Wool is a timeless, durable and renewable material, but for all of its positive qualities, it's notoriously difficult to wash. Wool rugs often develop strong odors when exposed to moisture. These odors are usually caused by an excessive buildup of bacteria. While preventative measures -- keeping the rug dry and regular airing -- are the most viable way to combat this issue, there are methods to remove unpleasant smells with simple household ingredients.
Borax and Baking Soda
Borax and baking soda are both natural odor neutralizers and will leave your wool rug smelling as fresh and fragrant as the day you bought it. Before you apply any dry odor neutralizer you should always vacuum the rug to ensure it's free from loose dust and debris.
Lay the rug flat on the ground and expect the surrounding area to get dirty.
Mix together equal parts of borax and baking soda in a bowl -- enough to cover the rug with a fine layer.
Sprinkle the borax and baking soda solution over the rug and let it sit for a day or two.
Vacuum up the borax and baking soda, and then take the rug outside and lightly shake off any excess.
Cat litter is designed to soak up both moisture and odors. While it's not the most pleasant smell right out of the container, after it has time to work, it will be completely unnoticeable.
Place your rug in an out of the way area in your home and vacuum it to remove any loose dust or debris; the last thing you need is someone stepping on the rug and trampling cat litter into its fibers and throughout the house.
Sprinkle a generous helping of cat litter on the rug and spread it out so that it covers its surface evenly. Let the rug sit for one to two days.
Roll up the rug and take it outside, taking care to not drop cat litter particles throughout the house. Shake the rug in an area of your yard or over a trashcan to remove the majority of the cat litter. Take it back inside and lay it on the floor to vacuum any remaining bits.
If this method doesn't neutralize the smell, repeat the process and let the rug sit for a longer period. Sometimes it can take two or three attempts to remove particularly pungent smells.
Sometimes removing loose dust and debris and hanging the rug outside to air out is all that's required. Nothing kills bacteria like ultraviolet rays, so use this free, natural remedy to your advantage before seeking commercial or homemade alternatives.
Take the rug outside on a bright, sunny day and give it a shake. Don't be too vigorous, otherwise you could tear the wool from the adhesive.
Hang it on a clothesline and leave it out all day so it absorbs the rays of sunshine.
Bring the rug back indoors before the night chills set in and moisture forms on the rug.
You'll probably need to repeat this process for several days in order to get the best results. Just remember not to leave the rug outside on a humid day.
Avoid liquid cleaners at all costs. While they can remove odors, they could bind the wool fibers together, leaving your rug matted. Commercial foam cleaners are acceptable alternatives as they require little water and will dry before any moisture permeates the fabric.