In recent years there’s been a profusion of lesser quality, odorous area rugs that have appeared in the consumer marketplace. Most of these are hand tufted rugs from the Asian subcontinent, particularly imported from India, Pakistan or China.
One of the common problems with these rugs is a tenacious unpleasant odour that emanates from the latex back coating or adhesive which is a part of the carpet construction. Unfortunately this foul odour is built-in and no amount of professional cleaning or deodourisation will permanently remove it. New rugs should never smell this way and good old rugs seldom do either. The odour can vary from mild to strong and oppressive. One characteristic smell typical of these rugs is of diesel fuel or burnt oily type residues coming out of the latex.
These rugs may even smell bad right in the store, but the odour appears more concentrated and noticeable in the smaller rooms and spaces of your home. The mass market importers often sell these shoddy rugs, and this foul condition is a defect in the rug from manufacture and distribution. Area rugs with this foul odour problem are usually hand tufted. The pile fibre is usually wool but it also could be acrylic, cotton, olefin or others.
The construction has the pile inserted through a primary backing and latex glue or adhesive is applied to the underside of the backing fabric to help secure the pile yarns in place. Also, this same latex adhesive is used to glue the secondary backing fabric to the rest of the rug. The secondary backing fabric, usually a coarse cotton duck fabric and often dyed green, blue or other colours, is what you would see when looking at the back or underside of the rug. We believe the odour is caused by defective, low quality latex adhesive used at the time of manufacture. There may be diesel oil odours absorbed into the latex during shipping from India, or the odours used to cover up other problems.
When cleaning the carpet to remove stains and soiling, or in attempts to eliminate the odour, the carpet is often wet cleaned. It’s possible that during or after any normal process of wet cleaning or in-plant rug cleaning, one may notice a foul latex odour. This is not a result of the cleaning but a continuing degradation and off gassing of odorous components from the latex adhesive in the carpet. The cleaning industry’s best experience is that this odour can not be permanently removed. In addition there are discolourations and dye transfer problems associated with Indian or lesser quality Asian area rugs that further compound their defective nature.
When these area rugs with dyed backing are placed on top of light colour carpet, the poorly dyed cotton scrim or canvas backing may “crock” or transfer its green, blue or otherwise offensive colour onto the carpet or rug underneath. During wet cleaning, fugitive dye markers used to stencil the pattern for hand tufting can bleed up to the surface of the rug pile. With cotton hooked rugs, discolouration from cellulosic browning can occur during cleaning and dyeing. In addition, some of the darker colours can bleed during cleaning. None of these offensive conditions should ever occur with a well made oriental or area rug.