How to Get Bad Smells Out of Your Rug

Erin Moroccan Diamond Tassel from Diana by NuLoom

You walk into your living room and notice a strange odor in the air. You check the pets- nothing unusual there. You look around the room to see if someone accidentally left a dirty dish laying out, but you don’t see anything. Suddenly, you figure it out- the smell is coming from your rug. You’re not sure what caused it, but you know that if you can’t get rid of that smell, you’ll need to get rid of your rug.

Removing smells from rugs can be tricky. While many rugs are durable, some cannot handle rough chemicals that come with everyday carpet cleaners. So, how do you get bad smells out of your rug? Read this guide to find out.

Surface Odors

CAP702Q from Cape Cod by Safavieh

If the smell on your rug is just a general smell or is the result of a food smell, you’ll want to use this method to remove the odor.

You’ll need:

  • Broom
  • Vacuum
  • Water
  • White vinegar
  • Spray bottle
  • Dustpan
  • Soft cloths

Once you have the supplies gathered, follow these steps to remove the surface odor:

  1. Sprinkle your rug liberally with baking soda
  2. If you believe the odor goes slightly beyond the surface, grab a broom and brush the baking soda so it penetrates more deeply into the fibers.
  3. Allow the baking soda to sit overnight. If you need to walk on the rug during this time, or you don’t trust kids to stay off of it, place a sheet or a blanket over the rug.
  4. Next, sweep the top layer of baking soda into a dustpan, or shake the rug outside.
  5. Vacuum up the remaining baking soda.
  6. If the odor is still present, use a mixture of equal parts water and vinegar. Either blot the mixture onto the rug using a soft cloth or pour the mixture into a spray bottle and spray evenly over the rug.
  7. Allow the mixture to sit for about 15 minutes. Blot it with a clean cloth.
  8. Spray the rug with clean water and allow it to dry.
  9. Repeat until the odor is removed.

Deep Odors

BBE-2308 from Berber Shag by Surya

To remove deep odors from your rug, you’ll need:

  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • A towel
  • A fan

Once you have the supplies, follow these steps:

  1. Locate the source of the odor. You’ll have to get up close and personal with your rug.
  2. Test the alcohol on a very small, hidden portion of your rug to make sure there isn’t a negative reaction.
  3. If the rug is fine after testing, pour some of the alcohol onto the smelly area.
  4. Wait ~15 minutes. Use a clean towel to soak up any excess liquid.
  5. Point a fan on the area to help it dry.

Specific Odors

If you can figure out what the odor is, you can take more specific steps to remove the smell.

While there are all kinds of odors that can emit from your rug, we’re going to go over some of the most common ones.

Mold and Mildew

Sheba from Amuze by Jaipur

Mold and mildew smells are the result of excess moisture. The best way to prevent these smells is to place your rug in a well-lit area. If that isn’t an option, your rug is likely to contract mold and mildew at some point.

Here’s what you can do to get rid of them:

The Natural Way

To get rid of mold and mildew stains the “natural” way, you’ll need water, white vinegar, and baking soda.

Here’s what to do:

  • Sprinkle the surface of the rug with baking soda. Let it sit for a few hours, or even a couple days. Brush the carpet with a broom.
  • Vacuum up whatever baking soda is left.
  • Test with your nose to see if the smell is gone
  • If it isn’t gone, spray some white vinegar onto the rug and dab with a clean cloth

The Chemical Way

Applying hydrogen peroxide to your rug is an effective way to get rid of mildew odors. Before you dump hydrogen peroxide all over your rug, make sure your rug material can handle hydrogen peroxide. You can check on the rug label or get ahold of your rug manufacturer.

  1. If your rug can handle hydrogen peroxide, you’ll want to mix one part hydrogen peroxide with five parts water in a spray bottle.
  2. Spray the back of the rug to eliminate odor. This will also help to kill the mold spores.

You can also use rug shampoo to get rid of the smell.

  1. Vacuum your rug to get rid of dust and dirt.
  2. Apply the shampoo and use a sponge to rub it into the rug.
  3. Let it sit for around a half an hour or until dry.
  4. Vacuum again.

The Professional Way

If you can’t get rid of the smell from your rug using the other two methods, you may want to consider calling a professional cleaner to remove the mold spores effectively.

Pet Odors

Erin Moroccan Diamond Tassel from Diana by NuLoom

We all love our pets, but between their sweaty paws, hair follicles, ear glands, and fungal imbalances, they can certainly do a number on your rugs. If you’re dealing with pet odors on your rug, here’s how to get rid of them.

General Pet Odors

For general pet odors, you can take the same steps as above, using baking soda, a broom, a vacuum cleaner, and white vinegar, if necessary.

