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4 Best Ways to Remove Odors From an Area Rug

/ related-hand-knotted-rugs-under-100 / rug care

Many proud new area rug owners have spent time researching, scouting dealers all over town, and finally discovering their truly ideal area rug... but once all is said and done, their rug unrolled and in place, a strange smell slowly begins spreading throughout their house.

Panic usually sets in at this moment, but don't be 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.

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For over 30 years, RugKnots has crafted, imported and delivered the very highest quality rugs from the heart of Pakistan, where skilled artisans have passed down ancient oriental rug hand knotting secrets for generations.

Please remember, if your area rug continues to have problems with odor, especially if it's an aging or antique piece, take 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 of your rug first.

Those disclaimers aside, we want to give you 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

remove rug odor

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 area rug outside on a dry, sunny day and 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 bed sheet will do!

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 area 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, gentle methods of eliminating bacterial and fungal odors from area rugs, wool rugs or otherwise.

3. Charcoal for Odor Absorption

charcoal absorbs odors

If vacuuming and sun exposure fail to completely remove odors from an area rug, it's time to 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 area 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 rug 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 area 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

kitty litter rug odor removal

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 for a while.

After a day or two, shake off as much of the 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 here at RugKnots. We’ve been involved in the rug buesiness for decades, and we’ve probably heard a stranger stench story than yours... and we’d be happy to help you find some solutions.

4 Easy Ways To Remove Odors From Rugs

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4 comments


  • @J.D.
    That’s great! :) We’re working on updating this blog soon with more tips. Happy to hear a remedy you found worked to get rid of the odor. :)

    RugKnots Area Rugs on

  • I used about halfs in a bowl with fresh lemon juice. It worked over a couple of days. The odor is gone. I found this tip on line. The off gassing was very strong and now I can’t smell it. Mine is a rug that I purchased from Wayfair.

    J.D. on

  • @Kathleen Anderson
    You can definitely keep that rug; try following the tips we give in this blog, and if that doesn’t work, there’s always the option of looking up a professional cleaner. Hope you’re able to figure it out!

    RugKnots Area Rugs on

  • I have a new area rug made of wool and cotton that smells like an old fashioned permanent hair solution (sulfur?). It has made the whole second level of my house smell. At first I thought it was the shower drain in the nearby bathroom that smelled. After 2 weeks I finally smelled the rug and that is definitely where the smell is coming from. The problem is that I really like the rug.

    Kathleen Anderson on

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