5 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 decide on the best way to clean your rug to remove the odour. This blog post explores the common culprits and the best ways to combat unwanted rug smells.

5 Reasons Why Your Rug 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 smells easily as liquid penetrates the fibres, causing a strong scent that becomes very difficult to remove. Even after cleaning, the smell of urine or sick may intensify over 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!). Then, 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 rug completely.
Allow to soak for 10 minutes, then use a layer of paper towels to soak up the liquid. Once the rug 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, try some commercial stain removers. Note that some work better than others, depending on the rug’s material.

2. Moisture or Dampness


When a rug smells musty, it’s sometimes due to it being saturated with moisture. This wet rug smell can occur from many different scenarios, including floods, potted plants, leaking humidifiers, general spills, wet shoes or damp storage spaces. The most common rugs affected are kitchen rugs, bathroom rugs or rugs placed in colder, damp spaces, such as the basement. Depending on the amount of moisture in the rug, a few home remedies can be used to eliminate the musty rug smell before calling professionals. In some cases, such as cleaning shaggy rugs, vacuuming the damp rug and hanging it out in the sunshine will be enough to stop the odour. 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 the rug for a day or two.
  • Take outside to shake off the cat litter, or if not possible, shake it into a rubbish bag and vacuum completely.
    Repeat if necessary.

Alternatively, if you are tight for space, 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 the charcoal from 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. Then, unroll the rug, remove the charcoal and vacuum as usual. If there is still a musty smell, repeat the process using new charcoal pieces. If there are creases in your carpet from being rolled up, follow our guide to flattening a carpet that’s been folded.

If these techniques do not eliminate the musty rug smell, it might be time to call 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. This can be common in some Persian rugs and requires specific Persian rug cleaning methods. Unfortunately, the latex can sometimes deteriorate and produce a foul smell due to poor quality control. 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, the smell will only worsen 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 break down 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 style.

5. Wool Rugs

Wool rugs or carpets are made from sheep fibres, and so due to their ability to absorb moisture from the air, they can take on an unpleasant ‘wool carpet smell’ that’s reminiscent of a wet dog! Similarly, authentic sheepskin rugs can take on a ‘musky’ smell if not cleaned often. To remove wool rug smells and clean sheepskin rugs, there are steps you can take to alleviate or remove the awful odour.

  • Firstly, you want to ensure that the rug is completely dry. If your rug is holding any moisture, follow the steps above to remove any wetness from the rug. Moisture is usually the culprit for wool carpet smells, so be sure to check your rug thoroughly first.
  • If your rug isn’t wet, try hanging your rug outside on a clothesline to remove any odours. This will help to remove any dampness you may not have noticed, but also allows fresh air to remove any lingering odours.
  • If you live in a humid climate, try hanging your rug inside with a fan blowing onto it. The increased airflow will help remove the wool rug smell by separating the individual wool fibres, releasing any trapped smells.
  • If airing your rug hasn’t removed the odour, sprinkle a liberal amount of baking soda onto the rug. Let this sit for at least an hour (or overnight, if you have the time), then vacuum it up. Baking soda is magic for removing smells, as it acts as an odour absorbent. Flip the rug over and repeat this step on the other side of your rug to remove the wool rug smell

Hopefully, this post will help you identify the cause of that musty smell in the future and provide you with some useful tips on getting rid of any unwanted rug smells.