Find the Rug Material That’s Right for You

With several types of rugs available, the journey to settling on the perfect one can be filled with loads of design fun. Options range from hand-tufted New Zealand wool rugs with traditional patterns to synthetic machine-made contemporary rugs and everything in between. Whether you want to go casual or elegant, pricey or budget-friendly, it’s all up to you. Perhaps the most important thing to remember when choosing a rug is that function may need to take priority over style. A rug that looks great does you no good if it doesn’t suit your lifestyle demands.

When considering function, think about where the rug will be placed. High traffic areas need rugs that can withstand a lot of wear and tear. Low traffic areas can accommodate soft rugs with less durability. Once you have figured out your needs, it is time to explore the different types of rug materials, such as:

  • Wool
  • Cotton
  • Jute and Sisal
  • Synthetic
  • Polypropylene
  • Polyester
  • Chenille

Wool

This natural fiber is prized for it softness and durability. Wool’s stain and water repellency make it an excellent choice for any room.

Wool rug with ferns and flowers designed on it.

Pros:

Excellent for insulating; durable for high traffic areas, hides soil; water and stain repellent; flame resistant

Cons: Absorbs humidity; very chemical sensitive; attractive to moths; fades in direct sunlight

Style Tip: Place wool rugs in high traffic areas for style and durability.

Care: Wool rugs will shed fuzz for a period of time, and the shedding does not affect the rug’s quality. Vacuum regularly, and the shedding will subside. Clean professionally at least once per year.


Cotton

This resilient fiber is frequently used to make flat weave rugs, including kilims and dhurries. Since cotton rugs are easy to clean, use them in kitchens, kids’ rooms, and family spaces.

Pink cotton rug with white and pink colors meshed together.

Pros: Strong and more affordable than wool or silk; fade- and moth-resistant;  most stains are easy to clean

Cons: Absorbs moisture; doesn’t wear well over long periods or in extreme high traffic areas; oil-based spills or cosmetics may be hard to clean; tends to become felted in high traffic areas

Style Tip: Layer with other rugs for an on-trend look in the living room or bedroom. Flat weave works well under doorways.

Care: Use smaller rug sizes in spaces where spills will occur, so you can easily wash clean. Gently blot stains from the outer edges to the center with a clean, undyed cloth. If applying cleaning solvents, test on a small area first. Vacuum regularly.

Jute and Sisal

Renewable grasses and other natural fibers weave into wonderful patterns and textures. The durable fibers are a great choice for living rooms and high traffic areas.

Jute rug and a jute rug closeup showing the hand woven materials in detail.

Pros: Naturally strong; flat weave styles won’t lose resiliency; fade- and moth-resistant; great for layering with other rugs; can be reversible

Cons: Absorbs water and odors easily; can be difficult to clean; larger loop styles have poor resiliency; can be coarse and scratchy underfoot

Style Tip: Pair with a slipcover sofa for a beachy or cottage vibe. Use rug pads to prevent slipping.

Care: Vacuum regularly on low power. Trim loose threads with scissors and do not pull. Gently blot stains from the outer edges to the center with a clean, undyed cloth. Clean professionally when needed. Do not dry clean.

Synthetic

Synthetic fiber rugs mimic the look of wool, silk, and other high-quality fibers at lower price points. They are typically made from nylon, acrylic, polypropylene (olefin), and polyester.

Synthetic rug with blue and tan floral designs.

Pros: Ideal for high traffic areas; plush hand; moisture-, moth- and fade- resistant; may be made of recycled products; many types can be used outdoors; easy to clean

Cons: Not as durable as wool; may crush or mat easily; oil-based spills or cosmetics may be hard to clean

Style Tip: Place them in an entryway, under a dining table, in a kid’s room, or in the basement.

Care: Vacuum regularly and immediately clean stains by blotting with a dry cloth. Scrape off any food or debris with a dull instrument. Use mild soap and cold water to remove the remainder of a stain then blot with a dry cloth and let it dry.

Polypropylene

Also known as olefin, polypropylene rugs are the best fade- and stain-resistant fiber choice. Polypropylene is woven a variety of ways, from tufted to hooked, and is a smart choice in your most lived-in rooms.

Polypropylene rug in blue and tan.

Pros: Extremely durable; colorfast; easy to clean, not easily damaged by chemicals and cleaning products; moisture-resistant, dries quickly; resists mold and mildew

Cons: Although stain-resistant, it is difficult to remove oil-based stains; fibers may get crushed or matted over time; sensitive to heat and sunlight unless chemically treated to withstand it

Style Tip: Most outdoor rugs are made of polypropylene, and they’ll stay bright and colorful outdoors or in a sun-filled room.

Care: Vacuum regularly. Clean indoor-outdoor rugs with mild soap and water; use a garden hose for all-over cleaning. Immediately clean stains by blotting with a cloth. Scrape off any food or debris with a dull instrument. Use mild soap and cold water to remove the remainder of a stain then blot with a dry cloth and let it dry.

Polyester

Polyester material rugs are typically a budget-friendly choice with superb color intensity and softness. They are available in a variety of weaves and ideal for low traffic areas.

Gray polyester rug

Pros: Oftentimes less expensive than nylon; extremely stain- and fade-resistant; low absorbency; dries quickly

Cons: Less durable than nylon; may become matted or tangled in high traffic areas; difficult to remove oil-based stains

Style Tip: Make a statement with vibrant colors in a kid’s room or any low traffic room in your home.

Care: Vacuum at least once a week and deep clean at least once per year. Immediately clean stains by blotting with a cloth and stain remover. Test stain remover on a small area first. Scrape off any food or debris with a dull instrument. Use mild soap and cold water to remove the remainder of a stain then blot with a dry cloth.

Chenille

Chenille is a type of twisted yarn known for its soft texture and can be made from cotton or synthetic fibers. Rug styles range from woven to braided to shag.

Chenille rug with Moroccan patterns

Pros: Soft, deep pile; available in a range of colors; durable if tightly woven, suitable for high traffic areas

Cons: Color will fade in direct sunlight; sensitive material if loosely woven, not suited for high traffic areas; easily damaged by moisture; stains are difficult to clean

Style Tip: Use chenille rugs to add a luxurious look and feel to your bedroom or home office; can provide a feel-good location for babies to crawl.

Care: Vacuum periodically and use a soft brush to gently brush the nap. Hire a professional to clean any stains. Do not use water or cleaning products. If in doubt, follow the rug label for cleaning instructions.

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