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How to Dry a Rained-In Car

Yep. I’m speaking from experience on this one. It all started on Saturday when my handsome, weekend mechanic changed the oil in our cars. After I drove my car off the ramps I parked it on the street so Brad could work on our other cars. I was going to move my car back into the driveway when he was done, but it started to rain so I decided I’d move it in the morning. While Brad and I were watching this documentary (yeah, we’re worldly like that) later in the evening, I sat up and said, “Did I roll up the window on my car?” Thank goodness I threw on my rain boots and ran out into the pouring rain because no, no I didn’t roll up my window. And it had been pouring rain for four hours. FOUR HOURS.

how to dry a rained-in car

So here are my handy tips for drying out your rained-in car:

1. Curse.

2. Roll up the window and get the car into a covered area ASAP.
(I backed my car into our garage.)

3. Sit on towels when you move your car. This will help soak up some of the water and kind of keep you from getting a wet butt.

4. Towel off as much water as you can.

4. Grab a Shop Vac and turn it to the ‘wet’ setting. Vacuum the crap out of the wet areas of your car– seat, floor, everything. Be sure to get all the electronic-related areas (window/door/mirror buttons, door speaker, etc.). Don’t have a Shop Vac? Buy one. Seriously. The small ones are around $30. Money well spent.

how to dry out a car

5. After you’ve done all you can do with the towels and vacuum, grab as many fans as possible. (I went with a fan trifecta.) Turn on the fans. Open the door with the window that was rolled down. Position the fans on the areas that were saturated with water. Roll down the other windows in the car for better circulation. Air flow is very important because it will help thoroughly dry out the car and prevent mold.

how to dry a rained in car

6. Wait.

As of late Sunday evening, the fans have been blowing for 24 hours. I plan to leave them on for another 18-24 hours for a total of 42-48 hours. If some spots are still wet today I’ll grab my hair dryer and get to work.

If you have a dehumidifier that can be easily moved, you can put it near the car. Someone suggested Damp Rid, which is available at big box stores. I ended up getting these Damp Rid bags that I hung from the hanger hooks in my backseat.

Can’t get your hands on Damp Rid? Put a few boxes of opened baking soda (available in the baking section of any grocery or big box store) in your car. If you have to drive around, I’d suggest putting them in a separate container so they don’t tip and spill all over your car.

If you can’t move your car into a garage, I’d suggest letting your car idle (again, outside, not in a closed environment) with the windows up and the air conditioner turned to the max setting. The air conditioner will help pull the moisture out of the air in the car.

Have you ever done this?
Any additional tips?

Be sure to check out my other popular organization and cleaning posts below! There’s tons of great stuff to pin to read later!

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  1. I actually find this very helpful for future reference – i pinned this. Thanks.
    But really really sorry this happened to you!

    1. I don’t have the luxury of owning a garage so no covered area for me to do this in.

    2. We left the rear sliding door open to our van and it was rained into for a serious overnight rainstorm. We tried all the things in this post and found it tough to do… The wet dry vac did nothing and the fans were not super effective. And then we, out of desperation, put the most soaked removable seat in the smallest room in the house (a bathroom) with a dehumidifier that we use with the basement. Low and behold, our seat was dry by morning. We repeated with the car nearly closed up (except for a space for the cord to come out and plug in to run the dehumidifier — and the car is now mostly dry. Plan to repeat finally with the last seat and console for the second row that got wet but not so bad. I recommend using a very strong dehumidifier for several hours.

  2. I unfortunately had to do this once before, in college, and a Shop Vac is the ticket! I had driven my parents’ SUV one night and had left the moon roof wide open, and it rained all.night.long. I was in the house and could hear my dad shout my name all the way from the street when he discovered it!! Both seats were soaked (cloth, not leather), and the cup holders were full of water. Thankfully the console with the radio didn’t get it, or else I would have been out a whole lot of money!

