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How to Dry Carpet After Cleaning: 4 Easy Ways

Just cleaned? Got flooded out? After winter? Here’s how to dry your carpet.

A wet carpet can cause mold and mildew to grow, putting you and your family’s health at risk.

Whether your carpet is damp from a flood, condensation, or just cleaning, it’s crucial to dry it quickly.

How to dry carpet successfully depends on the size, climate, and humidity. Don’t fret, though; we’re here to help and show you some different drying methods.

Key Takeaways

  • Wet carpets can lead to mold and mildew growth within 24 to 48 hours, which can cause health problems.
  • To dry carpets after cleaning, use airflow methods like open windows, fans, or air conditioning.
  • Drying carpets after a flood requires using a wet/dry vacuum, towels, fans, heaters, and dehumidifiers.
  • If a carpet is still wet after 72 hours, call for professional help to avoid mold growth and damage.

Drying Carpet: How Long Does It Take?

Whether you hired a professional carpet cleaner or tackled the challenge yourself using a carpet cleaner, it will be slightly wet afterwards.

After a professional clean, you can expect your carpet to feel damp for six to ten hours. However, some rugs can feel moist for up to 24 hours, depending on the time of year and humidity.

If your house has been flooded or there’s been a significant leak, it will take longer to dry. Despite using all methods to dry the carpet, it can still take up to three days. However, you should call for professional help if the carpet is still wet after 72 hours.

Why Should You Dry Carpet Out?

It’s essential to dry out your carpet correctly after cleaning, flooding or a leak. Otherwise, the small space between the carpet padding and the floor creates a dark and moist area where mold and mildew can form.

Mold is a fungal infection that can quickly ruin the surface it grows on. It’s often out of sight but smelly.

The padding of a carpet acts like a sponge, soaking up any moisture that might be present. When mold begins to grow, it quickly creates terrible indoor air quality, leading to respiratory issues such as asthma. In the worst cases, mold can lead to infections and severe illness (1).

Getting rid of mold can be tricky. For one, you must kill it at the source as spores can spread and create new mold. If you have a significant amount, you may need professional help.

However, if the issue isn’t as large, you should be able to remove it using the right equipment. This is where mold-killing products come into their own.

How Long Before Mold Grows in Wet Carpet?

Mildew and mold will begin to develop in a carpet within 24 and 48 hours of being exposed to water. They will continue to grow rapidly if you don’t take steps to eliminate the water and mold (2).

Here are a few signs that your carpet could be infested by mold:

  • Smell: Musty or sour smell coming from your carpet.
  • Color: Discoloration on the carpet or padding.
  • Breathing difficulties: Family members experience allergic symptoms — a person with asthma might be more affected.

Browse through these different methods before tackling the process yourself or hiring a professional.

How to Dry Carpet After Cleaning

The way you dry your carpet after cleaning depends on how it was cleaned. Carpets can be dry-cleaned, cleaned using steam, or with specialized carpet cleaners.

  • Time: Up to three days
  • Difficulty: Intermediate

What You’ll Need

We’ll provide four different carpet-drying techniques. You won’t need all the products below; just choose one.

  • Open windows
  • A fan
  • Air conditioning unit
  • Carpet blower

1. Create Air Flow

The best way to help your carpet dry is by creating good airflow in the room. If your carpet is in a room with windows, open them up and let the fresh air do all the work. This is also an excellent way to avoid any musty, damp smells that some carpets develop in a closed room.

If you have two windows opposite each other, open one fully and the other just a bit. This will create a strong crosswind that will help your carpet dry quicker.

However, as good as this method is, it depends heavily on the weather. Rainy and cloudy days won’t do much good when it comes to drying your carpet. This weather could create a more humid environment instead. So, keep the windows closed in such weather and try the other methods listed below.

2. Use a Fan

Ceiling fans can be handy when it comes to drying out a carpet. It can work very efficiently if your carpet is located directly underneath a fan.

Using a fan is a good option when the weather outside is not appropriate for carpet-drying. The fan will create a concentrated funnel of air that will dry your carpet quickly. It’s also an excellent way to avoid musty smells since it circulates the air well.

If you don’t have a ceiling fan, you can use a standing or desk fan instead. However, these won’t be as sufficient as one located directly above. Placing two smaller fans at each side of the carpet could provide adequate circulation.

