Can you Save a Flood Damaged Carpet or Rug?

The short answer is probably no. Wet carpets from clean water like from pipe leaks can be cleaned if the carpet itself is clean. Whether you can save a flood-damaged rug or carpet depends on the source of the flooding, how long it was wet, and if it can it be effectively cleaned and disinfected.

EPA, FEMA, CDC and other standards for remediation recommend removal and replacement if your carpet was soaked with water that was contaminated (like water that entered your house from the street during a storm that might contain sewage) OR if your carpet remained wet for more than 48 hours. Flood damaged carpeting can pose serious health hazards from mold, bacteria, and other toxins. It is important to wear eye and respiratory protection as well as rubber gloves if you are around these materials.

Still not sure about your situation? Here are some basic questions to help you decide whether to keep or throw out your carpeting and rugs:

1) Was the source of the floodwater “clean” (like from a burst water pipe) or “contaminated” (like a backed up toilet or water that came into your house from outside during a storm)?

  • If the water that soaked your rug/carpet was clean, that you may be able to save it.
  • If the water that soaked your rug/carpet was contaminated, then it is very unlikely you can save it. Simply drying out water will not remove the bacteria or toxins that can make people sick. Professional cleaning is generally not worth the expense.
  • If you aren’t sure whether the water was contaminated, general EPA/FEMA/CDC guidelines recommend removal and replacement.

2) How long was the carpet or rug wet?

  • If the carpet or rug was wet for less than 24-48 hours AND the flood water was “clean,” you can probably dry/clean them or have them professionally dried/cleaned.
  • If the carpet or rug was wet for more than 48 hours, regardless of the source of the water, general EPA/FEMA/CDC guidelines recommend removal and replacement.

3) Can the carpet or rug be effectively cleaned and disinfected?

  • Area rugs without foam backing that were soaked with clean water and dried within 48 hours can usually be effectively cleaned and disinfected. Some rugs can be machine washed others can be cleaned professionally (hot-water extraction is preferred). Any area rugs with foam backing should be discarded.
  • Wall-to-wall carpet is extremely difficult to thoroughly dry or effectively clean. If it was soaked with clean water and it can be completely dried (meaning the carpet and the flooring underneath) within 48 hours, you may be able to clean and reinstall it. If it has been longer than 48 hours, regardless of the source of the water, general EPA/FEMA/CDC guidelines recommend removal and replacement.
  • Always replace carpet padding because it is nearly impossible to clean.

For more information:

EPA: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-09/documents/floods.pdf
American Lung Association: http://www.lung.org/about-us/media/press-releases/proper-post-flood-cleanup.html

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