Cleaning carpet with shop vac

How To Use A Wet Vac To Clean The Carpet?

Carpets easily hold on to solid soil, stains, bacteria, and mildew. Compared to cleaning other surfaces, carpet cleaning comes with its own set of concerns, but with the introduction of the wet vac, the task is now a lot easier and manageable.

You may have had the wet vac for a while and used it only for cleaning your basement or garages. However, the device also comes with unique features and detailed washing capabilities to pick up dirt, dust, spills, and cleaning solution from your carpets.

Before going further on how to use a wet vac to clean the carpet, you need to be prepared to spend some time drying it after the cleaning process. 


Can you use a shop vac on the carpet?

Regular stick vacs are excellent for everyday cleaning tasks, but you may need bigger guns like a shop vac to get tough stains off carpets. Instead of spending so much on professional carpet steaming and cleaning machines, you can save some money by opting for a shop vac.

The shop vac is an extremely helpful and versatile tool. Even while you may have been using it only for garages, basements, and construction sites, the shop vac is still an excellent cleaner for your carpets. It has powerful suction to make cleaning large messes easy and very effective.

Not only can you use a shop vac to clean up leaves, dust, soil, and dirt from tiny crevices, get them over to your carpets and begin to clean. Their build-up is already extremely sturdy enough to tackle big cleaning tasks. You can even use it to clean up giant puddles. While other regular household cleaners cannot pick up or hold water, the shop vac’s design is to suck up a large quantity of water, making it ideal for carpet cleaning.

With the big cylinder bodies, you can even hold dirt and debris in large quantities. All these properties put together make the shop vac a suitable vacuum for both indoor and outdoor use.

shop vac on the carpet

How do you clean a carpet with a wet vacuum?

The truth is that if you’ve been used to working with the handheld dry vacuum cleaner, the shop vac may require some getting used to since the operation is quite different from that of the upright vac. But it’s not as hard as it seems.

Step 1 – Get the room ready

Before going ahead to clean your carpet, there are necessary preparations you need to carry out. First, be sure that the entire room is dry to avoid making a mess while vacuuming. Also, take out all furniture or anything that may cause obstructions to make room for cleaning all the hidden areas.

Step 2 – Clean the dust and stains

It would be best to clean the surface dirt and simple stains off the carpet to make the cleaning process much more manageable. Then, you can proceed to plug the wet vac and switch to dry mode to push debris and dust-up. This can help to prevent large debris clusters.

Step 3 – Apply cleaning solution

With a handful of water or a spray tool, dampen the carpet stains, and apply the cleaning solution on the stain spot. Ensure you read the instructions on the detergent and go for one that is carpet safe and wouldn’t cause discolouration.

Step 4 – Scrub the carpet

With the normal scrubbing brush or a clean rag, scrub the carpet to loosen the stain on it. While doing this, focus on the soiled areas to pave the way for extra scrubbing by the shop vacuum.

Step 5 – Set up your wet dry vac

Now proceed to plug the shop vacuum into the outlet that is closest to the stain. Attach the necessary floor attachment, and set the wet vac to begin powerful suction. Move the head over the carpet and vacuum the cleaning solution, and water off the wet spots. (Use the proper filters and suction level depending on your carpet’s texture)

Step 6 – Repeat as often as needed

Some areas will require more time to dry out. So, repeat the process until the stain is completely gone. You can now speed up the drying process by putting the carpet under a fan or with indirect sunlight.

Some tips and tricks

Instead of renting a commercial carpet cleaner, you can save time and money by getting a shop vac for carpet cleaning.

Wet dry vacs are different from upright vacs and other regular vacuum cleaners, so is their method of operation different from each other. For first-time users of the wet vac, it may take a while to get used to the shop vac.

Regardless, there are a few tips to guide you through. Follow these instructions, and you will adapt smoothly.

