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The Best Way to Dry Out a Wet Car Interior

Just opened the door to some wet carpet after a heavy rain? Maybe you forgot to close the sunroof and now have a wet butt for the ride home. Hey, it happens.

The good news is you can remove excess water from the inside of your car by following 3 easy steps: water removal, drying, and moisture removal. Unless your vehicle has been completely flooded, there a a couple of key DIY drying methods that work wonders.

Caution!

In cases of vehicle flooding or total water submersion, contact your insurance company; never attempt to dry out or turn on a vehicle when water damage is severe and if mold and bacteria may be present. Always keep electrical systems turned off if you have a flooded car.

In this post, you’ll learn the best way to dry out your car’s interior AND what drying method to choose for your situation.

Determine how much excess water is in your vehicle

To begin, open the doors to assess where water is coming from. If you only feel damp water spots in certain areas, you may have a slow dripping leak. For convertibles or soft tops, check any corners or trim work for gaps where water might be entering.

Remove your floor plug if necessary

If water is pooling up in the floorboard, remove your vehicle’s floor plugs to let the water escape (if you have plugs). Normally there are  2 drain plugs in the front floorboards and 2 in the back that can be popped out from the outside.

Look for clogs in sunroof drainage tubes

Clogged drainage tubes, although less common, can cause water to enter your vehicle when clogged. Drainage tubes are common in vehicles with a sunroof or moon roof and can be unclogged with compressed air or even a piece of fabric connected to a fishing line.

Select the best drying method for your situation

While a dry microfiber towel can absorb some water, you’ll need a better method for standing water. Always remove visible water promptly instead of waiting, and keep your doors open for proper ventilation throughout the drying process. Remove and hang up your floor mats to start, while you proceed to one of these 4 drying methods.

Option 1: Microfiber Drying Towels

Best for: Dampness and minor spills

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Microfiber drying towel.

Have a few damp areas or a small amount of water? Use what’s called a microfiber drying towel or a few regular microfiber towels. Pat the affected area to absorb any water you can, and apply a carpet cleaning spray for freshness if needed. While you’re at it, turn your air conditioner on full blast since the circulation setting will help remove any remaining water from the cabin. Never use paper towels since they’ll leave lint.

Option 2: Portable Wet/Dry Vacuum

Best for: Carpets and seats; standing water

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Use a wet/dry vacuum like a Shop Vac to suck up standing water or squishy-sounding waterlogged carpet. Don’t use a standard car vac to suck up water, since the motors are not designed for water. These are great to have for normal auto detailing too.

After vacuuming, let some fresh air in by opening the doors in direct sunlight if you can, or use a fan to help evaporate any remaining moisture.

Option 3: Floor Dryers and Fans

Best for: Large, wet areas

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carpet dryer with blower fan.

You may need a carpet dryer (also called a blower fan) if you have more water than you can absorb with a towel. Carpet dryers are the fastest way to dry a wet interior because they concentrate air close to the ground. These devices can be left on for several hours and will accelerate the evaporation process to prevent mold and mildew.

Quick Tip

To dry wet car seats, you can either use a hair dryer on a cool setting or a portable fan; never apply hot air to seats or carpet as you can melt or burn the fabric or leather.

Option 4: Dehumidifiers and Moisture Absorbers

Best for: Odor prevention

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Damp Rid moisture absorber.

Once you’ve sucked up the water, the next step is to capture any leftover moisture as it evaporates over time. A good car moisture absorber can help prevent funky smells, even if you’re not dealing with a wet car interior.

I like Damp Rid because you can see how much water has been removed after a few days. For regular odor prevention, a charcoal moisture-absorbing bag is a good way to remove excess moisture if you forgot to remove that Diet Coke bottle last week

car charcoal moisture absorber.
Image of a charcoal moisture absorber.

You can use a portable electric dehumidifier to remove excess moisture but only do so after you’ve extracted all the water you can.

Bring in the professionals if needed

You can remove a lot of moisture yourself, but it’s a good idea to seek professional help in some cases or if you don’t feel comfortable; companies like Roto-Rooter or plumbing companies can assist.

 Call a local plumbing or water removal company like a Roto-Rooter if you don’t feel comfortable taking it on yourself. Some auto detailers can likely help remove signs of water damage later on once everything dries.

Need to deep clean your carpet next?

Removing water is part one, but you’ll want to clean your carpet at some point to freshen things up. Check out our post on how to clean carpets for beginners for an easy-to-follow tutorial.

If you need help making your car look amazing inside and out, get our video course, Washing and Detailing for Beginners, and use code BLOG for 15% off at checkout.

This course is packed with the basics that took me years to understand and master, and will save you time, money, and a lot of headaches. Good luck :)

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Baxter Overman is the founder of Carwash Country and has been been cleaning up dirty vehicles for nearly 20 years. Since 2017, he's helped thousands of beginners see better results by learning the fundamentals of washing and detailing. He's on a mission to make the car wash process more fun...and way easier.

1 thought on “The Best Way to Dry Out a Wet Car Interior”

  1. I will be leaving my car for six months during the winter in Oregon. I purchased a car cover and it will be in a carport open on the sides. Last year I left my Volkswagen in that position and it and mold took over most surfaces. It was horrible. I’m thinking of getting a electric dehumidifier and wonder what your recommendation would be. Thank you

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