How to Use a Wet Vac to Clean Carpet

Project Overview
  • WORKING TIME: 50 mins
  • TOTAL TIME: 1h 30 mins
  • COST: 7

Trying to remove stains on carpet is never an easy task. Whether you’re trying to get liquids and spills off, or just dry dirt, it can be a challenge to clean your favorite rug.

Wet-dry vacuums are great cleaning solutions that will help you clean multiple surfaces, including carpet and upholstery. Plus, a wet-dry vac will speed up the carpet’s drying time.

In this article, we’ll show you step-by-step how to use a wet vac to clean carpet. So your floors will be stain-free, and your cleaning will be hassle-free.

Before You Begin

A shop vac is a versatile appliance that can clean up both liquids and dry dirt. This is why it has two filters: one made of foam for wet surfaces and one cartridge filter for dry dust and dirt.

In addition, some wet dry vacs come with filter bags for dry material. However, some are simply a canister that you have to empty.

Here, we’ll show you how to use your shop vac for both wet and dry surfaces. First, you’ll use the dry setting to pick up dirt, and then you’ll use the wet setting for the cleaning solution and rinse water.

But before you start, check if your wet dry vacuum comes with a carpet nozzle like in this Bissell. And make sure it’s attached before you follow the steps in this article.

And, always check with your vacuum’s manufacturer to see if you can suck up liquids other than water. Some models like the Bissell above, for example, can’t handle detergent or carpet cleaner.

What You’ll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Shop Vac



How to use a wet vac to clean carpet

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Remove Furniture & Vacuum Your Carpet

To get your room ready, you need to make sure there’s nothing on your carpet. To do this, move your furniture and any household items or small objects off the area you’re going to clean.

If you move everything first, it will be easier to maneuver your vacuum. Also, you won’t ruin your vacuum cleaner by accidentally sucking up a small item like a pin or coin.

When regular vacuum cleaners suck up objects larger than surface dirt and debris, they can clog or even break internally. In addition, they won’t work as well for removing fine dust if the internal workings are damaged.

Once you’ve got everything cleared away, you can start to vacuum. For this step, you can either use your wet vac in dry mode, or you can use a carpet vacuum cleaner, such as a canister, stick, or upright vac.

If you’re using your wet vac, make sure the cartridge and dust bag (if you have one) are in place.

And for more information on how to properly vacuum your carpet, check out this article.

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Empty the Tank & Replace the Filters

If you used your wet vac in Step 1, empty the canister or remove the bag now. As well, make sure you remove the cartridge and install the foam filter.

If you need help, consult the instruction manual for your particular wet dry vacuum cleaner model.

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Apply Water or a Carpet Cleaning Solution

For extra cleaning power, you can use a commercial carpet cleaning liquid or make your own.

However, always check that your shop vac can handle chemicals, as not all models can. If yours can’t vacuum detergent or foam, then just use water to clean your carpet.

If you want to make your own cleaning product, try this recipe. Simply mix a cup of warm water with ¼ teaspoon liquid dish soap.

On the other hand, there are lots of good commercial solutions out there. To choose the best carpet stain remover, make sure it’s certified by the Carpet and Rug Institute, like this one from Nature’s Miracle.

Once you’ve picked your solution or plain water, fill a spray bottle and wet your carpet. You can also use a garden spray tool if you have a large area to cover.

Make sure you evenly spread the liquid over the carpet to avoid wet spots. Also, make sure you don’t spray so much water that you soak the carpet.

After you add the carpet cleaner, let the liquid sit on the fibers for a few minutes.

At this point, don’t use a scrub brush, even if your carpet cleaner comes with a specialized one. If you do, you can hurt the fibers of the carpet.

Remember, even professional carpet cleaners don’t scrub when they use the hot water extraction method.

And if you have a particular type of spot you want to remove, check out our articles on different tough stains. That way, you can more efficiently remove simple carpet stains around your house.

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Vacuum Your Carpet

Now it’s time to bring out your wet vac again. Once more, make sure that the solid soil is gone, and you’ve replaced the cartridge with the foam filter.

When you vacuum, move slowly over the wet carpet and use strokes that are about 3 to 4 feet long. And when you get to the end of a stroke, turn sideways to start the next one.

In addition, make sure that your passes overlap a little bit so you don’t miss any areas.

Once you’ve finished the first round of passes, go over the wet carpet a few more times to remove as much moisture and chemical residue as you can.

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Rinse & Vacuum Again

Some chemical cleaners require rinsing after you use them, but some don’t. Therefore, make sure you read the label on your cleaner to see if you need to rinse or not.

If you use a homemade solution, you should rinse it off afterward. But if you just use water, you don’t need to rinse.

For cleaners that you do need to rinse, make sure you do that, even if you’ve removed most of the chemicals with the vacuum.

If you won’t be rinsing, then skip this step and move on to number 6.

To rinse, fill a spray bottle with water and get your carpet wet once more. If you want to use your garden sprayer again, you can do that.

And keep in mind that you shouldn’t soak the carpet in this step either. Otherwise, you could ruin the backing.

Once you’ve sprayed the water, use your wet vacuum cleaner again to remove all the moisture. Follow the same pattern and go over it several times to make sure all of the cleaning solution is gone.

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Let It Dry

If your carpet is already dry from using your shop vac, you’re done! And you can skip this step.

However, if you still have a wet carpet, you should let it air dry before you put your furniture back or walk on the fibers. You can also check out our article on the carpet drying process for tips on how to get it to dry faster.

And if your carpet texture looks off after it dries, you can always go over it with your wet vac or a regular vacuum to even it out.

Tips When Using a Wet Vac to Clean Carpet

  • When using a wet vac, never suck up baking soda or powdered cleaners for deodorizing or refreshing your carpet. These can be abrasive and ruin the filter in your shop vac.
  • In addition, you don’t need to buy a top-of-the-line, massive wet vac. There are lots of shop vacuum cleaners that are small and easy to store, and they’ll work just fine for your carpet.
  • A wet vac is also perfect for cleaning up wet messes. So if you spill tea on your carpet, you can use the wet vac to get most of the moisture out of the wet carpet fibers right when it happens.
  • Finally, remember that a wet vac doesn’t actually clean the carpet: it just removes water. So if you use a carpet cleaning solution, that can help remove some of the dirt.
  • However, if you want a really clean carpet, you can use a carpet cleaning machine like this one, or you can call a professional.
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