3. Utilize Air-Conditioning

Using an air-conditioning unit to dry your carpet should be a last resort. It’s not as effective as a fan because it won’t circulate the air as much. Thus, it may not provide a fresh environment. But, on rainy days when the weather outside is slightly humid, the AC unit could prove beneficial if a fan isn’t an option.

Keep In Mind

The cold air from the air-conditioning will react with the damp fabric of the carpet. This can make it difficult to know whether your carpet is dry or merely cold.

Carpets dry the best when exposed to warm, dry air, such as on a sunny summer day. When using cold air, such as the air-conditioning, it will take longer to dry thoroughly.

As the carpet starts to feel dry, close the AC unit. Allow the carpet to come down to room temperature, then check it close to the padding.

4. Blow-Dry

If you had your carpet cleaned by professionals, you might be offered a blow-dry. They typically use a blower or fan to dry out some carpet areas.

However, this method is usually pretty quick — it may not be as thorough as the other methods above. Regardless, however, it’s an excellent way to quick-start the drying process.

How to Dry Carpet After a Flood

If your house has been the victim of a flood, whether small or big, your carpet is most likely soaked. At first, it’s essential to figure out whether the carpet is worth saving or not.

If you have a sewage system at home, the flood could’ve caused it to overflow. The level of contaminants present in a sewage system could infect your carpet. This will require extensive cleaning that might be more expensive than replacing the carpet.

If the flood did not affect your sewage system and your carpet is still salvageable, we can help!

  • Time: 2-3 days
  • Difficulty: Expert

What You’ll Need

  • Shop-vac or wet/dry vacuum (with attachments)
  • Towels
  • Fan or box heater
  • Dehumidifier
  • Pliers
  • Carpet knee knicker

1. Use a Shop Vac

Shop vacs are most often used on building sites and woodwork shops. They have strong suction and can remove more significant objects than regular vacuums. If you don’t have one at home, you can rent one from your local hardware shop.

Some of these vacs also remove water; these are usually called wet/dry vacuums. They have a strong motor and special filter that can handle water. You can use any shop vac, but make sure the filter is water-safe or made from sponge. Paper filters will disintegrate when exposed to water.

These vacuums usually come with a variety of attachments to suit the size and area you’re cleaning. We recommend that you start with the largest attachment. Then work down to the smallest to see which is most efficient.

When drying, push the attachment into the carpet. This will provide a good suction on the padding where most of the water is held.

2. Towel Dry

After extracting as much water as possible using the shop vac, place a few dry towels on the carpet. The towels will absorb some of the excess water that’s left.

Walking or jumping on the towel will help squeeze out extra water. Replace the towels when they start to feel wet. Repeat the process until the towels stay dry, even when you walk on them.

3. Air and Heat

Similar to the post-cleaning process, you can use a fan or box heater to dry the carpet. Warm air holds more moisture than cold and is more efficient in drawing water out of the carpet (3).

Use a dehumidifier to keep the room dry. Place it so that the fan blows the dry air across the carpet.


If you choose to use a box heater, be careful not to start a fire. Always check on it to make sure it isn’t overheating the carpet, and place it at a certain distance away.

4. Expose the Padding

With a larger carpet, expose the padding so it can dry. After you’ve extracted as much water as possible, peel the carpet back.

Start in a corner where it’s easiest to pull back. Grab the fibers on the carpet only — you can also use pliers to get a good grip. Be careful, though and avoid yanking; you might accidentally pull out the fibers.

When pulling back the fibers, you will hear some tearing or crackling. But, don’t worry; it’s the tack strip that holds the carpet, and you’re not causing it any damage.

5. Dry the Pad Using Shop Vac and Towels

Once you have the padding exposed, it’s time to start drying. You can use the shop vac here to draw out as much water as possible. Remember to expose all of the affected pad to get a thorough dry.

When you’ve gotten most of the water out, cover the area with dry towels to further extract the last remaining water.

6. Use Airflow and Heat

As we explained in the first steps, use a fan, heater, and dehumidifier to dry the padding. Place the dehumidifier and fan together so that the dry air will focus on the pad.

