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How to Get Smells Out of a Rug

Whether your rug is new or old, you might be noticing an unpleasant smell coming out of the rug. You may be tempted to ignore the smell and hope it goes away on its own, or you may lose hope in the rug and choose to get rid of it. However, there are many ways to get various smells out of rugs and restore it to its proper glory. In order to do that, it is essential to know the cause of the smell, what treatments are approved for your rug’s material, and how to go about cleaning it.

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  1. Identify the Source of the Smell
  2. How to Get the Smell out of a New Rug
  3. How to Get the Smell out of a Musty Rug
  4. Preventative Measures

Identify the Source of the Smell

The first step in treating a smelly rug is to identify what is causing that smell. It could be that a pet had an accident on the rug while you were away, a child spilled something without telling you, or the rug was somehow exposed to excessive moisture and now has a mold problem. Another common issue is that you purchased a synthetic rug that has a chemical smell lingering in the rug’s fibers. In any of these cases, there are different solutions that work well in removing the smell and cleaning the source of it. While we will get to these solutions in just a moment, it’s important to look at the care label on your rug before attempting any solution, since different rug materials may have negative reactions to certain cleaners.

Queen Size Runner Rug

How to Get the Smell out of a New Rug

That “new rug smell” is often present in synthetic rugs like polypropylene, polyester, or other rugs labeled as synthetic. That is because in the process of creating these rugs, they are often treated with chemicals to make them fire resistant. These chemicals, known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), get released into the air through “off-gassing.” This natural process rarely affects anyone negatively aside from perhaps a headache for sensitive people. These rugs can be treated to remove that new rug smell, as can other natural rugs that may exude a farmhouse smell like sheepskin rugs. 

Step 1: Vacuum

  • Although this is a very simple solution, it is an effective one. Frequently vacuuming your rug over the first few days will help your rug settle and remove odors lingering at the rug’s surface. 

Step 2: Ventilate The Room

  • The next step in getting rid of that new rug smell is to simply ventilate the room. Lay the rug out across the room’s floor and open nearby windows and doors to provide proper ventilation. Oftentimes, ventilating the room and the rug for 72 hours is enough to remove that smell. For any lingering smells, move on to the next step. 

How to Get the Smell out of a New Rug (Continued)

Step 3: Fans

  • If your room doesn’t get sufficient natural airflow, use floor fans to expedite the process and help remove those odors. If you have an extra fan, set it in the window and then have the fan blow air outdoors to carry those odors outside of the home. Using fans and ventilation will speed up the process so that you see results far more quickly.

Step 4. Use an Air Purifier

  • If the first two steps fail, air purifiers can help remove the new rug smell. A portable air purifier that has an activated carbon filter can trap the air contaminants and help remove deep odors. Keep in mind that other air purifiers without a carbon filter will not be nearly as effective in removing the new rug smell. 
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Queen Size Runner Rug

How to Get the Smell out of a Musty Rug

A musty smell is likely present in the rug because of some exposure to moisture. Worst case scenario, your rug may actually be growing mold or mildew within its fibers. Fortunately, there are many simple ways to remove a musty smell and remove the source of the odor to ensure your rug is safe, clean, and pleasant. With each of these methods, be sure to test a portion of the rug with the cleaner before committing to cleaning the entire rug.

Dry the Rug

  • Since the rug’s musty smell is likely caused by moisture, the first step is to completely dry your rug. Ventilating the room with open windows and dehumidifiers can help you speed up the process and thoroughly dry your rug. After that step is done, move on to one of these cleaning methods that is approved for your specific rug material. 

Baking soda

  • Baking soda is one of the most common solutions used for cleaning rugs and removing odors. Begin with a small portion of the rug and pour a large amount of baking soda over it. Leave this baking soda to sit for a while before vacuuming it up. If the solution works on this portion of the rug, move on to treating the rest of the rug with baking soda. 

How to Get the Smell out of a Musty Rug (continued)

Vinegar solution

  • Treat a portion of your rug with a vinegar solution. Typically, this is one cup of white vinegar mixed with two cups of warm water. Then, apply this mixture to the rug through a spray bottle and spritz it over the rug’s surface. Many natural materials like jute and sisal are prone to water damage, so be careful to not use a large amount of this spray or else you may be back to the beginning with having a damp, musty rug. 

Enzyme cleaners

  • Enzyme cleaners are available in stores to help remove lingering smells from rugs and carpets. Bio-enzymes are highly recommended, since they destroy odor-causing bacteria in the rug’s fibers and convert them to carbon dioxide and water. 

Steam clean the rug

  • Note that not all rugs are able to handle the heat and moisture from a steam cleaner. On rugs that are approved for steam cleaners, you can easily use one of these cleaners to remove the odor and clean the rug’s fibers. 
Round rug for queen size bed

Preventative Measures

Caring for your rug according to its care instructions is the best way to get rid of bad smells before they even happen. The tag of your rug will instruct you on how to treat your specific rug material for various types of stains and dirt. With the proper daily care and regular cleaning, you can preserve the life of your rug and take preventative measures to keep the smells from festering in the first place. 

Knowledge is power when it comes to caring for your rug. If you have a natural material like jute that is sensitive to moisture and can grow mold when wet, avoid getting these rugs wet and take the time to dry them when they are exposed to liquids. Taking the extra steps to care for your rug is well worth it for maintaining a beautiful, clean rug!


Rug smells are highly unpleasant and can sully the mood of the entire room. Fortunately, there are many safe and simple ways to remove various odors from your area rug. The methods detailed above and the care instructions for your specific rug will help you get the smell out of your rug and enjoy having a rug in your home.

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