How can I dry out the insulation under my car's carpeting after a big leak?
August 19, 2008 7:48 AM   Subscribe

How can I dry out the insulation under my car's carpeting after a big leak?

How can I dry out the insulation under my car's floor carpeting when I can't pry up much of the carpeting?

I found a puddle in my car's passenger side the other day, flowing back and forth from back to front as I accelerated and braked. I'm not positive how it got in there, but I'll work on that separately (sunroof, window seals, underside plugs, etc.).

Here's what I've tried:

+Bailed out as much water as I could, then got as much as I could with a wetvac, but I could still hear water moving under there when I pressed down on it.

+Pried part of the carpeting away from the rear footwell as much as I could, which is just barely enough to snake a hand in there, and have been sticking a chamois cloth and little carwash towels in that opening to absorb and then wringing them out a couple times per day, hoping that wicking action will draw water from as far as the front all the way to the back there.

+Bought a dehumidifier, ran an extension cord to the car, sealed up the window where the cord went in and let it run all night and all day. I got almost nothing that way. Could be a bum dehumidifier, I suppose, but maybe the problem is that the water is not exposed to the air enough.

+I leave the windows open whenever I can to air it out.

There's no more standing water, but the insulation is like a sponge, still wet enough to keep making the towels pretty damp. I can't get under the carpet in the front - I can't see how to remove the paneling to even get at the edge of the carpet to pull it back. I'm sure mold is happily colonizing by now, five days later. It stinks up close in the area where I've peeled it back, and the whole car stinks if I have to leave the windows shut for a while. I don't want that permanent stink, but that will be a separate issue I'll deal with and I've seen other questions here that address that. What else can I do to dry it out quickly?

I looked at DampRid, but that seems to be more for moisture in the air, which won't do much if a dehumidifier didn't do much. I read about people running a hair dryer on it all night, but that sounds like a fire hazard. Other internet forum ideas on this topic haven't quite hit it.

posted by Askr to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
You probably got nothing because the water was evaporating from the carpet as much as it was from the water container in the dehumidifier.

Also, even if you got almost nothing, you're getting some of it. Just keep repeating.

And point a fan at the wet spot to encourage the water to evaporate.

An extreme measure, but one that probably will work, is to use the car's built in HVAC to dehumidify. When you're driving around, turn the AC on in recirculate mode (or "max ac") and if it'll let you, turn the temperature up. Warmer air will absorb more water, and hopefully, the car will keep the compressor on and the cold coils will condense the water out and dribble it outside.

And spraying Lysol on the affected areas should stop the mold/mildew.
posted by gjc at 8:08 AM on August 19, 2008

If you have access to a good wet/dry shop vac, I've found they do a surprisingly good job of pulling water out of porous fabrics and backings (a couple cars ago I had an old Subaru with a moonroof I occasionally forgot to close).
posted by aught at 8:22 AM on August 19, 2008

I'd try a wet/dry vac or a the hand attachment of a carpet shampooer directly on the wet spot to draw out as much as possible. Even if you aren't pulling out alot of water at this point you'll be forcing air through it and getting more of the moisture out.

I guess even a regular vacuum would be better than nothing if there isn't any liquid water.
posted by wrnealis at 8:26 AM on August 19, 2008

Calcium based drying containers?
posted by Freedomboy at 8:28 AM on August 19, 2008

I was told by a professional not to use heat--it promotes mold.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:24 AM on August 19, 2008

1. Place a large box fan at level of the door sill aimed over the wet area and out the opposite door. Run for nn hours.

2. Try one of these: I have no personal experience so don't know if it is worth the $$$ or if you could rent similar equipment.

3. Ask your local fire dept for advice on this - they must deal with similar problems all the time after water logging someone's house/carpet.
posted by Kevin S at 10:47 AM on August 19, 2008

Use the wetvac that you said you have, but reverse the airflow (if you can). Stick the nozzle under the carpet and force air under there and let it run for a while. You can buy an inexpensive shop vac that can do this, if yours can't. I successfully dried about 800 square feet of soaked basement carpet this way, over the course of several days. Good luck!
posted by Pantengliopoli at 11:00 AM on August 19, 2008

I went through this in May. Here's what worked for me, in increasing order of complexity:

Remove the plastic drain plugs from the bottom of the car (if present)
Stuff newspaper under the carpet and replace frequently.
Place the DampRid in shallow plastic containers and leave the car sealed up overnight.
Remove the seat(s) and peel back the carpet.
Remove the insulation under the carpet and dry in the sun.
Get the DampRid preventitive spray and use it as you put everything back together.
posted by djb at 12:21 PM on August 19, 2008

Second the newspaper. My father was a mechanic for 30 years and that's what he always recommended for wet floors. Be sure to replace the newspaper frequently.
posted by crios at 1:30 PM on August 19, 2008

Response by poster: UPDATE: I returned the bum dehumidifier, got a new one, and it worked like a charm. Ran it on an extension cord from the house and it was bone dry after a couple of days. Might've been sooner than that but I didn't check the wetness sooner than that due to what a pain it was to wriggle a forearm under the carpet. I had also tried newspaper prior to that and it didn't work so well. So, campers, if this happens to you, here's what worked for me:

1. Bail out as much as you can with a cup
2. Wet vac (lots of car washes and some gas stations have coin operated ones). I just kept smooshing the carpet with the vaccum tool until no more water squeezed out.
3. Pry up the carpet at least partially and keep stuffing chamois towels and terry towels under there to absorb for a while. Wring, dry, replace.
4. With carpet and insulation peeled back and exposed, run a small dehumidifier all night overnight and again all day at work if you have access to a plug and a long enough extension cord. Run the cord in through window but plug up the open slit of the window with towels so you're not dehumidifying the entire outdoors.
5. Profit!

If you're able to remove the carpet and insulation, that would be ideal. If yours is like mine, that's really difficult. Thus the above.
posted by Askr at 6:56 AM on August 27, 2008

« Older Sack and crack wax in NoVa?   |   Suggestions wanted for portable speakers Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.