Everyone loves their carpets for their softness and comfort underfoot. But sometimes, disasters strike, in the form of a water pipe cracking or a downpour flooding. When faced with this nightmare right out of a horror movie, don't panic, and keep reading to find out:

How do I fix wet carpet and underlay?

In all cases, you need to act as fast as you can, as excessive water is a serious threat to your carpets and your wellbeing. If you let the water sit there, it will sooner or later cause the carpet to lose fixture to its underlay, making it a trip hazard. It will appear bumpy and wavy on top, and the professional term for that is delamination. What is more, after a certain time, the high humidity can lead to mould growth, a serious danger to your family’s health.

All in all, you might be able to save your fabric flooring after it’s been flooded. If you respond quickly, chances are you won’t need to go through the costly process of carpet replacement. However, before you rush to do something, you should examine the following:

Water damage on the carpet

How wet is the carpet?

If the carpet is just slightly damp, you may be able to deal with this on your own fairly quickly. Grab a bunch of clean towels, open the windows, put a dehumidifier in the room and switch the fans on. In no time at all, the moisture will be taken care of, and it may not need much more than that. Still, you will need to disinfect your carpet after the drying, so consulting with specialists isn’t a bad idea.

However, if the carpet is soaking wet, you’re in for a really wild ride. Don’t leave the water to sit, as mould grows faster than you can see just by looking at the carpet. The smartest choice is to contact a professional carpet cleaning company, who have undoubtedly dealt with water leaks and floods before. Look for a company who offer deep cleaning and disinfection services, as they’re what you need in this case.

Is the carpet wet in one area, or in the whole room?

This is a bit self-explanatory, as the bigger the area, the more work it requires, and vice versa. Generally, you’re in luck when the carpet is only wet in one small area (e.g. near the window left open in the rain). Should the whole room be soaked, this means you’ve got an immense amount of moisture, which needs to be dealt with as soon as possible. And the bigger the area, the higher the odds of the water being dirty, as opposed to clean.

How long has the carpet been wet?

It’s very important you react to water on your carpet as fast as humanly possible. Even if all you spilled was a glass of tap water, don’t let it sit there. It only takes a small amount of moisture to cause your carpet to be damaged, or have a mould growth problem.

And if you’re wondering “How quickly can mould appear after a flood?”, you’d find it hard to believe it only takes about two days. If you have a leak from, say, a forgotten tap leading to a sink overflowing, you can still do the cleaning yourself. Just don’t let it sit for longer than that – you’ll understand why in the next paragraph.

However, if your laundromat leaked, or you had a flood, call professionals within the hour it happened. The last thing you want on your floor is filthy water full of diseases, coupled with mould growth.

Now that you have a general idea of what to look out for when your carpets turns from cosy to soggy, keep reading. You’re about to find out something very interesting.

What are the different classes of water damage?

As defined by professional carpet restoration companies, there are three main classes of water damage. It’s actually very simple to remember, as they are divided into clean, grey, and black water. Without further ado, here are the details:

Flooded carpet

Clean water

Clean water leaks are most often as a result from forgetfulness. Yes, you read me right – for example, they happen when we forget a window open and it rains. Or, when we’re just about to bathe, but the phone rings, and 10 minutes later the water’s making its way downstairs. And finally, when we forget to have our pipes replaced every few decades, and one eventually breaks.

When faced with this issue, you need to take care of it as soon as possible, within the same day would be ideal. If it’s in a small area only (e.g. window rain leak), you may even do the cleaning yourself, but it’s still recommended to call a professional. However, if you let the water sit for longer than 24 to 48 hours, it will turn into grey water.

Grey water

Also known as dirty water, is commonly known as grey because that’s the actual colour most of the time (duh). When asked on the subject, your dear author likes to call this one the “accident” water. That’s because it’s most often a leak from the dishwasher or the laundromat. Or that one time the children found a hammer and decided to gently tap the aquarium with it a few dozen times.

