While routine cleanings are typically the only reason carpets are left damp, accidents happen, and facility cleaning staff should be prepared for anything from a coffee spill to a flood.

“If someone dropped a pot of coffee on the carpet, I’d extract it, flood it with water and shampoo it, and then drop a fan on it,” says Poole. “You have to work that carpet with the extractor in all directions to get as much water out of it as you can.”

Placing a fan on the spill area should cut dry times by about 50 percent, he adds.

Wet/dry vacuums also come in handy when carpets are saturated due to spills or leaks.

“If you had a burst pipe, you could use the wet/dry vac to get excess water out and speed up the process,” says Poole.

Custodians should also set up safety parameters and signage while the area is drying.

Occasional spills may be easily dealt with, but facility cleaning executives may find themselves ill prepared in the unlikely event of a leak or flood that not only saturates the carpet, but seeps into the subfloor or walls. First and foremost, prevention is better than cure.

“If you have a leak, find it and fix it,” says Rathey. “If you’re dealing with damp flooring, such as a concrete slab with moisture infiltration, you may need to consult an expert for remedial steps.”

According to Yeadon, when carpeting is wet as a result of water damage, the same principles apply for optimum drying: Air flow and time.

“If you want to dry the carpet faster, especially in a dry environment, use a heater,” he advises. “The warmer the air, the more humidity it can hold.”

If carpets are waterlogged due to flooding, Yeadon recommends placing one air mover every 10 to 16 feet along the wall.

“Even if it’s a small water loss that puts half an inch on the carpet, what we’re really concerned about is the walls,” he says. “Most walls are drywall, and that has paper, which will wick water up on the wall. So always point fans at the walls at a 45 degree angle.”

Over-saturated carpets may also call for a dehumidifier. As moisture evaporates into the air, properly placed dehumidifiers will prevent it from being re-deposited on the carpet. Managers might actually be surprised by how much moisture comes out of a dehumidifier, even in situations where water or flooding is minimal.

In a flood situation, however, dehumidifiers are an essential step in the drying process.

“If there’s a lot of water, I would extract first and then start the fans, followed by the dehumidifier,” notes Yeadon. “The purpose of the fans is to create evaporation, so once that water’s evaporated into the air, the dehumidifier will condense the moisture from the vapor and pump it out.”

Sometimes facility cleaning personnel set up the dehumidifiers before the extraction process because it takes time for them to start operating. In a flood scenario, the carpet will dry first, followed by the padding, and finally the subflooring, as moisture wicks to the surface and evaporates.

Even when the carpet feels dry to the touch, Yeadon recommends leaving the dehumidifiers on.

“Leave dehumidifiers running for an average of three days in flood situations,” he says. “If the carpet has a pad underneath it, then leave them on for four days. The carpet may be dry, but there may be some moisture in the walls, and that dehumidifier will continue to pull that moisture out of the air.”

Yeadon also recommends using a moisture probe if the carpet has padding underneath it. This can be used to determine whether or not it has dried properly. These moisture sensors can detect moisture in carpets, drywall and wood.

“While the carpet may be dry, the underneath may not be,” he says. “So you need to know if it’s still wet, and if it is, you should leave your equipment running.”

Finally, facility cleaning managers should know when to throw in the towel and call for help. Not all situations can or should be handled in-house.

“I’ve had a building flood where the water was ankle deep. That’s out of the realm of normal cleaning,” says Poole. “When it’s something of that magnitude, you have to bring in an emergency response group. These guys have gone through specialized training, and they are coming in with trailers full of dehumidifiers, air movers and heavy equipment stronger than extractors to get the water out.”

Fortunately most facilities will never have to face these worst-case scenarios. In general, drying carpets quickly and efficiently should be a matter of common sense and following a few basic steps.

“There’s not much to dying,” admits Yeadon. “It just has to be done with the right equipment and a proper understanding of the cleaning process.” 

KASSANDRA KANIA is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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Recommendations For Cleaning And Drying Carpets