Area rugs, especially those made from highly absorbent materials, such as wool and cotton, will get dirty with time and even retain pungent smells from food/drink spills, cigarette/kitchen smokes, pet pee/urine odors and mildew/mold smells among others.

When those smells are too annoying, you might be tempted to throw away the rug or buy another one. Yes, that is a simple solution but one which will be less economical in the long run.

You can continue reading this post and discover some of the best ways to clean area rugs and get out smells using natural or chemical techniques, which is more realistic and budget-friendly.


These are the kind of smells which are caused by spills from foods, drinks and they are never that serious or hard to remove.

Method one: Baking soda treatment


Gather the following supplies then follow the steps below:

  1. Pour/sprinkle the baking soda on the rug evenly.
  2. Take the brush, then rub the baking soda to make it penetrate deeper on the fibers of the rug.
  3. Leave the baking soda to sit overnight. You can cover the surface with a sheet or old cloth to keep your kids or pets from any contamination in case they walk on the rug by mistake.
  4. The next day, begin by using a broom with a dustpan to sweep the remains of the baking soda from the rug. Alternatively, you can fold the rug then shake off the baking soda outside.
  5. Finally, vacuum up the rug to finish the job.

Pro Tip: Baking soda acts as a smell neutralizer. You can add a few drops of essential oil to the baking soda to make it more scented. Some people also prefer to add a Borax detergent booster, which will further make the baking soda more effective and add some sweet scent to it.


Method two: White vinegar treatment


Gather the following items:

  1. Take the vinegar and mix it with water in equal portions.
  2. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle.
  3. Spray a generous amount of the mixture on the rug, making sure that you spread it evenly.
  4. Let it sit on the rug for 15 minutes.
  5. Take a soft cloth and use it to blot the surface.
  6. Repeat the procedure until all the smell or stains are gone. Remember to sun dry the rug to keep away mold and mildew odors.


Method three: Tea Tree Oil treatment

Gather these items;

  1. Prepare the mixture in these portions: one cup of water and 16 drops of tea tree oil.
  2. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle then shake thoroughly for them to mix evenly.
  3. Spray the solution on to the rug until the area is dump and well soaked up.
  4. Sprinkle the borax powder on the surface and allow it to sit for 5 hours.
  5. Finally, vacuum the rug up and allow it to dry.


Method four: Washing machine laundry

Not all rugs materials are machine washable, so make sure you read the wash instructions of your rug to make sure its fibers and weaves will not be destroyed by this method. Check out rug materials that can be washed with a washer without getting damaged in that post.


Method five: Steam cleaning

This is where you can use a steam cleaner or carpet cleaning machine to do all the dirty work for you. Instead of using plain water, you can add vinegar or your favorite in the process to make sure all the odors are removed.


Method six: Lemon treatment


Lemon is highly acidic, and that is why it can be used as a rug cleaner. Prepare a mixture of lemon juice and warm water in equal portions then pour them into a spray bottle. Apply/spray the solution to the rug the scrap it out with a paper towel or clean absorbent cleaning towel to soak up all the excess liquid.




Method Seven: Fresh Air

You can buy your favorite air freshener as a way of adding an extra sweet scent to your home space. Remember that this method will only work in a home with proper insulation and ventilation. Opening windows and removing damp clothes is excellent for improving air circulation and removing excess moisture. Insulating your walls and buying a dehumidifier are also other ways of adding fresh air into your home.


Method Eight: Charcoal Treatment


Gather the following items:

  1. Put the charcoal briquettes into the nylon pantyhose until it is full.
  2. Lay the filled up rolls on to of your rug. If the rug is too large, you will need more than one roll.
  3. Once all the charcoal filled pantyhose rolls are well spread on the rug, fold the rug into a roll whereby you cove up the charcoal rolls with the rug.
  4. Put the folded rug into a garbage plastic bag. You can also use food wraps or painter’s plastic wraps if you do not have a plastic garbage bag.
  5. All you have to make sure is that they are tightly wrapped. Leave the wrapped up and tightly sealed rug for two days.
  6. Shake off the charcoal litter outside, then vacuum the rest to complete the process.


Method nine: Sunshine

Taking your rug out on a sunny or dry day is also a way to get rid of smells, especially when done regularly. The sun kills organisms causing pungent odors because its rays disrupt the DNA or fungus and bacteria on the rug. When you take your rug out, you have to make sure it is well exposed by either hanging it on fence/ clothesline/ chair or spreading it on the ground or on top of old sheets to dry. Make sure you flip over to the other side after some time to ensure full retention of the moisture.


This is where you result in a chemical/professional based solution. You must be careful when using the methods below because chemicals easily damage some rug materials. Therefore, take precautions by testing on a small portion of the rug before the use of any chemical/product, or you can read the cleaning instructions to avoid unrecommended products.