If you left clean water sit, and it turned into grey water, it’s high time to call professional carpet cleaners. The underlay is more likely to need replacement when a grey water leak happens, as it will need to dry longer than the actual carpets themselves. The longer the drying, the higher the likelihood of experiencing mould growth (more on that later).

Even in the case of a direct leak of dirty water, you shouldn’t waste any time in contacting the specialists. The water is filthy, and contains various bacteria and pathogens which need to be treated by an expert. And if you let this water sit for another day or so, it will become the worst type.

Black water

The final stage of dirty water, this is water damage which is honestly very difficult for anyone to salvage. I can't think of anything funny to tell you about black water, as it isn’t a light matter. Common sources of black water are sewage pipe breaks, clogged toilet leaks and extreme weather (storms and tsunamis).

Don’t try to self-clean black water accidents on your carpets. Contact your insurance company as soon as this incident happens, but odds are, you’re looking at carpet replacement. Even the most experienced carpet cleaning specialists struggle to salvage carpets. which have been flooded with water such as this.

Now that you’re aware of the three types of water from leaks, let’s figure out how to deal with them.

What is the best way to dry a wet carpet?

How to dry carpet yourself

There’s not really much you can do in terms of drying the carpet yourself after a leak or flood. The first thing to do is to open your windows, so the fresh air can start pushing the humidity out. Ideally, you should allow optimal air flow by opening two windows on opposing sides (e.g. south and north). Since most people don’t have windows on either end of all rooms, you may have to open windows in different rooms as well.

After you’ve opened all the windows you can, the next step is to get some fans and dehumidifiers. If you have both, then you should know fans are the less effective option. Both have their ups and downs, really, and in a pinch, you should just do what you can.

How to dry-out wet carpet

If you have a clean water leak, and it’s not that much water, fans will do the trick just fine. However, for a large amount of water, or one that has gone deeply inside, a dehumidifier is better. Additionally, note that with fans, the windows should be open, whereas a dehumidifier works best at closed windows. Yet, if you have an obscene amount of water, don’t shut your windows at all.

Now that you’ve done most of the work, it’s time for the heavy lifting – removing the main body of water. This can be done with a normal wet hoover, or a water pump, if you have access to that equipment.

Should a musty smell be present, here’s what you can do about it on your own. After you’ve done your best to dry the carpet, grab a pack of baking soda (or in this case, several). Sprinkle a layer on top of your carpet, and use a sponge mop to work it into the fibres. Let it sit overnight, and hoover it away the next day.

How will certified professionals deal with water damage?

When facing any type of leak or flood, the results professional carpet cleaners achieve are incredible compared to what can be done with domestic means. Of course, you should be careful which company you call, as some simply don’t offer the service you need. Bonnet cleaning and dry cleaning, while effective on other means, are not the most suitable cleaning techniques on flooded carpet.

What you are looking for is hot water extraction cleaning, as this is the method capable of reaching deep inside and extracting as much water as possible. Generally, the machine is used to spray water inside, then extract the vast majority of it, taking all dirt and germs with it. However, another approach is used in this particular situation.

The specialists will first remove as much water as possible, without inserting any new water. Then, all the area will be gone over with cleaning products and lightly sprayed with a small amount of water. Finally, extraction will be done again, until no further improvement is achieved. This will leave the carpet as dry as it can be, and fully disinfected from any pathogens and germs.

What is mould, and how do we prevent it?

I’m sure some of you were wondering why it’s so important to react to a leak of any kind as soon as you possibly can. Even if you think you can leave a clean water leak for a day or so, there’s one particular reason that isn’t healthy. The reason is the fungi known as mould, and how they infest your home any time the humidity reaches a high level.

How quickly can mould appear after a flood?

Mould is a living organism, and one of the most dangerous allergens that can be found in a home. When you have high humidity at home, the spores practically arrive unannounced within a day or so. Depending on the source of the water, it may take up to 2 days, but rest assured, with waste water it may appear within hours.

How fast does mould grow after a water leak?