    1. My son just did this same thing last night. I didn’t think to check to see if the radio still works. Thanks!

  3. Ugh, what a pain! Thanks for sharing what you’ve learned.

  4. I live in Indiana as well and boy we had a down pour. At least you threw on your rain boots. I don’t have rain boots so I’m not sure what I would have thrown on-oh wait-I would have sent my husband out to move the car. Actually he would have done it without being asked as I use a cane.
    Thanks for the advice on how to dry out a car. It might come in handy some day.

  5. If you notice ANYTHING weird with anything electrical take it in immediately. My sunroof gutters clogged and flooded my last car and we didn’t realize there was still water under the rugs until it was way to late. The computer (which in my 99 Passat) was under the drivers seat in a well where the water collected and when we finally figured it out two weeks later there was still water there AND the computer looked like it came out of the titanic. 🙁

  6. Been there. Whatever you do, don’t buy a teenaged girl a convertible. This WILL happen. But it recovered ok. Hope yours does too!

  7. Oh no! I did this one time in our old family Jeep, but with all of the windows down, all night. The car forever smelled like musty cardboard whenever the air was damp. Wish I’d had this back then! 😉

  8. Yikes! That stinks! BTW It’s “thank goodness I THREW on my rain boots” I had trouble understanding you at first!

  9. I used to have a sunroof that leaked. All the time. Damp Rid is Amazing stuff! If you can find it, get the Damp Rid that cones in a hanging plastic bag. It’s way less messy than the bowl-like container. You nay want to get a couple and either use more than one at a time or to change it out after one is used up.

    Also, if you’re going to leave your doors open for that long, it’s good to remember to turn off the interior lights (if they don’t shut off automatically). Otherwise, you’ll also be dealing with a dead battery!

    Good luck!

    1. Actually I did this just now. Was told first and foremost to unplug the battery terminals. Not to drive the car at all until completely dry and not use auxiliary power either as this could get any water left into the Electric computer of the car and or other electrical parts and thus total the car. Tow it home. Cover it inside or canopy. Open doors. Remove carpet if possible. Remove seats if possible. This would require help from someone who knows what they’re doing. Then do everything else above. Damp rid will help too. I’m told either it’ll be ok or it’ll never be the same again? This was told to me by one body man my dad who has worked on cars forever and a mechanic both.

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  16. Guess what I will be doing on my half day off from work… drying out my husband’s truck. Ugh. He asked me to check the windows on his truck last night, and well… I forgot. Waking up to the sound of rain was delightful for about 5 seconds this morning.

  17. I did this saturday, we havent had this much rain in the mtns of north carolina in a while! Im sitting on the couch with my boyfriend and we are talking about how it is coming a flood and such a nasty day then come to realize that my sunroof on my car had been opened since the night before!!! now i left my sunroof open the night before, i guess we got home around 11 that night, rained most of the night and all day the next day! didnt realize i had left my sunroof open till 4pm the next day!!! I AM ANKLE DEEP IN WATER RIGHT NOW!!! soaked up most of the water in the seats and dash with towels yesterday! sat on a towel to work this morning, fanned it out all night last night, helped alot but shop vac is calling my name at lunch. Damp rid helps especially if the floor is soaked and uh mine def is! made sure to put leather protector on this morning for my seats! if anyone has any more suggestions please let me know! WET and MAD!

  18. Never use damprid in your car!! I made this mistake and it ruined the leather interior. The carwash refused to attempt cleaning it for fear cleaning supplies will only worsen the damage. The car dealership told me the best shot is to completely replace the back row bench if your car gets rained in, time and fans are the best way to go!

    1. Elyse,
      How did the DampRid ruin your leather interior? Did you sprinkle the DampRid crystals in the car or leave them in the container they came in?

        1. Hi Chelsea,
          Did the hanging Damp Rid bags help with the moisture in the car or were they a problem? I need to know if/how to use the Damp Rid bags. I accidentally left the windows slightly open on my husband’s car, which got wet from rain.