Method one: Alcohol Treatment


Gather the following products/items:

Pro Tip: Before you can start this method, make sure you do the following. Firstly, locate the source of the smell. You can do this by carefully smelling on the rug to identify the specific area where the odor is the strongest or deepest. Secondly, pour a small amount of alcohol on the rug and wait for 5 minutes to see if there will be any adverse reaction.

  1. Pour the alcohol on the smelly area.
  2. Let is sit for 15-30 minutes.
  3. Use the clean microfiber absorbent towel to soak the excess liquid out.
  4. Take your fan and point it on that particular surface to dry it out completely.


Method two: Hydrogen peroxide treatment


You will need the following to prepare this deep cleaning treatment:

  1. Wear your gloves.
  2. Measure the following portions; 30 millilitres or two teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide, 59 millilitres or 1/4 cup of baking soda, 5 millilitres or one teaspoon of liquid soap and 1 liter/quart of water.
  3. Add all the ingredients into the mixing container. Do not close the container once you add the products to avoid building up pressure.
  4. Test the mixture on the hidden areas at the back of the rug to see how it reacts.
  5. If it reacts well without any damage, pour the mixture into a spray bottle, you can use a funnel to make it easier.
  6. Spray the mixture on to the rug until it’s evenly distributed and appropriately saturated. Allow it to sit for 24 hours.
  7. During this time, make sure the rug is untouched by pets or children.
  8. Use a clean towel to soak all the excess liquid the following day.
  9. Make sure to air dry or sun dry the rug to leave it completely dry.


Method three: Professional help

If the natural ways and chemical methods described above have not worked, it is time to hire a professional who offers carpet and rug cleaning services.


1. Mold & Mildew

These are smells caused by excess moisture. Always make sure you place your rug on well-lit areas. You can also occasionally remove the rug outside to bath on the sunshine to remove all excess moisture.

Below are some tips you can use to minimize humidity which causes mold in your home:

  • Since showers product a lot of moist, you can turn on a fan when showering.
  • You can also open all windows when using the shower or cooker to let the shower and cooking steam escape into the atmosphere instead of being trapped in your house.
  • Use a dehumidifier which will remove any excess moisture in your home.

If your rug still has mold and mildew odors even after taking the above precautions, you can clean it up using the natural way methods or using baking soda or white vinegar described in the “removing surface/general odors above.”

If the natural/simple methods fail to work, check out the chemical ways of using hydrogen peroxide or Isopropyl Alcohol explained on the “removing deep/serious smells section above.”


2. Pet Odors

For fresh pee or urine spots where you catch your pet doing it, you can prevent the occurrence of the odor through using a paper towel. Just spread the paper towel on the spot for it to soak the urine.

Since you might not always be lucky to catch the mess while fresh, you can use the following procedure to deal with set-in pet odors in case the mess has already dried out on the rug.

Gather the following items;

  1. Pour some water on the spray bottle.
  2. Spray the water on the spot with pet odor.
  3. You can use a paper towel to soak out the excess water.
  4. While the spot is still dab, apply a rug shampoo or any laundry detergent, and you can also use a dishwashing soap, then rub it gently using a brush.
  5. Blot it out using a paper towel then coat the spot with baking soda.
  6. Leave it for the next 24 hours.
  7. On the next day, mix white vinegar and water in equal amounts inside a spray bottle.
  8. Spray the mixture on the spot then allow it to sit for five minutes to soften any baking soda remains, which might have soaked up on the rug.
  9. Use a clean cloth to wipe out all the baking soda.
  10. Repeat the vinegar/water spray step, followed by wiping until all the baking soda is cleaned out.
  11. Leave the rug to dry.

Pro Tip: You can also buy one of these pet stain cleaners: Simple Solution Pet Stain and Odor Remover or the Natural Miracle Dog Urine Destroyer. Drench/soak the solution on to the rug then allow it to sit for 5 minutes. Use a paper towel or cleaning cloth to absorb any excess liquid. Leave the rug to dry, and the smell should be gone by then.  If the smell still exists, use a steam cleaner to treat and clean the whole rug. You can also wash the rug in a washing machine or by hand, depending on its wash instructions.


3. Smoke smells

Method one: Add white vinegar or Ammonia to 3 bowls without filling them up completely to keep the liquid from sloshing over on the sides. Set the three pots on different locations in the room where the rug is placed. Allow the liquid in the bowls to sit for 24 hours. Ammonia or vinegar will absorb any smoke odor in the room. Remember, you should never mix vinegar and Ammonia. Also, the liquid you use remains on the bowls and is not poured on the rug.

Method two: Pour the white vinegar into a steam cleaner. Run the steam cleaner over the rug while following the cleaning instructions of the steamer. Take a fan, then dry the surface to keep away mildew odors.

Method three: Sprinkle baking soda on the rug and allow it to sit overnight. Vacuum it up the following morning and make sure you leave the rug dry.

Method four: To remove plastic smells, some experts recommend the use of Nappy Sand, especially the scented option.


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