damage to the carpet as well as pose a health risk." 

Designed to reduce noise and minimize stress on the floor, the spongy design of your carpet pad makes it a breeding ground for mold and mildew. Even if you dry out the carpet laying over it, mold and mildew are sure to grow in time. Once your carpet dries, decide if you’d like to self-install a new pad or have a pro do it for you.

5. Apply Sanitizer Once the Carpet Is Dry

Once the carpet feels dry to the touch, applying a cleaning solution can help give you peace of mind about contaminants, mold, and mildew. It’s a recommended step for safely cleaning your basement even after small floods.

Pine-based cleaners or an antibacterial carpet solution from a home improvement store costs about $30 and are good options. Some experts say a 5% bleach dilution is strong enough to kill germs without changing your carpet color, but proceed with caution if you choose to use bleach.

6. Turn On Your Dehumidifier

As a preventive measure, buy an appropriate-size basement dehumidifier, which starts at $150, and run it for the next couple of months. This will help pull moisture out of the air that otherwise might turn into mold or mildew and generally improve the air quality.

Most dehumidifiers function with one of two options. Either you’ll need to empty the tray each time it fills, or you can connect a hose to it so it drains into a sink or sump pump area. If yours has a tray, be prepared to empty it every six to eight hours for the first few days.

7. Check for Musty Smells

In the coming weeks, be on the lookout for musty smells. This is a sign there could be mold. 

You could try sprinkling baking soda over your carpet. Let it sit overnight, then vacuum the baking soda out. Go over your carpet twice to remove it all. Or hiring a top-rated mold remediation specialist near you at this point is an excellent option. 

8. Know When to Call a Pro

Cleaning carpet with vacuum cleaner
Photo: AndreyPopov / iStock / Getty Images

Contaminated water sources or severe damage that’s out of your wheelhouse should warrant a call to a flood professional right away. 

DIY Carpet Cleaning After a Flood vs. Hiring a Pro

Can carpet be cleaned after water damage?

Yes, so long as the water that leaked onto the carpet isn’t from a contaminated source, such as your sewer or washing machine. The key is getting the carpet dry as fast as possible to prevent mold and mildew from ruining your current carpet.

When should you hire a pro for carpet cleaning after a flood?

If your carpet poses a safety risk for you or your family or the scope of the job (ripping up carpet, drying it out, etc.) is too much for your skill set and schedule, it’s best to outsource the job. An added benefit to hiring a licensed and bonded pro is they can offer you a type of warranty protecting against mold growth later on.

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