As you may have discerned from the above, there isn’t a fixed time for mould to grow on your carpets when they’re wet. Rather, it depends on the conditions such as the source of the water, as well as room temperature and ventilation. With high moisture and low temperatures, mould can grow on a given surface as fast as 16 hours. Even if you can’t see it with a naked eye, it may still be present in your carpet or other surfaces. Common signs of mould presence are an unpleasant smell and irritation to your respiratory system.

On average, between 3 and 10 days is what the mould spores need to begin spreading all over the room, and respectively, your home. However, they only become visible about two and a half weeks after initial infestation. This means that if you just started seeing the mould, you may have a bigger problem that’s been unchecked for weeks. Call professional cleaners immediately, as the issue may have already spread to many surfaces throughout your home.

Now that you know what to do if the weather decides to give you a bad day, you’ll be prepared for when that day comes. But before you go, have another two bonus tips:

Bonus Tip 1: How to remove water from wood floors?

Carpet cleaning

Should you have hardwood floors somewhere in your house, and they were the victim of a water leak, accept my condolences upfront. Wood floors just have a tendency to soak the water right up, and it takes a long time to dry out. Did I mention there’s five or so different ways water can distort your floorboards?

Still, don’t panic (despite my best efforts to encourage you to do so just now), and grab the following:

  • Your wet hoover
  • A coarse brush
  • A bucket
  • Lots of absorbent cloths
  • At least one pair of rubber gloves
  • A squeegee
  • Some mild detergent, and a disinfecting product (make sure they can be mixed with no side effects!)

I think this is clear by now, yet I have to write it again – don’t wait around for the water to destroy your floor. React as soon as you can, since the moisture will be quickly absorbed by the planks, but will take a while to come back out. Therefore, the more you prevent from ever sinking in, the faster it will all dry out.

Hoover up the excess water, using the squeegee to guide it in one general area, then extract from it. It’s just like using it to remove pet hairs from carpet, if you’ve done that before. 

Afterwards, mix clean water, together with your choice of cleaning products, in the bucket. All wooden flooring needs a thorough scrub with the brush, after it’s been dipped into the mixture. Do not under any circumstances pour the mix on the floor – seriously, fighting water with water is not a solid plan.

Once you have all the dirt and grime and mud out, it’s time to dry out the floor. Your windows should already be open for a while now, and all you need are some fans. If you’re thinking about applying heat or trying to make it go extremely quickly, think again. Hardwood floors can bend, crack, split or otherwise distort if you rush their drying.

Bonus Tip 2: What to do if your radiator is leaking?

Saw some drops of water leaking out of your central heating unit? Stop what you’re doing and start remediating it right away. Aside from everything else mentioned above, leaks like that can cause the pipes to corrode, which costs a pretty penny to fix.

First, switch off your heating, since if it’s on, you’ll have a hard time figuring out where exactly the leak is coming from. Then, go through the main elements, like the valve, the gland, the body or the rest, and pinpoint the source of the leak. Dry out your heater fully with some paper towels or clean cloths before you proceed any further.

Now, depending on where it’s coming from, this will either be an annoyance or a costly repairing session. Let’s presume it’s coming from the heater body – in this case, switch it off and drain the water first. For those who like to do it themselves, your option is to get some epoxy and place it on the pinhole. However, if it keeps leaking, you’re out of luck, and need to call a professional to replace part of the heater, or all of it.

Usually, why radiators leak is due to sludge gathering inside, which is natural, and happens over the course of the years. If your heating is not the youngest anymore, you may experience leaks at some point. And god forbid rust water leaks onto your carpet… Either way, we recommend replacing the elements every few decades, so your grandchildren don’t have to deal with rust stains on the carpets.

Speaking of, carpet rust stain removal is usually best left to professionals. Sure, you can apply lemon juice for a few minutes, then rinse with clean water and dish soap a few times. However, you’ll need some heavy duty stuff to deal with rust stains, so you ought to call in the pros.