The smell in Maya’s room first appeared last winter, so my husband and I immediately attributed it to the furnace – you know, that burning odor that comes from the vents when you first turn the heat on for the season. The odor never really went away, but I guess we just got so used to it that we didn’t seem to notice.
Until now, that is! I spent quite a bit of time this past week cleaning Maya’s room, rearranging furniture, and packing. So much time that the smell came back to me – an unpleasant musty, burnt-rubber stench. After practically emptying out the entire room, my gut feeling was that the culprit was the floor rug. I physically got on my hands and knees and took a big whiff of the rug to make sure that this was the case. The rug itself didn’t smell that bad, but as I turned it over and drew it close to my nose, I discovered that the fabric backing reeked.
Maya sleeps with her door closed, so that combined with the recent heat and humidity must have exacerbated the already existent odor. I promptly rolled the rug up and propped it up just inside baby’s room until I could figure out what to do with it. When I went in baby’s room to pick her up from her crib the next morning, the entire room already smelled incredibly bad.
At this point I knew that something was very wrong, so I solicited help from my good friend, Google. I typed in “my rug smells” into the search box and quickly discovered that this is a common issue. I also sent an email out to my neighborhood listserv and three neighbors responded with similar problems.
It seems that the issue lies in the manufacturing of hand-tufted or machine-made rugs. The rugs are made by punching fibers into a fabric backing. The smell comes from the latex adhesive that is used to glue the fabric backing to the rug itself. The latex may not be given enough time to “cure” or perhaps low quality adhesive is being used in the process. There is a good explanation of this here.
Many people are searching for a solution to this problem, as I found on RedbookMag.com and Apartment Therapy.
Some websites suggests that it might be better to just throw the rug away, unless a professional cleaner can guarantee complete odor elimination.
We bought it from Target, although it looks as though most of these stinky rugs come from Pottery Barn. My neighbor, Jen, returned a 5 year-old rug to PB due to the same problem and got a full refund from them, so she suggested that I contact Target. Knowing well what a terrible return policy Target has, I knew it would be a waste of time to call, but did so anyway. The customer service rep was very apologetic about the situation and suggested that I contact the manufacturer of the rug since the 90-day limit for returns had obviously passed.
Unfortunately I haven’t had any luck finding contact information for the manufacturer, other than the company’s name: Gertmenian Rugs. Thankfully this isn’t a thousand-dollar rug that I have to throw out. It cost just under $90, so I’m not stressing over it. For now M&M’s rooms are rug-less, and will continue to be that way until I can find a safe, good-quality product that we can afford. It scares me to think that I’ve been exposing my kids to something potentially toxic for the past year.
My advice? Think twice when you go shopping for a new rug. Make sure to smell it and take a look at the back. If you can see the actual knots, you’re probably good. It seems that machine-made and hand-tufted rugs are more likely to be defective.