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Types of Rugs: A Guide to the Best Rug Materials

Types of Rugs: A Guide to the Best Rug Materials

Is there a bare floor in your home that could use a little pick-me-up? A new area rug may be just the trick. The type of rug material determines the look, feel, lifespan, and care you’ll need. We’ve gathered everything you need to know about rug materials so you can pick a rug that will enhance every space in your home.

Rug Materials Comparison

Choosing the best rug for you will involve considering both the rug’s placement and purpose. Before you pick out a pattern or rug size, use our chart to weigh the qualities of popular rug materials.

Cost Durability Cleaning Texture Ethics
Wool High Cost High Durability Spot Clean Only Soft Sustainable
Polyester Medium Cost High Durability Washable Soft Vegan
Cotton Low Cost Medium Durability Washable Soft Sustainable
Silk High Cost Low Durability Pro Clean Only Soft Sustainable
Viscose Medium Cost Medium Durability Pro Clean Only Soft Vegan
Jute Low Cost Medium Durability Pro Clean Only Firm Sustainable, Vegan
Sisal Low Cost High Durability Washable Coarse, Firm Sustainable, Vegan
Seagrass High Cost Medium Durability Washable Firm Sustainable, Vegan
Nylon High Cost Medium Durability Washable Firm Machine-made
Polypropylene Low Cost High Durability Washable Soft Machine-made
Cowhide Medium Cost High Durability Spot Clean Soft Hypoallergenic
Faux Hide Medium Cost Medium Durability Washable Soft Vegan
Sheepskin Medium Cost High Durability Spot Clean
Pro Clean
Plush Hypoallergenic
Faux Fur Medium Cost Medium Durability Washable Plush Vegan


Wool Rugs: Quality You Can Rely On

Imagine a rug that feels as decadent and familiar as your favorite sweater. Wool’s heavenly-soft pile invites you to lounge barefoot anywhere in your home. The rich fibers within wool are crush-resistant, so they’ll bounce back for years in a house full of rambunctious kids and pets.

If you prioritize an easy-to-clean construction, then consider the Highland-resistant quality of wool. Sheep’s natural oils repel water, dust, and dirt, so a rug made from their wool will stay thick, plush, and colorful in high traffic areas. You won’t be scrubbing on your hands and knees like Cinderella. Like any rug, however, a little TLC goes a long way. Read our wool rug care guide for a how-to.

Check out Why You Need a Wool Rug for even more details.

Polypropylene Rugs: Affordable Wool Alternatives

Polypropylene is just as dense and glamorous as wool, but for less.  While extremely durable, water-resistant, and easy to clean, a polypropylene rug isn’t your common dish rag. It’s a smart rug material for the frequent hostess or a modern household constantly on the go. Its blanket-soft, fuzzy feel mimics wool’s lustrous fibers, but its strength makes a polypropylene rug versatile enough to be used outdoors for cozy nights on the patio. Swap out these cheaper rugs in bold colors and trendy patterns to make your home cozier, brighter, and more stylish.

If low cost is all you’re after, then compare the pros and cons of Polyester vs. Polypropylene Rugs for a budget-friendly starting point.

Cotton Rugs: Cool, Breathable Comfort

Cotton is one of the best rug materials for a relaxed, natural look. Both crisp and classic, cotton is the go-to rug material for creating easygoing spaces to meditate or lounge with a book. Many cotton rugs are reversible so they can get a lot of love, like a picnic blanket for your living room. Busy, budget-conscious families can simply flip the rug to the other side to hide more permanent stains. Cotton isn’t as efficient as wool at retaining dye, so a cotton rug may fade over time. Think of a cotton rug like your favorite well-worn t-shirt – snug and informal, but super reliable.

Silk Rugs: Dramatic and Enchanting

Lovely and sophisticated, silk rugs provide a luxurious shimmer and elegant softness. Because silk is delicate and highly decorative, you’ll want to show it off. However, it’s best suited for areas with low traffic. All the shimmer of a 100% silk rug requires a bit more care than other rug materials. Combining rug fibers from silk and wool can offer the same dramatic look of silk with more durability and easier maintenance. Nothing short of magnificent, a silk rug will help you achieve a stylish designer look in your home.

Going all-in on a pure silk area rug? Learn how to keep it sparkly and new in our How to Clean a Silk Rug guide.

