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10cowife, Consultant
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Experience:  15+ years consulting
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I have had this wool oriental rug (8 x 10) for about 8 years.

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I have had this wool oriental rug (8 x 10) for about 8 years. In the past two years, it has started to emit a "rubber" smell. My guests notice it. eeek. There is not a rubber backing on it. Is there anything I can do to eliminate or reduce this smell?
This odor is commonly found in rugs that are hand-tufted in India. These rugs are quite substantial for their low cost, but about one in ten either has this odor from new or will develop the odor in a year or two. Oddly enough, some of the most numerous complaints that I saw were for wool rugs from Pottery Barn or Pottery Barn Kids. This seems to be a relatively common problem for wool rugs and you cans read people's experiences if you search for "wool rug" and "burnt rubber smell" on google. As far as I can tell, nobody has been able to successfully eliminate the odor. The best advice that I can find is to return it to the retailer in exchange for another one as chances are lower the new one will smell as you may be able to trade it for one that doesn't smell.

Check out the editor of Redbook's experience with a burned smelling non-latex backed wool rug:

Even if there is no solution, at least you know you're not alone!

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Edited by 10cowife on 7/22/2010 at 5:36 PM EST
10cowife and 31 other General Specialists are ready to help you
Here is one comment that explains why these types of hand tufted wool rugs get this rubber odor:

The rugs are made by a process known as "hand tufting". This is different than a rug made by individually hand tying the knots. A macine is used to insert the wool yarn into a canvas or polypropylene backing. To keep the yarns from coming out, a layer of latex is used to laminate the face yarns, the primary backing and the secondary canvas back that you see on the outside together. In the US, there are regulations about the use of natural latex in various household items because so many people have latex allergies. SB latex (synthetic rubber)has been used in rugs and wall to wall carpet made in the USsince before WWII. PB (and other rugs) made in India, etc. don't have to conform to those guidelines. Latex found in backing may be partly synthetic, partly natural...there is no labeling that says what is in it. They use whats available. The natural latex can develop bacterial growths for a variety of reasons and the odor can be rather like about a hundred cats urinating on your rugs on a hot day or a mild "burnt rubber" smell. Because it is inside your rug, the odor will never, ever go away. There is no cleaning process, deodorizer, enzyme treatment, etc that will work. Check with the store where you purchased your rug and see what their return policy is. Some places won't even accept them as donations because of the smell. We've been cleaning area rugs for about 100 years. This isn't a plug for our business, anyone who tells you that this can be removed by cleaning is trying to pull a fast one on you. We've had client bring rugs straight from PB and ask what was wrong before the rugs ever got home.