Brown dog sleeps on musty Persian rug in Denver-area home

Sometimes, the worse something smells, the older it is. And that’s not always a bad thing. That’s true in the case of a Persian rug – whose odor not only helps determine its age, but also its value relative to other floor coverings. The power of an odor, however, is subjective.


If you’ve just made a considerable financial investment in a real Persian rug and plan on displaying it publicly, you first thought may be, “I’ve got to get that odor out without destroying the rug.” Thankfully, Persian rug cleaning may be your best bet. Whether you plan on displaying a rug or using it as floor covering, you must become one with the odor – understand where the smell came from and how to remove it.


Not everyone can afford to invest in a true antique. If you’ve inherited a rug from a long lost relative and have visions of getting it appraised on The Antique Road Show and striking it rich, then have at it. If you’ve picked up a nice but well-loved Persian rug from a quaint small town flea market and suspect it was made before 1970, then it may still be valuable – just not in the “I’m gonna sell this and retire” value.

Either way, you know two things: It smells, and you can’t expect people to ignore the odor. But why do some Persian rugs smell and retain their distinctive nose-wrinkling characteristic? The reason a real Persian rug is so durable – some can last for hundreds of years – is because of the robust animal fiber matter woven throughout. And yes, this is the exact reason the rug can sometimes smell horrible even under ideal conditions. If you own a dog and take it for a walk in the rain, you’re familiar with the kind of smell that emanates from wet animal hair or fur. In the case of a Persian rug, the wool content originates from sheep and will smell accordingly if it becomes wet. The longer the dampness stays around, there’s a good chance it will turn into mildew, resulting in the foul odor. This means you may have some serious rug cleaning to start working on.

But what works the best? Cleaning a Persian rug may require trial and error. If you're attempting to remove the musty smell from a wool Persian rug, there are a few tactics that are inexpensive and potentially helpful.


Sunlight is pretty amazing. It nourishes life on earth, can improve a person’s mental health in the depths of depression, and its UV powers can even be used to eradicate harmful germs. Even if the carpet you just bought feels dry when you touch it, and the seller assured you that “It was never exposed to rain or water” – understand this: Damp fibers could be hiding under the surface. Take the rug outside, lay it flat or drape it between two patio chairs, then leave it there on a sunny day – just remember to bring it in before nighttime or any expected rainfall. This will prevent dew or rainwater from accumulating. Your nose is a good indicator of success. Give your Persian rug a good whiff and decide if it still has a musty odor. If not, you’re in business. If you immediately cover your mouth and gag, just repeat the process for several days till Mother Nature has worked her magic.


There’s a reason people stick boxes of baking soda in their refrigerators or near kitty litter boxes. It’s because the tiny cardboard containers of magic absorb odors that would otherwise linger and cause grown adults to flee in stomach-wrenching panic. Don’t be that adult, especially when it comes to an old Persian rug. Another oriental rug cleaning trick works like this: Drizzle a slim layer of baking soda on it and allow the powder to settle into the fibers for thirty-plus minutes before vacuuming with a hand-propelled carpet sweeper instead. If you only have an electric vacuum, set it to bare floor mode if possible so it works gently on the carpet.


If you’re an apartment or condo dweller, then leaving the rug outside may not be an option, in which case you need to get creative. Again, drape the carpet between two chairs – the plastic folding kind, if possible – then direct a floor fan towards one section for about 10 minutes at a time, beginning with the edges and working toward the center.


Tea tree oil is another “secret” natural antiseptic that may work. Mix two tablespoons of the oil with one cup of water in a spray bottle, give it a few shakes and then spray the rug's whole surface. Let it dry then roll the rug over and continue the tree tea oil cleaning on the underside.


No matter which version you choose, kitty litter is a powerful means of nullifying the worst odors imaginable – even from a Persian rug. Place the rug someplace that's low traffic, like a basement, garage, dry outdoor patio, and spread generous amounts of kitty litter over the rug from the middle to the outer edges.Let the rug sit for a couple of days and then shake it off.

Ultimately, you may need professional help for rug cleaning. If that’s the case, Steve’s Carpet Care has been in business for more than 42 years. Call us today at 303-530-4900 or contact us online for a quote or more information.

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