Buying a Rug: What Material?

If there’s one furnishing that can make or break a room, it’s a rug. Rugs come in all manner of shapes, styles, sizes and colours - but what rug’s right for you?

You should choose a rug that complements the surrounding décor, aligns with your tastes, and is within your budget.

But what about the material?

Rug materials fall into two categories:

  1. Natural materials
  2. Manmade materials

The former tend to be more luxurious, and as a result, more expensive. The latter tend to be more affordable, but may lack the plush feel of the former.

There’s an enormous amount of variety within these categories, however, so it’s worth considering the individual qualities of each material.

Wool Rugs: Pros and Cons

Wool is an ever-popular material for many uses, including rugs.

Wool is simultaneously soft and hard wearing, and it’s excellent at repelling stains. If you tend to walk around barefoot, wool’s an obvious choice, since it’s incredibly comfortable underfoot.

That said, wool’s absorbent nature makes it a poor match for humid areas of the home, and it can also be prone to fading and shedding. Woolen rugs are ideal for dry areas of the home which see a lot of foot traffic, such as hallways and lounges.

Cotton Rugs: Pros and Cons

Cotton is easily dyed, durable, and machine washable. It also tends to be somewhat cheaper to buy than wool.

Cotton rugs are usually flat weave, with classic 70s-style kilims and dhurries falling into this category.

One factor that might offset a cotton’s rugs affordability is its durability. It just doesn’t wear as well over long periods of time as many other materials. This means you might spend more in the long run, if you need to replace your rug prematurely.

Cotton rugs are ideal for bedrooms and living areas.

Silk Rugs: Pros and Cons

A silk rug will add lots of luxury to a room, thanks to its glossy texture. Silk is finer than wool, which means it can be more intricately detailed. As such, it’s perfect as a statement accessory.

On the other hand, silk is delicate. If you stain a silk rug, you’ll need to get it professionally cleaned, so keep it clear of anywhere you’ll be eating or drinking. It’s also advisable to position silk rugs in rooms with minimal foot traffic.

Nylon Rugs: Pros and Cons

Nylon is a very popular material for synthetic rugs. However it isn’t the softest rug material - especially when compared to the natural fibres above. That said, nylon is incredibly flexible, and can be manufactured in countless colours and as a result, patterns and designs. You’ll be spoilt for choice when shopping for nylon rugs.

Nylon’s best feature however, is probably its durability.

While silk will lose its characteristic glossy appearance over time, nylon will stand up to repeated, heavy foot traffic, and should stay looking as good as new (or pretty much).

That said, nylon is usually dyed using acid, which can affect its lifespan. Nylon rugs will fade over time, regardless of how many people step on them, so it’s important to factor in the cost of replacing your rug. Even a modestly-priced nylon rug might not be the bargain it first appears to be.

Polypropylene Rugs: Pros and Cons

If you’ve ever shopped for carpet you’ve probably come across polypropylene, although it may have been marketed as ‘olefin’ (though olefin rugs can technically be made from other synthetic fibres like polyethylene). It’s the most common material used in the manufacture of rugs.

Made using very thin strands of plastic, polypropylene won’t soak up moisture as quickly or easily as rugs made from natural fibers, nor will it stain so easily. For this reason, polypropylene is ideal for outdoor use.

That said, polypropylene fibres will not stretch and deform in the same way as other fibres might. This increases durability, but once those fibres snap, there’s no way to repair them. If you drag a weight over the top of a polypropylene weave, it’ll abrade in a way that’s nearly impossible to fix.

Polyester Rugs: Pros and Cons

Polyester is a hydrophobic fiber, which actually repels liquid. They shouldn’t fade from the sun, and may even resist a split glass of wine.

The process involved in dyeing polyester however, does limit the colours and designs it can come in. Moreover, while polyester can deal with a range of spillages, there are limits to its durability. Oil-based substances will leave an unsightly stain that will be near impossible to remove.

Like most synthetic fabrics, polyester lacks the luxurious feel of natural materials like wool and cotton. That said, polyester is generally extremely affordable, and is perfect for conservatories, hallways, and any areas which receive a lot of sunlight.

What’s the Most Luxurious Rug Material?

When it comes to luxury, almost any type of rug can fit the bill. A low-quality natural rug may be manufactured to a poor standard, and the opposite can be true of a rug that uses manmade materials.

That said, if we had to single out the most luxurious rug material, it would have to be silk. Along with its close friend viscose, it’s capable of creating colours, patterns and textures that other materials simply can’t.

What’s the Most Hardwearing Rug Material?

If you’re looking for a rugged, durable material that’s fit even for outdoor use, then polypropylene is a clear champion – on the condition that you don’t drag furniture back and forth over it.

If you’re looking for an alternative to polypropylene, you might consider other synthetic fabrics, like polyester, which tend to be among the best rugs for high-traffic areas.

So, What Rug Should You Buy?

As we’ve seen, there are many different types of rugs, and no hard-and-fast rules to go by.

If you think a particular rug will suit a particular space, then buy it. Just make sure to consider how much wear and tear the rug will be subjected to, and to factor in the potential cost of replacing it.

Shop our full range of luxury rugs and take advantage of our flexible finance options