How to clean car carpet after water damage

Car interior carpet upholstery is an integral part of your vehicle’s design and builds character. Through the years, human interaction with this soft surface will take its toll and eventually needs to be restored or replaced.

Damaging your car carpet can happen in many ways such as spilling beverages (ie: coffee, tea, cola), dropping foodstuff (ie: candy bar wrappers, chips), children playing with crayons and spilled ink pens, but none compare to a flood which covers your entire floor area. Depending on how extensive the damages are, you may have water-logged insulation padding under the carpets. When this occurs there is a possibility that mild spores have been introduced into the fibers. Mold is a real threat to your health and should be attended to immediately.

Best way to clean car carpet after water damage

The best way to clean car carpets after water damage may vary depending on the extent of damage.  If you have access to a steam cleaner, this is definitely an option worth considering.   However, if you are in dire need or don’t have time for such luxury, use towels or rags with warm soapy water.    Use paper towels when using soap solutions because they dissolve easier than cloth materials which can leave fibers behind potentially causing more problems later.   Again depending on how extensive the damages are, you may end up having to remove the carpeting altogether and install new carpets in order not compromise any safety features that are part of the vehicle.

First, you will need to have access to a dry area where the carpeting can be dried out completely.   If possible use fans or multiple heat sources to assist with drying.    The other option is vacuuming up as much water as possible (including under seats and mats) before it has the opportunity to soak into the padding underneath.

Once all of the visible water has been removed or vacuumed up; allow enough time for it to dry flat on its own without any help from you (this may take several days).   After several days, check to see if there are still moist areas which cannot be removed by wiping with towels.  If so, try using your steam cleaner or renting a commercial extractor from a car cleaning specialist shop. If this fails, you may have to resort to removing the soaking wet carpeting completely and starting over with new carpets inside your vehicle.

After all visible water has been removed and the carpeting is dry, start tackling any stains that remain using a mixture of white vinegar and warm water. Apply the solution directly to the area in question being careful not to over saturate it.   Allow it time to penetrate into any stain or dirt then wipe away with a clean towel. Dry off any remaining moisture by dabbing with paper towels ensuring you do not leave fibers behind which can cause problems later on down the road.

Using soap solutions for deep scrubbing is not a good idea because it can leave behind residue and cause problems with mildew. Therefore, you should always use vinegar; which is an all-natural cleaner that is safe to use on any carpeting without causing damage or harmful health issues. If there are still some stains left after this step has been completed, refer back to the vinegar and warm water solution and try again.

After all visible dirt has been removed from your car carpets, allow the area to dry thoroughly before attempting anything else including vacuuming. This will ensure there is no risk of damaging your new carpets by making them too wet & stretchy as they absorb moisture during drying. Once complete, up with a light misting of carpet refresher to protect the carpeting and ensure it doesn’t start to smell like mildew.


If you take your time and follow all of these steps, you should have no damage done to your new carpets. However, if there is excessive water damage and the area cannot be dried out completely; this could cause an opportunity for mold or mildew growth which can lead to further problems down the road.

Chris Law

Chris is a content writer at WhatinGuide.

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