Urine Spots

If you catch your dog peeing on your rug and the urine is still wet, you can prevent the odor by using a paper towel to clean up the urine spot.

If the urine spot is already dry, wet the spot with clean water and dab it with a paper towel. Next, blot the area with green detergent and a wet paper towel. Coat the spot with a generous amount of baking soda. The baking soda will likely get damp, but that’s okay. Allow it to sit overnight so the baking soda can really soak in. The next day, spray white vinegar and water onto the spot (one part vinegar mixed with five parts water). Allow this to sit for about five minutes. Wipe away the remaining baking soda and blot the area dry with a clean cloth. Once the rug is dry, do a smell test to make sure the urine odor is completely removed.

Set-In Pet Odors

For set-in pet odors, you may need to treat your entire rug with a steam cleaner. You can either mix your own odor removing cleaner, or you can use a commercially-made one.  

Additional Tips and Tricks

Hand Loomed Tamara Tassel Rug from Halette by NuLoom

While all the methods above are effective for removing odors, you may not have all of those supplies on hand. Don’t worry, you can also use these additional methods to remove odors from your rug.


Sunshine is one of the most effective methods for removing bacterial odors from your rug. This is an especially useful method if you have a wool rug, but sunshine can help remove odors from all rug materials. This is because the ultraviolet rays from the sun disrupt the DNA of the fungus and bacteria that’s stuck in your rug. Ultraviolet rays also work to kill microscopic organisms that produce pungent odors.

You’ll want to take your rug outside on a dry, sunny day. If possible, hang the rug on a sturdy clothesline, fence, or over a chair. If this isn’t possible, you can lay the rug out on a tarp or an old bed sheet. After exposing the front of the rug to sunlight for a few hours, flip it over and let it sit in the sun for another few hours. Depending on the depth of the odor, you may need to continue flipping your rug every few hours.


Charcoal is all the rage these days- you can find it in skin care products, cleaning supplies, and even in foods. And, it’s for a good reason- charcoal is a pretty amazing product. To eliminate odors from your rug with charcoal, you’ll first want to locate an old pair of nylon pantyhose. If you don’t have nylon, you can use a comparable breathable material.

Fill the nylon pantyhose with additive-free charcoal briquettes. You can also use whatever leftover charcoal you have from last week’s grill party. Next, lay the charcoal filled pantyhose across your rug and roll it up. If your rug is particularly large, you can lay down extra sets of charcoal filled pantyhose.

Once your rug is fully rolled up, try to fit it inside a plastic garbage bag. If it won’t fit in a plastic garbage bag, you can also wrap it in saran wrap or in painter’s plastic. Seal it as tightly as possible. After a few days, unwrap your rug and allow it to air out overnight.

Kitty Litter

Kitty litter isn’t just for your favorite feline friend, it’s also for your rug! The first thing you’ll want to do is move your rug to a place where it won’t be exposed to foot traffic. Gently sprinkle kitty litter all over the rug. Make sure to avoid grinding the litter down into the rug pile.

Depending on how severe the smell is, it may take a few days for the litter to soak into the rug. After a day or two, shake out of as much of the litter as you can. Then, vacuum over your rug a few times. Ideally, the vacuum will pick up the rest of the litter and the smell will be removed.

Washing Machine

If your rug is small enough (and machine washable), it can be placed in the laundry machine. Oftentimes, this does the trick when it comes to eliminating odors. Just make sure to wash the rug separately from other clothing articles, as there’s a chance the dye may bleed. To add some extra odor-fighting power to your wash, you can also add a cup of vinegar.


Lemon is great for a lot of things, including removing odors from your rug. This is because lemon is extremely acidic. To use lemon as a rug cleaner, mix it with some warm water and pour the solution into a spray bottle. Apply the solution directly to the areas where odors linger.

Next, scrub the area with a paper towel or a clean cloth. Rinse with soapy water and allow your rug to dry. Once dry, vacuum.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is often used to treat minor health and skin issues. However, it can also be used as a cleaning agent.

To remove odors from your rug with tea tree oil, you’ll need one cup of water, 16 drops of tea tree oil, and borax. Pour the water and oil into a plastic spray bottle and shake the bottle thoroughly to make sure the mixture distributes evenly. Spray the rug with the solution until damp.

Next, sprinkle the borax onto your rug. Keep sprinkling until you’ve covered the entire area of the odor. Allow the borax to sit for a few hours and vacuum it up.

Fresh Air

If your home has poor insulation, fresh air can be a powerful tool in removing musty smells and dampness from your rug. Airing out your rooms and opening internal windows can make a huge difference when trying to eliminate odors.

If dampness is a major problem, you may also want to consider insulating your walls and getting double glazing. If this is out of your budget, you can also invest in a dehumidifier.

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