Why material is an important factor when shopping for a rug

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Rugs come in a variety of materials, including wool, cotton, jute, and silk. NickyLloyd/Getty Images
  • It’s important to know the different types of rug materials because it can determine the look, durability, and care of the rug.
  • Cotton and wool are ideal for high-traffic areas, while silk and animal hides are best for bedrooms.
  • Make sure to check labels before purchasing since some fabrics require more care than others.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Rugs might be an easy way to change the look and feel of a space, but shopping for one is anything but simple. If you’re officially on the hunt for a new rug, you’re most likely thinking about style, size, and placement, but the material you choose is just as important.

Rugs come in many different fibres, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Whether you’re thinking about durability, care, or just the overall look, it pays to acquaint yourself with all the different types of rugs and how they can enhance a room.

Below, a guide on the most popular rug materials, along with a few more important things to consider when looking to tie a room together. Once you get the basics down, be sure to check out our picks on the best places to buy rugs online.

Rug material comparison

Material Pros Cons Best for Wool Resistant to stains, dust, and fire Can shed heavily Living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms Cotton Affordable and ultra-durable Colour fades quickly Bedrooms, kitchens, living rooms Jute Adds texture and personality Absorbs stains easily Living rooms, bedrooms Seagrass Easy-to-clean Coarse texture Living rooms, bedrooms, mudrooms Silk Soft and luxurious Expensive and delicate Bedrooms Animal hide Holds up well in high-traffic areas Pricey and reacts poorly to wet spills Home offices, bedrooms Faux fur Inexpensive Hard to vacuum Living rooms, bedrooms Synthetics Usually machine-washable Not eco-friendly Kitchens, hallways, mudrooms

Wool

Wool is the most common material used for rugs. When handwoven or hand-tufted, they’re particularly soft and plush. They can also be hand-loomed, hand-knotted, and machine-loomed. The latter is usually fused with synthetic fibres, which can help extend the lifespan with adequate care.

“Wool rugs are considered ultra-durable and are stain, dust, and flame resistant,” says Michaela Farley, Interior designer at Spacejoy. “These rugs do go through a shedding period that typically lasts about six months before it is settled into the room. You can have these rugs professionally cleaned or you can use soap and water to clean them.”

Cotton

Cotton rugs are a popular choice, since the material is affordable, durable, and soft. They usually come in fun, playful colours, and have cool designs, but the hues tend to fade quicker on cotton rugs. “Cotton rugs are my favourite,” says Farley. “They are normally very durable and soft, a rare mix to find. Most cotton rugs can be placed directly into the washing machine for cleaning, making them a breeze to maintain.”

Jute

Jute sends a specific coastal message when used in your home and can add texture and personality to a simple space. “Jute is made of a natural fibre that is fairly firm, although it is common to see it loomed with cotton now.” Farley explains. “They require careful cleaning for long-term sustainability. You can use a standard vacuum over them on the low setting, to avoid breaking the fibres. For heavier stains, it’s best to use laundry soap and water with a damp rag. These rugs absorb stains quickly, so it’s really important to be responsive to them.”

Seagrass

Seagrass is similar to other natural material rugs such as jute and bamboo. They provide great texture to certain spaces and are also wonderful for layering. Seagrass is also eco-friendly since it’s a natural fibre rug. “Seagrass rugs are excellent for mudrooms because they’re highly durable and stain-resistant. You can use a rag or a mop to clean them often,” says home interiors expert Melanie Musson.

Silk

As you can imagine, silk rugs are generally costly and the regular upkeep that they require might not be worth the fuss. That’s why you’ll want to keep these rugs in low-traffic areas in your home. “They need to be professionally cleaned and often wear down easily,” warns Farley. “A vacuum on the lowest setting, usually meant for hardwood floors, works well. These rugs should not go in rooms that are prone to [mess], since they permanently stain, easily.”

Animal hide

An ideal hide rug is commonly handcrafted. Furs and hides are a great way to fill a room with richness. The most popular forms you’ll see are as hair-in-hide styles or leather. Farley advises that they’re “a great option for high-traffic areas, but they are not ideal for any sort of spills. Use a vacuum over these rug types to keep it clean. Stains on hide rugs need to be addressed immediately. Make sure to use soap, water and vinegar mixture.”

These rugs also come with a steep price tag, so you’ll want to be sure to safeguard them — they don’t take water well.

Faux fur

If you prefer to go the faux route when it comes to furs and hides, faux fur makes a great, affordable alternative. “Faux fur rugs are a great touch to a room but as many owners know, they aren’t ideal to clean. The pile height makes running a vacuum over them almost impossible,” says Farley. “Gently hand wash this rug in the bathtub with cold water and laundry detergent. Make sure to use your hands to clean this rug type and let it air dry. If the rug is small enough for your washer, you can also place most faux fur rugs into the washing machine [using a] delicate cycle with cold water.”

Synthetic

Synthetic rugs encompass any man-made materials — think nylon, viscose, and polypropylene. These textiles do well outside and maintenance is almost effortless. “Polypropylene rugs are the easiest to clean. Most of these rugs can be tossed directly into the washer or taken outside to be hosed down,” says Farley. “Feel free to use most mild detergents on this rug type. Depending on pile height, they can be cleaned with any vacuum type. They don’t require a lot of special considerations for cleaning.”

Considerations when buying a rug

  • Budget. Alia Kate, founder of Kantara Rugs, recommends starting with how much you want to spend. What you can afford will ultimately affect the size, material, and style.
  • Size. Once you have an idea of your investment, you should then consider the size. “Just because your open space measures 8-by-10, doesn’t mean you need a large rug to fill it all up. A general rule of thumb is that a large rug in a smaller room will make the room feel even smaller. It’s better to go with a medium-sized rug and let the rug and the room breathe properly, than to fill every inch of space with rug covering,” she says.
  • Location. Is the rug going into a highly-trafficked area or will it be used in a more secluded part of your home? Where it goes can mean the difference between buying one that’s ultra-durable or something more delicate.
  • Lifestyle. If you have pets or little ones prone to making messes, the ease of care and overall durablity may be a top priority.

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