When choosing an area rug, the material is arguably the most important decision you will make. First, consider which rug qualities matter the most in the space you will be filling. In a hallway, durability may be at the top of the list. In a bedroom, you may value softness above everything else. Also consider how the material will affect the style of your rug. Some rugs, such as cotton or jute rugs are naturally more casual, while silk and chenille rugs give off a more formal, elegant vibe. Below, we breakdown the most common rug materials, share their pros and cons, and give you helpful tips on how to use them.
Benefits: Sturdy pile, repels water and stains, good heat insulation, feels pleasant
Good to Know:Wool rugs are a prime choice for high traffic areas, such as living rooms and hallways, or spill-prone spaces, such as dining rooms. Wool tends to shed fuzz for a period of time. Wool rugs are not a smart choice for damp rooms because they soak up humidity.
Benefits: Extremely soft, luxurious surface, tear-resistant fibers, very fine and valuable fiber, offers a sheen
Good to Know:Silk rugs are an especially decadent option for a sumptuous bedroom, however, they are sensitive to moisture, generally expensive, and less sturdy than wool pile.
Benefits: Strong and stable, natural product, soft fiber, generally inexpensive
Good to Know:Cotton rugs are generally found in a flat weave and are a popular selection for kitchens because most smaller sizes can be easily washed. Cotton pile can sometimes become felted and tends to attracts dirt easily.
Benefits: Thick and heavy twisted yarn, deep and luxurious pile
Good to Know: Whether a pastel braided style or a more contemporary design, a chenille rug can provide a cozy spot in a nursery for tummy time or helping a baby learn to crawl. Designed to mimic silk, they are also popular in formal living rooms and sitting areas. Because of its softness, chenille is not ideal for high-traffic areas.
Jute, Sisal, and Seagrass
Benefits: Natural plant fibers, very strong, ideal for layering with other rugs
Good to Know: The easy casualness of natural fiber rugs makes them a clear choice for beachy and cottage-style homes. Of the three natural materials, jute is the most coarse and firm, which makes it least comfortable underfoot and not ideal for playing on the floor with children. Sisal, on the other hand, has a smoother, finer surface, but still has a frayed rope-like texture. Seagrass is the least scratchy and most pliable. It can also be easily cleaned without leaving a watermark. These rugs cannot be in high-moisture areas, and it may be difficult to clean stains.
Benefits: Durable, pliable, biodegradable, smart option for allergy sufferers
Good to Know: Though they do not offer the same warmth or cushion as fabric rugs, bamboo rugs (essentially flat wooden mats) are a clever solution to layer over tile when a hardwood look is desired. Because they can sustain years of wear and tear, consider bamboo rugs in high traffic areas, such as just inside the front door. Bamboo is sometimes difficult to clean.
Benefits: Easy to clean, very durable, generally fade and stain resistant
Good to Know: Synthetic fiber rugs are created to mimic the look of wool and high-quality fiber rugs at a lower price-point. Because they are not made to be heirloom, investment pieces, they can be replaced more frequently with updated styles or swapped out for the seasons. They make brilliant choices for basements, laundry rooms, and kids' rooms. A downside is that synthetic rugs generally don't have the same pleasant feel as natural fibers.
Benefits: The most stain- and fade-resistant material, extremely durable
Good to Know: Polypropylene is the material indoor/outdoor rugs are made out of. Polypropylene is also a smart choice under a dining table because it is so easy to clean. Less bulky than nylon, sometimes polypropylene fibers get crushed over time.
Benefits: Both soft and durable, stain-resistant, easy to clean, unique pieces
Good to Know: Most commonly available as hides, leather rugs are also made by stitching or weaving strips of leather and suede to create quilt-like designs. Another style consists of ribbons of leather constructed to mimic a shag-style rug. Leather and natural hide rugs bring a masculine or cowboy vibe to a room's décor. Consider using in a manly office, library, rustic-inspired den, or eclectic living room. Avoid using leather rugs in very damp or humid rooms.
Benefits: Incredibly soft and fluffy, 100% natural material, warm
Good to Know: Sheepskin is often used in bedrooms—particularly nurseries and children's rooms—but are also popular in living rooms and in front of fireplaces. Besides being luxurious underfoot, sheepskin rugs can also be used as décor off the floor when draped over a chair or placed over another rug. Professional or dry cleaning is often recommended for sheepskin rugs.