          1. I don’t have a garage that I can leave the car open in with fans. I blotted the seats with towels, but my husband had to go to work. 🙁

          2. I hung one from one the shirt hooks in the backseat after I let the fans run. It wouldn’t hurt to get a couple and hang them. Any moisture that’s in the car gets absorbed by the bags– you can see the water in the bags.

          3. Thanks, Chelsea! I appreciate your help with this!

  19. I had just did this to my brand new 2015 dodge. I left the windows cracked so it would be so hot when I got in. It started to storm really bad and had totally forgotten that I left the windows cracked. I was at work by the way and when it was time to go home, I walked out to my car and it was soaked! All the cup holders in the front and the back seat were filled with water. My car hadn’t even had 1000 miles yet! My Co worker saw the inside and we quickly tried to dry as much as we could it took three days for it to completely dry and I sprayed all floors with lysol to be on the safe side

  20. I’ll make a long story short. Working on truck with windows down, battery dies, said we’d worry about it tomorrow, rains, inside of truck soaked. Just so you know, your #1 rule is very important! Thanks for the tips 🙂

  21. Great tips! I left all four windows down *and* the sunroof open last night 😮

    One thing to note is not to use the “max” A/C setting, which typically recirculates the air in the car rather than allowing fresh air to come in from outside. Assuming it’s more humid in the car than out you would want to use the regular A/C mode so that as much of the moisture gets flushed out as possible.

  22. VERY important tip! Some cars have power seat controls, this can be very dangerous as they can malfunction when water gets in. I had a mercedes C350, left the sunroof and driver window open and I came back to a soaked interior. After I somewhat soaked most of the water. I went for a drive, as I was driving I tried to tilt my seat back the all the sudden my seat pushed my entire body forward with every setting, bringing me inches away from the windshield. I couldn’t stop it and I almost crashed. I’m a fairly big guy and I was completely pressed onto the steering wheel but somehow managed to stop the car. Be sure to check little things like this as it could kill you.

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  24. I bought Weather Tech floor mats right after I bought my SUV. Although, I felt super guilty because I spent $250 on floor mats (yes, very expensive, but this was my first brand new car and I always heard how the floors always get stained and wet, and muddy….you get my drift), I was so relieved I had them when I left a window open during a tropical storm! The mats held up all the water and we just vacuumed it with the wet vac. We removed them and to my husband’s surprise, the floor of the car was completely dry and it look like new (this is after 3 years of use). It was the best investment for the seat, I did the towels, wet vac, more towels, fans, and then open doors and let the sunshine do its thing!!

  25. Hi South Street Collision ,
    This was a great information about the resolving of issue permanently in a car during driving easily by using the service of Victoria car removal in Melbourne with in a short period of time a start your journey safe and fast without any trouble shoot ,If your car is still running before you sell it to the junkyard due to any kind of issue then you must use the service of car removal in Melbourne , you might want to use up the gasoline in the tank before you have it towed away. Depending on the size of the tank in your car or truck, the value of the gasoline in the tank can represent a substantial portion of the total value of the price you’re getting from the junkyard. If your car isn’t running, be careful if you attempt to siphon gasoline from the tank. Use only approved containers to carry the gasoline, and never start a siphon using your mouth. Don’t worry about the value of the gas to the junkyard. They’ll have to drain all the fluids out of your car before recycling or scrapping the parts, and gasoline in the tank is a nuisance for them.
    Thanks .

  26. Thanks for this post! I have a question about the damp rid. Is it best to seal all the windows, or does it need air flow ?

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  33. This happened to us today. Apparently, my kiddo left the driver door WIDE OPEN and I didn’t realize it until after 6.5 HOURS of very very heavy rain. Unfortunately, I have no choice but to drive in the morning. Any issues I need to watch out for?? Is it safe to drive??

  34. Great post, thanks for sharing. We are Dri-Masters a carpet cleaning service in the U.S., and we too receive wet carpet complaints, which we go about using our water extraction process. However, tips to treat a rained car mentioned here are genius too. Glad i came across this blog, learnt something new!

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  36. Very interesting content for cars. I also use your tips in rain. good sharing.

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