4 Reasons Why Your Rug Smells

We’ve all smelt it, that new rug smell. Some people love it and some people hate it. However, no matter how you feel, that new rug smell disappears and you can finally appreciate your new decorative centrepiece without any odorous distractions. Over time, your rug can be the victim of spillages, wear and tear, or accidents, especially in a busy family home. This means that every so often, your rug may require a deep clean to refresh and revive it to its former glory. But first things first, knowing the cause of why your rug smells will help you to decide on the best way to remove the odour. This blog post explores the common culprits and the best ways to combat any unwanted smells.

1.    Pet Problems

Our beloved pets can sometimes use our rugs as a bathroom, causing the distinct smell of urine to needlessly linger around the home. Wool rugs absorb liquid easily as they penetrate the fibres, causing a strong scent that becomes very difficult to remove. Even after cleaning, the smell of urine or vomit may intensify over a period of time. This is due to the bacteria being activated by water, which causes the smell to return once again, but even more potent. Accidents happen, so it’s best to try and clean up the urine whilst it is still wet. If the urine dries, it stains the rug and increases bacteria growth. To prevent this, place a layer of paper towels over the wet area of the rug and walk over them to try and absorb as much of the urine as possible right away (wear shoes for this process!). To try and neutralise the pet odour simply:
  • Create a vinegar cleaning solution consisting of one part white vinegar and one part water.
  • Slowly pour the solution onto the stained area, pouring enough of it so that the solution reaches the carpet fibres to neutralise the carpet completely.
  • Allow to soak for 10 minutes, then use a layer of paper towels to soak up the liquid. Once the carpet is almost dry (this may be hours later) sprinkle baking soda on the area to absorb the odour.
  • Allow the baking soda to absorb into the rug fibres for 15 minutes then vacuum the rug.
  • If this doesn’t work, then try some commercial stain removers. Note, that some work better than others depending on the material of the rug.

2.    Moisture or Dampness

When a rug smells musty, it’s sometimes due to a rug being saturated with moisture. This wet rug smell can occur from many different scenarios including floods, potted plants, leaking humidifiers, general spills, or damp storage spaces. The most common rugs that are affected are kitchen rugs or rugs that are placed in colder, damp spaces, such as the basement. Depending on the amount of moisture in the rug, a few home remedies could be tested to eliminate the musty smell of the rug before calling in the professionals. In some cases, vacuuming the damp rug and hanging it out in the sunshine will be enough to stop the odour. In order to stop fading, hang the rug face up in the sun for an hour or two and then reverse until it is completely dry. However, if the rug is wet do not leave it directly in the sun as it may shrink – particularly if it is made from wool. Another commonly used method is using cat litter to absorb the moisture and odours.
  • Move the rug into a clean space where it cannot be stepped on.
  • Vacuum the rug to remove any dirt or debris.
  • Generously sprinkle unscented cat litter over the rug. Do not step on the cat litter on the carpet as it will crush it into the rug fibres and retain the musty smell.
  • Let this sit on rug for a day or two.
  • Take outside to shake off the cat litter, or if not possible then shake into a rubbish bag then vacuum completely.
  • Repeat if necessary.
Alternatively, if you are tight for space, then take a pair of tights and cut the legs off, as close to the crotch as possible.
  • Fill each leg with additive free charcoal pieces, leaving enough room to tie the ends.
  • Tie the top of the tights tightly to prevent charcoal spilling out. Place the charcoal tights at the top of the rug near the edge and begin tightly rolling up the rug, depending on the size of the rug you may need to add another pair of charcoal filled tights after a couple of rolls.
  • Leave the rug rolled up for a day or two. Unroll the rug, remove the charcoal and vacuum as usual. If there is still a musty smell then repeat the process using new charcoal pieces.
If these techniques do not eliminate the musty smell then it might be time to call in the professional carpet cleaners.

3.    Latex backing

Not many, but some tufted rugs have a latex backing sewn onto them to help keep the rug together. Due to poor quality control, the latex can sometimes deteriorate and produce a foul smell. Some brand new rugs, including modern rugs, will have that ‘new rug smell’ which is a milder version of this smell. However, if they have a poor latex backing then the smell will only get worse once washed. Our advice is to check the smell of the rug backing before purchasing.

4.    Age

Rugs are made from fibres and over time, these fibres breakdown and cause an unwanted musty smell. As well as the pungent odour, these rug fibres also release dust that can contribute to allergies. Unfortunately, this old smell cannot be cleaned out of a rug and it may be time to replace it. If you are in need of a new rug, check out our beautiful rug collection and choose your favourite rug to refresh your home both in smell and in style. Hopefully this post will help you to identify the cause of that musty smell in future and provide you with some useful tips on how to get rid of any unwanted rug smells. Our rug cleaning guide offers more tips and information on how to clean and care for your rug properly to keep it looking (and smelling) its best. If you have any questions about your new rug or if you are considering a new rug purchase, read our blog which is full of tips and advice ranging from rug care right through to style inspiration.