If you have a ceiling fan, set it to the highest setting to get good air circulation in the room.

7. Patience Is Key

It might surprise you to see how much water a carpet and pad can hold. Leave the fans working along with the dehumidifier and heater. When the weather is good outside, open the windows and let the fresh air help.

You might begin to feel like the carpet and pad are dry. However, resist the temptation to turn off the dryers. A large carpet and pad will need at least three days to dry thoroughly.

Seek Help

If the carpet and pad still feel wet after two days, it’s best to seek professional assistance. The carpet will begin to smell sour, which could signify that mold is growing.

8. Put the Carpet Back

Once the carpet and pad are dry, it’s time to put them back into place. This can be tricky, especially because carpets tend to shrink when dried.

If the distance between the carpet and wall is only minor, you might be able to stretch it yourself. However, if the range is significant, you will need a carpet knee-kicker.

Carpet knee-kickers are relatively straightforward to use. You attach the teeth to the carpet and strike the padded portion with your knee. This will slowly stretch the carpet and kick it into place.

If you’re unsure about doing this yourself, don’t hesitate to call for help.

How to Dry Carpet in Winter

Drying your carpet during the cold months of winter might seem more of a challenge. However, you can use many of the same methods mentioned above.

We highly recommend setting up a fan and dehumidifier and possibly a heater. This trio should work effectively at drying your carpet out in frigid weather.

How to Dry Carpet with Baking Soda

If the methods above haven’t worked or seem too much like hard work, we have another solution. Baking soda can be used for many things, such as cleaning and baking. But did you know that it’s also effective at absorbing fluids?

  • Time: Two hours (plus waiting time)
  • Difficulty: Intermediate

What You’ll Need

  • Shop-vac
  • Towels
  • Baking soda
  • Vacuum
  • Fan

1. Remove Excess Water

Before you whip out the baking soda, try to extract as much water as possible. As we explained above, you can do this using a shop vac and dry towels. Get the vac deep into the fibers to extract water from the pad as well.

2. Sprinkle Baking Soda

Once you’ve achieved a good result using the shop vac, get your hands on some baking soda. Sprinkle a large amount over the carpet’s wet area. You will most likely need more than one canister, so make sure you’re ready and buy enough ahead of time.

Allow the baking soda to sit on the carpet for several hours — it might require 24 hours. The baking soda will absorb any moisture and odor on the carpet.

3. Vacuum

Get out the trusty old vacuum and run it over the whole area. If you’re using a bagged vacuum, remove the bag afterward because the baking soda can clog.

4. Run a Fan

There might still be minor dampness left on the carpet. So we suggest you run a fan to get the last bit thoroughly dry.

When to Call for Professional Help

If your whole carpet is entirely soaked after a flood, it might be best to call a professional. Large carpets covering entire rooms may also be too much for a homeowner to dry out.

What’s more, large carpets need to be dried quickly. Otherwise, the moisture will quickly spread throughout the carpets, floors, and even the walls. Walls with insulation can become water-damaged and infected with mold due to a wet carpet.

If you feel that the job might be too much for you to handle, don’t hesitate — call for help. It’s cheaper and easier to get the carpet dried out correctly and quickly the first time. Otherwise, you’ll have to replace the carpet and maybe even your drywalls.


Is Wet Carpet a Health Risk?

Wet carpet is a health risk if mold takes hold. The spores pollute the air in your home, causing breathing difficulties for people with asthma and other lung conditions. If left unchecked, it can cause lung damage in healthy people.

What Happens If You Vacuum Wet Carpet?

If you vacuum a wet carpet, you risk damaging your vacuum cleaner. Moisture gets inside and blows the motor. It also causes mold growth inside the vacuum, which gets spread around the home every time you use it.

Will a Wet Carpet Smell Go Away?

Wet carpet smell will not go away on its own. It needs to be dried to remove the odor, and treated to prevent mold growth.

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About the Author

Amy Anthony

Amy Anthony is a cleaning expert, author, and contributing writer for Oh So Spotless, a leading online resource for all things related to cleaning, organizing, and maintaining a spotless home. With over 15 years of experience in the cleaning industry, Amy has gained extensive knowledge and expertise that have made her a trusted authority on best practices, efficient techniques, and innovative cleaning solutions.