How to Handle Carpet Water Damage

Carpet water damage should be dealt with immediately. Step 1: Dry. Step 2: Sanitize. Step 3: Prevent mold. Learn more here.
Written by Bonnie Stinson
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
You found a wet spot in your carpet—now what? Not only does water-damaged carpet look terrible, but your carpet is a countdown to disaster for breeding mold and other bacteria. The three most important things you should do are dry, sanitize, and prevent future mold growth.
Potential culprits for the water damage include an appliance malfunction (dishwater, washing machine), burst pipes, a roof leak, or a septic overflow situation. You should deal with this situation ASAP. The consequences of long-term water damage range from respiratory issues to costly remediation.
This article will cover the signs of carpet water damage, how to remove mold, how to repair water-damaged carpet, and how to file a claim. Get
help navigating the home insurance process—or finding a new policy for either
car insurance

Signs of carpet water damage

The most obvious indicator of carpet water damage is dampness to the touch. You may also notice one of these key signs:
  • Discoloration
  • Musty, sour smell
  • Respiratory problems
Be very alert for subtle clues. It can be difficult to spot carpet water damage with the naked eye, especially if it’s several days old.
Examine the area by shining a bright flashlight on the area of suspected water damage and look for circular patterns. Patterned carpets, especially, can hide the growth of mold. Note that mold can be green, white, or black.
You may not notice water damage on the carpet itself. The damage may have spread to nearby items or baseboards, where it may be more visible. Check the surrounding area and furniture for moisture and other signs of water damage.
If necessary, pull the carpeting back slightly in the area with the strongest smell. Inspect the area beneath for signs of mold, including the backside of the carpet and the padding.
There are also home testing kits and professional mold inspectors to help locate mold.
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What to do after finding water-damaged carpet

While you investigate, keep pets and children out of the room.
Your first step should be to locate the cause of the water damage. If an appliance has leaked, for instance, you need to shut it down or replace it to prevent ongoing damage.
Your second step should be to dry the area as thoroughly as possible. Use towels, fans, blow dryers, and a wet/dry vacuum. Wear protective gear (goggles and mask) and ensure good ventilation, in case mold is present. Wash your clothes immediately afterward.
Document everything in case you submit a claim to your insurance company.
Now, the final step is to remedy the problem. Sanitize the area. You may need to file a claim with your home insurance company. It’s possible you may need to replace the carpet completely or hire a mold remediation team to scour the area.
MORE: Does home insurance cover flooded basements?

How to get water out of carpet

If you notice a flood or water leak, you should immediately attempt to remove the water by following three basic steps: dry, sanitize, and prevent future mold.
To get water out of a carpet, start by adding heat and ventilation. You can aim a fan directly at the affected area and use a general dehumidifier. The goal is to increase airflow and remove moisture.
  • Turn on any and all drying appliances available (fan, space heater, dehumidifier)
  • Once the carpet is dry to the touch, sanitize the contaminated area with cleaning products
  • Vacuum regularly for the next week to remove mold spores
Regular household lights can help reduce mold, and UV-C lights are especially effective at eliminating mold spores. Either way, keep the lights on for a few days and stay vigilant for signs of mold in the future.
If you’re unsure whether to keep or toss a water-damaged item, consult the
EPA’s guide
to mold remediation.

Do you need to replace water damaged carpet?

It depends on how much water accumulated, how long it sat there, the source of the water, and whether your carpet can be cleaned properly. For example, toilet backflow sitting for a full week on shag carpet is much more dangerous than a leaky sink on a low-pile rug from IKEA.
If you discovered the leak within 24 hours, you may be able to save your carpet. You need to dry out the carpet and then sanitize the area. If you need to cut out the damaged area, call the carpet manufacturer to see if they can furnish you with a replacement square.
If you are unsure how long the leak has been there, then you risk the possibility of mold. Mold can stay in carpet padding forever, slowly taking over a home. The best way to guarantee a mold-free home is to replace your water-damaged carpet. 

What to do if there’s mold on your carpet from water damage

Yikes—you found mold. Here are three strategies you can try to remove mold from your carpet. Be aware that a DIY solution does not guarantee all mold will be gone. Leftover mold could put your family at risk for long-term effects, like respiratory problems.
Before you begin, remember to suit up with appropriate protective gear. You need eye protection (goggles) and respiratory protection (mask). Gloves are helpful, too. 

Vinegar and baking soda

Sprinkle baking soda over the molded area. Be generous! Leave the baking soda overnight to absorb moisture, keeping pets and children out of the room.
Vacuum it all up the next morning and dispose of the waste carefully (ideally outside). Now, spray white vinegar on the same area and scrub it down. Alternatively, rent a HEPA wet/dry vacuum to sanitize your carpeting.
Finally, aim a fan at the area to dry it out completely. You can also use a blow-dryer.

Antifungal treatment or bleach

Purchase a bottled anti-mold treatment at the store. Check the label before you buy. The product should:
  • Be intended for carpet use (kitchen and bathroom products may discolor or damage)
  • Include a “mold barrier” or “encapsulate treatment” to help prevent future mold growth
You can also use bleach. Combine a ½ cup of color-safe bleach with one gallon of water.
Spray the cleaning solution on the affected area and scrub vigorously. Dry it completely with a fan or blow-dryer, keeping pets and children away from the area.
Remember, never mix cleaning products and always test the product in a hidden area first.

Remove the carpet completely

If your carpet is unsalvageable, you may need to replace it completely. Here are some signs that indicate you may need to remove the carpet:
  • Mold has accumulated in the carpet backing as well as the padding
  • Affected area is larger than a piece of paper
  • Subfloor, baseboards, and walls are impacted
In this situation, you should call a professional mold remediation company to ensure that all traces of mold are completely removed. This process involves cutting out the carpet, searching the walls and baseboards for spores, and sanitizing the entire area.

Does insurance cover carpet water damage?

It may. Most home insurance policies cover sudden and accidental damage.
While you investigate the situation, document carefully with photos and dates. You will need this information if you submit a claim.
It may not be covered if the water damage accumulated over many months. That’s because the burden is on the homeowner to properly maintain their home over the long term. Similarly, hurricanes and floods are usually excluded from homeowners insurance policies.
You can file a claim if the cause of the damage was a covered peril. For example, if your carpet water damage was caused by a sudden water leak due to an appliance malfunction it may be covered by your insurance.
File the claim immediately if it’s eligible. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that the company will deny your claim.
Be aware that most policies do not cover mold. When it is covered, you can expect to receive some reimbursement for mold remediation. This sum typically has a threshold that is far below your full policy limit.
Key Takeaway If you need to replace your carpet due to water damage, it may be covered by insurance if it was caused by a named peril. Be sure to check your policy before you file a claim.
MORE: Home insurance terms you need to know

Finding the right insurance policy

Home insurance
won’t prevent water damage—but it can help you cover costly repairs.
If you’re looking for a policy, try
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Anyone can use Jerry to check out rates. Even if you already have a policy, you can use Jerry to find out if you’re overpaying. If you find a better deal, Jerry can help you switch to a new company with a lower rate. 


The three basic steps to repair water-damaged carpet are dry, sanitize, and prevent future mold growth. Start by locating the source of the leak. Then dry out the area with fans and heat. Clean it thoroughly. Hire a professional if the damage is severe or long-term.
The most common health consequences are respiratory. The symptoms may resemble allergies: itchy skin and red eyes, stuffy nose, wheezing, and fatigue. People with asthma are especially vulnerable to mold spores.
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