I thought I would share a brief experience that may help someone out there.
Years ago, when I was doing air duct cleaning, I received a call from a homeowner that said he had a burning rubber smell in his home and wanted me to come inspect his air ducts. After a thorough inspection, I determined the smell had nothing to do with his air ducts or his HVAC system. However, he decided to have his air ducts cleaned anyway. The house was very large and it took us 2 days to clean all the ducts. When I arrived the first morning, I did not notice the smell in the home. As the day went on the smell got stronger and stronger. By the afternoon, it was almost unbearable. The smell seemed to be strongest in the living room and the adjacent office. Both rooms had very large windows and the smell seemed to get worse as the sun rose and the room warmed up. I felt really bad for the homeowner. As I went home after the first day of work, I was determined to figure out what the cause was.
I spent hours on the internet that evening and just as I was about to give up…BINGO. I came across an article about imported area rugs that can have this issue. The article was about certain rugs sold at Pier One that originated in South America. In order to be imported into the US, the rugs had to be sprayed with a type of insecticide to prevent any foreign critters from entering into the US. It turned out that this chemical reacted with the rubber backing on the area rugs and over time produced the burning rubber smell. The problem gets worse if the rug is cleaned or if it gets warm (like when exposed to sun).
I went back to the job the next day and told the homeowner what I had found. He was skeptical because he said his rugs and carpets had been professionally cleaned and it did not help the problem. We lifted up the area rug in the living room and the smell almost knocked us over. That was it! The rugs in both his living room and his office had the same issue. He told me that his rugs were very expensive and came from a upscale furniture store. So apparently, this issue effects rugs from places other that Pier One. Unfortunately, I don’t believe there is any way to fix the rugs. He threw them away and bought new ones.
About 2 weeks later, I arrived home from another job to find a stryofoam cooler on my front porch. The homeowner was so grateful that he sent me a whole cooler full of steaks from Omaha Steaks!