Removing Musty Smell From Wool Rugs

I bought two beautiful rugs made in India. They are cut wool pile and were a great bargain. Now that they are in my house, they smell very musty and visitors have commented. I have used the fabric deodorizer sprays and hung them out to air but the smell lingers on. What can I do?

Cass from Vandalia, OH

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There are several things you can do:

1) The easiest would be to hang the rugs outside in the sunshine on a strong clothesline or lay them outside on a large tarp or shower curtian liner from the dollar store. I'd set or hang them face up for about an hour or 2 (but no more or they might fade) Then hang them face down for the rest of the day. Make sure the day you hang them outside is NOT humid, but a hot sunny day. It's the UV rays in the sunshine that kill the mold & bacteria & the fresh air also does some good to!

2) You can sprinkle a mixture of half Borax (20 mule team) & half baking soda. Mix these 2 together & sprinkle from a parmesan cheese type shaker (avail at most $1 stores) on to your rug. Leave the baking soda/borax mix on the rugs overnight then vacuum them until they are clean.

3) If none of the above suggestions works, you can sprinkle them with cheapie Walmart cat litter (under $3) the old fashioned kind made with clay. Leave this clay kitty-litter on overnight & don't walk on it. Then either vacuum it up with a shop vac, or if you only have an upright vacuum & you don't want to overwork it, roll the rugs up & take them outside to shake the clay cat litter off, then beat the rugs, then vacume. The clay in the cat litter will absorb & suck up any moisture & odors. Cat littler put in a nylon stocking leg also absorbs moisture from car trunks, RVs & other moist places.

4) If all else fails, you'll have to dry-clean them. This will cost you quite a bit if your rugs are large (Maybe $100) ...But do yourself a favor, go to a reputable dry-cleaners & MAKE SURE they use NEW dry-cleaning fluid! ... I had a dry-cleaner ruin a large fluffy white wool rug of mine that my mother had brought back from Greece because they used old dry-cleaning fluid. The white rug turned a dirty gray. They will try & reuse old dry-cleaning fluid because it cost them more money to use new & the rug is so large. So to save money, they may rip you off... Just make extra sure they use new dry-cleaning fluid!

5) You can wash a rug yourself. You can either with the foam on stuff, a rental machine (be sure the fringe doesn't get caught up in it!) or with plain BABY shampoo (Baby shampoo washes of easier!) and a new mop & a hose. Even wool rugs can be washed with cold water. If your rugs are antiques, consult with a professional before washing or dry-cleaning so they retain their value!

6) This is the best option for cleaning a rug or carpeting: Here's a way to dry-clean your carpets yourself without using any harsh chemicals. Here's a web site that sells what professional rug cleaners use. It's basically the same thing, only for smaller areas... All you need is the dry-cleaner & maybe the roller-type thing that pushes the granules down into your carpet, then finish off with a really good vacuuming. This stuff is simply AMAZING! It cleans the rugs, removes stains & odors & kills dust mites too!


Daisy roller brush $29

Dry Carpet Shaker Pack $14.95

HERE'S THE SITE: ... t-carpet-care-cleaning-products.html


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Charcoal! Put some cheap, plain charcoal briquettes in old pantyhose (or similar so they don't touch rug directly and get black on them) and wrap up with rugs--ie. in a plastic tarp or old sheets or a large trunk--whatever works for the size of the rug in question. This also works with musty smelling luggage, shoes, etc.

Good luck! Karen

P.S. Hanging them outside to air out can sometimes help too.

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Try tea tree oil found in health food stores.A bottle will cost about 6 dollars,but will go a very long way. A teaspoon or two in 8 ounces of water. Spray it on the rug, front and back. Do not soak the rug. Keep pets and kids away until it drys... great for mold and mildew too. Just be careful when you spray it, the smell will go away after awhile.

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I am having the same problem with a beautiful wool area rug I bought from Sam's Club. The box has the company G.A. Gertmenian & Sons Los Angeles, on it. I've emailed Sam's but it's too early for a response.

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I purchased a rug from Aga John Oriental Rugs that has a spell of old musty wool that permeates thru out the room its in, the longer it stays in the room the worse the odor gets. Aga John will not do anything about it and unless I get legal counsel I have no recourse. Would like to know if anyone out there has had the same problem and how they resolved it.

Thank you.

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In This Article
Musty Smelling Carpet
Cleaning Musty Smelling Carpets
Home and Garden Cleaning CarpetApril 29, 2008
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