Carpeting can fall victim to water damage for a wide variety of reasons and there are a few things you can do to save a carpet that has been exposed to water.
The type of treatment a carpet that has suffered water damage may need depends on the type of water it was exposed to, and the length of exposure. The most common types of water damage are usually noticed very quickly and the carpets can be saved if the water is clean and removed in a timely fashion.
The easiest type of water damage to fix is when a carpet is exposed to clean water. This happens many times when a pipe breaks in a home and water floods a room or a basement. Since this is clean water, the real danger to the carpet is from mold and mildew forming. Both of these can be serious health hazards and if they form in the carpeting, there is a very good chance it cannot be restored.
The other two types of water damage is caused by unsanitary water and black water. Unsanitary water usually comes from a toilet that has overflowed and may have contained bodily fluids. Black water is water that comes from a broken sewer pipe or sewer that has backed up into a basement. If a carpet has been damaged by black water, it is a total loss and should be discarded as soon as possible as well as any padding and tack strips from the room. This type of water damage may require professional attention and should be handled very carefully because of the risk of infection. Unsanitary water damage is a tricky case and saving the carpet really depends on how much water damage is involved and how long it remains on the carpet.
If the water damage was from clean water, the first step is to address the water leak if you haven’t done so already. It won’t help you to start working on the damage if there is still water leaking onto the carpet. Before you start working on the carpet, be sure you have a good pair of gloves you can use. The tack strips contain a series of very sharp nails and these can easily scratch you once exposed. Also, make sure you are wearing thick-soled shoes or boots so that if you step on these tack strips they won’t hurt your feet.
Once you are ready, you need to start the cleanup by removing the carpeting from its tack strips and folding it in half. The best way to do this is to grab the carpeting near a corner with a heavy-duty pair or pliers and pull straight up until you can get your hand around the edge of the carpet. Once you have this edge, work your way around the room to loosen the carpet from the rest of the tack strip. This will expose the padding and allow you to remove this from the floor. This padding acts like a sponge and will hold onto whatever water it touched. Because this will lead to mold, the padding needs to be discarded. Remove the padding from the part of the floor you exposed and discard it. While the floor is exposed, give it a good mopping with a solution of water and bleach. This will kill any mold or mildew that may have started to form, and prevent any from forming. Let this dry until you can visibly see the floor is completely dry. Now fold the carpet over the other direction exposing the other half of the padding. Remove this as well, discard it and mop this half of the floor with the bleach and water solution.
Now lay the carpeting back in place, flat on the floor. Use a wet-Vac to try and vacuum up as much of the water in the carpeting as possible. This may take several passes so be patient and try to get as much as possible. Once you have finished this process you’ll need to get the carpeting up off of the floor and ventilate underneath it. You can use anything handy to prop up the carpeting. Milk crates and cinderblocks work well and are usually easy to locate. The trick is to get the entire carpet elevated and off of the floor so that mold and mildew cannot set in. Once the carpet is elevated, use a few fans to blow fresh air beneath the carpet to help dry it out and dry the floor. This will take several hours to complete and you should keep checking the carpet throughout the process and move the fans as needed to make sure all of the carpet is dry. It is really important to allow the humidity in the room to escape and running the fans will help move the air and reduce the humidity.
Once the carpet is completely dry you can either replace the padding yourself of have a local carpet store come out and replace the padding for you and reinstall the rug. If you’ve done a good job of drying the rug, it should be fine and you can use it normally. It might be a good idea to get it professionally cleaned after it has had a chance to settle back into place for a few weeks just to remove any deep-set dirt from the water damage.