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Joseph in Florida with wet interior

On the June 13, 2009 Cartalk show, Joseph will be in trouble with his wife because he left the windows open on her car during a rain storm and soaked the interior.

Click and Clack recommended using ShamWow to wick up the water; then use a wet/dry vacuum to get more of the water out; then use the car’s airconditioner to dry the carpet the rest of the way; and then take the car to a detailer to get the smell out.

I had other ideas. Instead of wet/dry vacuum use a spot carpet shampooer. These have high vacuum; are efficient in getting water out of carpet and padding; and the collected water is immediately visible. Instead of using the car A/C, a household dehumidifier could be used. I am sure a dehumidifier unit would be available in Florida if not from the house or from a neighbor then from a rental establishment. After the first two steps have been done, park the car in a sunny spot; put the dehumidifier on the front floor; string the power cord through a cracked window; run it an hour or so, empty the drain pan; and continue until everything is dry. The detailer would still have to handle the smell.

Well I guess you could, but the car’s A/C is essentially a dehumidifier and you don’t have to run anything anywhere.

Advantages of using a household dehumidifier:

  1. It does not cool the air. In fact it will cause the temperature to rise a bit which would help the evaporation of the water.

  2. To do an effective job the A/C or dehumidifier will have to run a long time. In addition to the gasoline being used to run the A/C, I would be leery to leaving a car running unattended for long periods of time standing outside. Electricity is relatively cheap compared to gasoline for the same effect. Plus you can do it inside the garage if you choose.

  3. By watching the catch pan in the dehumidifier, you can tell the progress of the drying. Whereas, the car would have to be moved to a new spot to verify that the drain has stopped dripping.

Advantage of using the car’s A/C

  1. The A/C would cool the interior which would slow the growth of algae and mold until all the water was out of the carpet, pad, seats, and door panels.

Joseph… I can tell you from experience that the best & fastest way to go is to take your wifes car to a detail shop and have them remove the seats & carpet… Sounds like a big job but it really isn’t… It will take forever using a Wet Vac and Cars AC or Dehumidifier and you will never get the moisture out of rug pad and floor pan. To properly dry things out, the carpet needs to be removed so that the pad (under the carpet) can be dried out also . Doing this will prevent any Mold , Mildew, ect from forming and damaging the carpet & pad… You can use a dehumidifier in the car & run the AC to remove any additional moisture from Upolstery, AC/Heat Vents, etc once this is done… D’ont take shortcuts on this (especially living in Florida), or you may really regret it over time. With windows up & in Florida Sun the moisture will continue to develop and condensate on inside of windows, on car upholstery and every thing else inside… Take the time to do it right and you wont have any headaches in the future with the car or your lovely wife… Good Luck Pal…

I would think that just vacuuming and then parking the car in a sunny spot with the windows down for a couple of days would get most if not all of the moisture out. Then the detailer could take care of the rest.

Ok if you can remove the sears and carpet when the carpet is out spray with a carpet cleaner and shop vac it.Check the seats for wetness,make sure the doors are not filled with water,there are drains under the doors.There might be elec.items under the carpet ONE ITEM IS FOR THE AIR BAGS AND WILL BE MARKED AND IT WILL HAVE YELLOW WIRES DO NOT TOUCH IT.If the wind was blowing the water will have gotten on and in the dash this might be a problem one day.If you can not do this take it to a detail shop and have it done soon.I deal in cars on the side (I make more doing this but my wife likes the weakly check.)you might want to think about trading this in.I have had cars that I sold and there have been problems in a year or two.they now go to auction.

From the world of building science? an answer with no practical solution.

Though the air conditioner is a dehumidifier, all it can do remove water vapor from the air. The water vapor in the air is, I gather, not the problem. After all, Florida has a lot of water vapor in the air all the time and it never threatened to get Joseph in trouble with his wife before.

Between the two systems available in the car: cooling and heating, the one that will work for this problem is the heat! The water in the carpets and seats needs to change phase from liquid to vapor, then an open door will allow it to drift away. In order to phase-change you need to add energy to the liquid water. Heating adds energy to the interior of the car, cooling removes it.

Since the air in Florida this time of year is so warm and humid, to quickly evaporate water the car is going to have to get really hot. As the interior of the car heats up, the relative humidity of the air inside will drop and that will allow the air to carry more moisture, essentially sucking the water out of the carpets. Eventually the air in the car will get saturated and at that point the air needs to be swapped out for some fresh air that can be superheated, saturated and swapped all over again.

Now, Tom and Ray are going to have to help out on this part. What’s the fastest way to heat up the inside of a car? I don’t think letting the thing idle at the curb with the heat on high is going to get the car hot enough. Doesn’t the car have to be driven around at high speeds so the engine gets hot? Who volunteers to drive a car around Florida in July with the windows closed and the heat on high?

Li Ling