Viscose Rugs: Breathtaking Embellishment

Viscose is a magically soft man-made fabric with an exquisite sheen. This type of rug material mimics silk’s smooth texture and low pile, so you can get the sleek look and feel in your rug for less. The thin material is perfect for creating a stunning, intimate area where you’re not looking for a plush rug to sink into. Both light use and careful cleaning are required to preserve those glossy fibers. Because of its lavish and romantic vibes, viscose is ideal for simulating a relaxing hotel getaway in low-key spaces.

Read even more reasons Why You Need a Viscose Rug.

Jute and Sisal Rugs: Simple, Honest Materials

Jute and sisal are both durable, beautiful types of rugs. Their chunky, woven piles create a massage-like experience for bare feet. While inviting, the prickly texture isn’t one for lounging or playing with little ones. Cat claws and high heels can snag the gritty, sandy knots. Because of the rope-like construction, these organic weave rugs are less likely to hold allergens, so they’re healthier for your family. The neutral beige of jute and sisal fibers transcends style, so you can layer these nubby rugs with more vibrant patterns for visual interest.

If you want to learn more about the benefits of sisal, read our guide about Sisal Area Rugs. For more on jute, see Why You Need a Jute Rug.

Seagrass Rugs: Thick, Rigid Basketweave

Add a relaxing seaside ambiance to your home with the beachy texture of a seagrass rug. These durable rugs won’t easily stain and won’t fade in direct sunlight either, making them exceptional options for outdoor barbeques on the deck. Seagrass grows in water so it’s non-absorbent, making it the rug material of choice for housetraining new or nervous pets or cleaning up after sick kids. These durable rugs aren’t indestructible, however, so they’re best for medium-traffic areas. Seagrass is not very cushy, so it’s not a landing pad for long kitchen prep or rolling out of bed.

Nylon Rugs: Extreme Durability

Make life seamless with a nylon rug. With this rug material, you don’t have to obsess over spilt wine or nail polish. Just live your life loud. Because nylon rugs are firm, flat, and resistant to fraying, they’re also ideal for wheelchair-accessible entryways or under a rocking chair in your baby’s nursery. Nylon resists dirt, so you won’t fill a vacuum with dust bunnies or find the rug fibers on your clothes.

See Nylon Rug Pros & Cons for more details.

Polyester Rugs: Affordable Alternatives to Natural Fibers

If your aim is to get a rug material for morning yoga, then polyester is soft and stain resistant. With polyester rugs, you can relish the comfort while forgetting about juice and coffee spills. Polyester rugs are also fade-resistant, keeping their colorful appearance for longer. You can even put a polyester rug by the backdoor to prevent tracking in snow or to give your dog a place to sit for wiping their paws after a long walk.

Polyester doesn’t wear well, but regular vacuuming and spot cleaning will keep these rugs looking great for the time being. If you plan to swap out your rug color or pattern often, place a polyester rug in high-traffic areas, such as your living room, staircase or hallway.

For more, read up on Why You Need a Polyester Rug.

Cowhide & Sheepskin Rugs: Versatile Organic Textures

Animal hides aren’t just for mancaves and Western saloons, though they’re excellent additions to such macho spaces. If you’re looking to pepper in some down-home flair to a farmhouse den or an organic rustic edge to an industrial loft, an animal skin rug is fit for the job. Cowhides feature naturally hued soft, short hair, but you also can find them brushed with metallics and other colorful embellishments. Think of them as low-pile rugs with a generally irregular shape, ideal for softening a stuffy sitting room or adding visual interest to a large open floor plan.

While sheepskins share an organic outline with other hide rugs, their signature is a long, plush pile. The fluffy wool is often dyed from its original off-white, so they’ll add cute comfiness just as easily to the nursery as to your kitchen dining bench. Authentic furs and hides may host a whiff of farm life when first unrolled, but the odor is easy to dispel. Read How to Get Rid of a New Rug’s Smell for tips. They also boast a higher price point and enhanced durability, so you can expect a quality animal rug to stay in the family for years to come.

Faux Hide & Fur Rugs: Supple, Guilt-Free Substitutes

Faux fur and faux cowhide rugs look like the real deal but without the moral hang-ups — or the initial barnyard smell. However, the synthetic materials used to create faux hide rugs aren’t as durable as their authentic counterparts. Because they don’t last as long, synthetic furs and hides are better suited for a first apartment or a room that gets redecorated regularly.

Whether you choose faux or authentic materials, both types of animal rugs look their best when layered with other area rugs. Learn how to combine different types of rugs in our guide on rug layering.

A rug’s material is one of the most important factor to consider, and now that you have an idea of which one will achieve the right look and feel for your home, you can start shopping rugs on Overstock.com. Get free shipping* on every order, with no minimum purchase amount, no extra charges for large items.


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