Hand-Tufted Rug Odor

Hand-tufted rugs from the Middle East, particularly from India, Pakistan and even China, have become increasingly popular with consumers over the past several years. Although these rugs are made by hand (and thus the consumer thinks they’re buying a true Persian rug), the way in which wool or other pile yarns such as cotton or acrylic are inserted into the rug’s backing is unlike traditional knotting techniques used in Oriental rugs.

As opposed to being hand knotted, the pile of a hand tufted carpet or rug is created with a tufting gun. Using a hand held tufting gun, the fabricator inserts yarn into a cotton base cloth to create the pattern. Sometimes this cloth is pre-stenciled with water soluble markers which may bleed when the rug is cleaned. After the pattern is completed with all colors of yarn in the appropriate sections, the backside is covered with a layer of flexible latex adhesive.

A common problem with these rugs is a persistent, sometimes putrid rug odor coming from the latex back coating. Many rugs sold by mail order retailers are notorious for this condition. The smell may range from “diesel fuel” or “burnt oil” to “dead animal” type rug odor coming out of the latex. The rugs may have the odor in the store, but it becomes more noticeable when the consumer places it in the home.

There is no definitive reason for the odor, but it may be caused by defective, low-quality latex adhesive or the fillers used in the latex at the time of rug manufacture. Perhaps the latex is not given enough time to “cure” or dry completely before the rug is shipped overseas and during transport the latex may absorb diesel fuel odors.

Unfortunately, no amount of professional cleaning or deodorization will permanently remove the rug odor. Believe me, I’ve tried many types of topical deodorizers as well as complete submersion in decontamination solutions. Nothing helped. In fact in many cases, the cleaning or application of topical treatments actually amplified the odor. This condition is a defect in the rug or carpet originating from the manufacturer or distributor. The consumer should be advised to return the rug for replacement or a complete refund.