  • While making the carpet cleaning solution, don’t let it be too concentrated to come off quickly. If the mix is too concentrated, add water.
  • Go through the owner’s manual of your shop vac to ensure you have installed the proper filters.
  • Most shop vacs come with a set of attachments, but if need be, you can also buy extra shop vac attachments suitable for working with wet situations like floor attachments, fine slotted attachments, and brush attachments.
  • While cleaning, ensure you work in small sections. Although this may seem like more work, all cleaned areas should be thoroughly dried before moving on to another. (You may even have to work on certain sections a few times before the stains are removed).
  • If you are unsure of the detergent’s effects on the carpet, use the cleaner on an inconspicuous part of the carpet for a test of discolouration. 
  • You can also apply a homemade vinegar solution or a tablespoon of household ammonia as an alternative to detergents when cleaning synthetic carpets. Mix two tablespoons of ammonia in a full cup of lukewarm water and evenly spread it on your carpet. But you have to be careful – ammonia may release toxic fumes.
  • If you aim to remove only a few minor stains, you may prefer to rent a carpet cleaner as a cheaper alternative instead of buying a new shop vac.
How To Use A Wet Vac To Clean The Carpet - FAQ


Should you remove the filter when using wet vac?

For fine debris like dust or ash, you need to install a filter with a fine filtration level in your vacuum cleaner. It prevents dust from blowing out of the vacuum’s top while cleaning. However, when cleaning wet surfaces, it’s best you entirely remove the filter from the wet vac.

Although with some models of vacuum cleaners, you can leave the filter installed while vacuuming a small amount of liquid. Liquids can damage the filter and even end up ruining your vacuum. If you have to keep the filter installed while picking up plain water, go for the foam sleeve filter. It's suitable for wet collection.

Also, be conscious of the specific filters you are using. The wrong one can cause water or dust to blowback into the room. Regardless, after using the filter, rinse with clean water and allow it to dry. This helps to prevent mildew.

How Long Does It Take For Carpets To Dry?

After carpet cleaning, you must give it time to dry before anyone walks across it entirely. If you necessarily have to, remove your shoes and avoid the middle of the carpet. Damp carpets can become magnets for stains. So steps on the carpets before its thoroughly dried can leave a trail of dirt or compressed pile – leaving you to restart the cleaning.

Usually, after carpet cleaning, it can take 6 to 12 hours to dry. But it depends hugely on your method of drying it. With poor circulation, high levels of humidity, or cold air, the carpet will take longer to dry.

How can I dry my wet carpet fast?

The trick in decreasing the carpet’s drying time is to increase air circulation in the room. And there are several ways to get this done.

  • Fans – You can turn on the ceiling fan in the room to air dry the carpet. High oscillating fans would work best. However, any time of fan would work if you don’t have a ceiling fan.
  • Open windows – leaving the windows open on hot, dry days is a way to air moving and drying your carpets faster. But when it’s cold or humid outside, this may be counterproductive.
  • Dehumidifiers – You can also speed up the carpet drying by turning on the dehumidifier. It saps the moisture from the room and directs it towards or drain or in a storage tank.

Will wet carpet dry on its own?

If you have just cleaned your carpet or it got wet from flooding. You should take action and start drying it immediately. You shouldn’t leave your clean carpet to dry on its own or procrastinate. Water can damage your clean carpets, so it needs to be attended to immediately, especially when it covers the entirety of the floor.

In addition, mold and mildew can form in the small spaces between the floor and the carpet padding. This can quickly ruin the surface and leave the carpet wet and smelly. Even if the clean carpet is not dripping wet and shows only a slightly damp, start the drying process. Please don’t ignore your carpet to dry on its own.

vacuum cleaner at auto repair shop garage


The wet-dry vac is a versatile and valuable cleaning tool you need to have around your home. It can help you crush arduous tasks and save you from spending a fortune on renting a carpet cleaner from those commercial places.

These carpet cleaners come with accessories kits and powerful suction to help you get rid of dust, dirt, and water on both wet and dry surfaces.

So, for all stained areas on your carpet, pick up a shop vac and follow all the instructions on how to use a wet vac to clean carpet. Without a doubt, it gets the job done and keeps your house always sparkly clean. Not only would your carpet look so much better, but it would also last longer.