Many a proud new rug owner has spent time researching, scouted dealers all over town, and finally discovered that truly ideal area rug… but once all is said and done, the rug unrolled and in place, a strange smell slowly begins spreading throughout the house.

Panic may set in at this moment, or perhaps a bout of nausea, but be not afraid! Odd smells are a fairly common problem with rugs of all different fibers and constructions, and can usually be resolved by following a few simple steps.

Please remember, if your area rug continues to have problems with odor, especially if it is an aging or antique piece, bring it to your local oriental rug cleaner for a diagnosis and thorough professional cleaning. Always avoid using harsh chemicals on your rug, and test any cleaning solutions in an inconspicuous area first.

Those disclaimers aside, let’s check out some effective and minimally invasive remedies for removing funky area rug odors.


1. Vacuum Your Area Rug

As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, regular gentle vacuuming is the best thing you can do for your wool rug’s health.

Vacuuming (even without the roller brush) removes most particles from the rug’s pile, which often means removing the various smells that accompany them. Whether or not vacuuming will address the root cause of odor, it’s always a good place to start.

Odor removal is often a process of elimination, so if smells remain after vacuuming, just continue on to the following steps.


2. Take Advantage of Sunshine

One of the most effective methods of removing bacterial odors and mildew smells from wool area rugs is to harness the sun’s UV rays. Ultraviolet radiation disrupts the DNA of bacteria and fungus alike, killing the organisms that produce a pungent plethora of undesirable smells.

Take the affected rug outside on a dry sunny day and try to rig it up so that airflow and sunlight can reach the entire rug. If possible, hang it up on a fence, a few chairs, or a sturdy clothesline. If not, laying the rug out on a tarp or an old bedsheet should be sufficient.

After the area rug has been exposed to direct sunlight for a few hours, flip it over to expose the back side. This helps stave off excessive fading of the rug’s dye while allowing UV radiation to permeate the rug fully.

It may take several sessions of 4-6 hours, but direct exposure to sunlight is one of the most efficient and gentle methods of eliminating bacterial and fungal odors from area rugs, wool or otherwise.


3. Charcoal for Odor Absorption

If vacuuming and sun exposure fail to completely remove odors from an area rug, we must move on to more drastic measures.

Charcoal has long been known for its ability to absorb a wide swath of odorous organic compounds, including those that may be leaving your rug with its unique stench.

Find an old pair of nylon pantyhose (or a comparably breathable material) and fill them up with additive-free charcoal briquettes. Feel free to use whatever leftover charcoal you may have lying around from last weekend’s grill session.

Lay the charcoal-filled pantyhose across the top of the carpet and roll it up, laying down additional rows of charcoal-hose as you roll if the area rug is particularly large.

Once fully rolled, see if you can fit the rug in a plastic garbage bag; if not, wrap it in painter’s plastic or Saran wrap. Seal it as tightly as possible from the outside environment to ensure that the charcoal absorbs carpet odors, not whatever smells may be floating around the room.

After a few days, unwrap the rug and let it air out overnight. The procedure may be repeated if any strange scents linger.


4. The Kitty Litter Treatment

Much like charcoal, kitty litter—or rather, the natural clays it is composed of—does a wonderful job absorbing all sorts of offensive odors.

Move the rug to an out-of-the-way location where it won’t be exposed to foot traffic. Sprinkle unscented kitty litter all over the rug, but avoid grinding it down into the pile.

Depending on the severity of the smell, it may take a few days for the clay to fully absorb odors, so let the rug sit in peace.

After a day or two, shake off as much kitty litter as possible and vacuum the rug a few times. Ideally, the smell will vacuum right off with the litter.

If all of the above steps fail to mitigate your rug’s particular stench, please don’t hesitate to take it to a professional carpet cleaner. Some smells are just too deeply embedded for home treatment.

If you have any questions about rugs, stinky or otherwise, please feel free to contact us. We’ve been involved in the rug game for decades, and we’ve probably heard a stranger story of stench than yours… and we’d be happy to help you find some solutions.