Choosing an Area Rug by Fiber Content

Updated on May 5, 2019
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Linda is a seasoned writer and home-decorating authority. She loves sharing design trends, decor ideas, and useful tips with her readers.

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Area rugs play a major role in the overall look and feel of a room. They add warmth, personality, color, and style underfoot. Rugs anchor a space and help bring all the elements of a room together. Given their importance, you should consider key factors such as budget, durability, and maintenance when making a rug purchase.

Determine how much you can afford, what kind of foot traffic the rug will receive and the amount of effort you’re willing to spend on routine care and cleaning. Understanding the fiber content of different rugs will ultimately guide you to the perfect one for your home.

Wool

Wool rugs offer the height of comfort and relative ease of maintenance. They do command a premium when compared with other rug materials. Wool accepts dye better than other natural or synthetic fibers giving them an exceptional depth of color that actually improves over time. It is naturally stain-resistant and durable making it a good choice for bedrooms, living, and dining areas.

Wool rugs aren't the greatest in humid climates and shouldn't be placed in bright sunlight. They absorb moisture from the air which can cause mold and mildew. UV rays will not only fade the colors and it can also damage the fibers.

Wool rugs do require regular vacuuming. Trapped dirt particles can cause extensive damage and wear to any type of rug. For the first few months in your home you may need to vacuum your wool rug twice a week to keep shedding to a minimum. Spills are easily removed by immediately blotting with a clean, white, cotton cloth. Avoid using wet chemical cleaners. It is best to use products specifically designed for wool like dry cleaning powders.

Wool rugs hold up well but can fade if left in direct sunlight.
Wool rugs hold up well but can fade if left in direct sunlight. | Source

Cotton

Cotton rugs are softer to the touch, more casual in nature and less expensive than their wool counterparts. Cotton area rugs are a snap to clean but are not quite as durable as wool or synthetics. The fibers contained in cotton rugs have a tendency to break down over time when placed in high-traffic areas. That being said, organic cotton rugs offer the environmentally-conscious consumer a healthy and sustainable option to synthetic materials.

Smaller cotton area rugs can be machine washed. Launder larger sizes in commercial washing machines or dry clean. Do not place cotton rugs in direct sunlight or in high moisture areas, it bleaches out color and causes fiber deterioration. If placed on hard surface flooring a rug pad will prevent your cotton rug from sliding.

Cotton rugs can be fun and colorful, plus fairly durable and easy to clean.
Cotton rugs can be fun and colorful, plus fairly durable and easy to clean. | Source

Plant-Based

Flat weave rugs made with natural fibers such as sisal, coir, sea grass and jute are a versatile alternative to more traditional rug materials. Their neutral colors and unpretentious style blends well with most contemporary furnishings. Even though they may look rough and uncomfortable plant fiber area rugs can be surprisingly soft and provide just the right amount of cushioning over tile and hardwood flooring. They are amazingly tough and have the added benefit of being reversible, which minimizes wear and tear.

Plant fiber rugs can be difficult to clean. Care for them much in the same manner as you would wool. Dab up spills immediately or use a dry extraction powder. The open weave of plant fiber rugs allows dirt to fall through to the floor. Vacuum your rug regularly and don’t forget to pick it up and sweep underneath. Plant fibers are susceptible to rot so keep them out of direct sun and away from areas of high humidity.

A waffle-weave sisal rug provides a tailored look for any room.
A waffle-weave sisal rug provides a tailored look for any room. | Source

Synthetic

Synthetic rugs can mimic the look and feel of wool or natural fiber at a fraction of the price. They not only resist stains and fading they are also impervious to moisture and mildew. This makes them the perfect choice for any room in your house. Their reasonable price point gives you the ability to switch out your rugs as you make changes to your decor. You can also find indoor/outdoor synthetics that look just as chic on the patio or deck. Although you have to realize the less expensive ones are not quite as luxurious as natural fiber rugs.

Vacuum your synthetic rugs weekly or at least twice a month. Spot clean with a manufacturer-recommended carpet/upholstery cleaner or blot with diluted shampoo or dish detergent to take care of spills and pet accidents. Call in the professionals to clean your synthetic rug every 12 to 18 months.

Synthetics look good and they cost much less than natural fiber rugs.
Synthetics look good and they cost much less than natural fiber rugs. | Source

Silk

The pure beauty of a silk rug is beyond compare. Because silk is extremely expensive, rugs made from silk are usually combined with wool to keep the cost down. The blended fibers feel similar to 100% wool but are slightly softer. Sometimes "silk" rugs are actually made from viscose rayon but untrustworthy retailers often neglect to disclose that information. It's best to find a reputable dealer before you purchase a real silk rug.

Look for a lustrous and luxurious appearance and a soft hand. Silk rugs have that sumptuous feel and finest of details that aren't apparent in wool, cotton or synthetic versions. These rugs definitely require professional cleaning. They typically show footprints so use them in low-traffic areas like guest bedrooms.

Real silk rugs have luster and detail that is unique.
Real silk rugs have luster and detail that is unique. | Source

Animal Skins

Genuine cowhide and sheepskin rugs are mostly made from complete hides or individual panels that are stitched together into one piece. They are durable and soft due to a specialized tanning processes to preserve the hide and preventing it from deteriorating over time.

Sheep and cowhide rugs are extremely stylish and look great in living rooms, bedrooms and home offices. However, they don't stand up to a lot of foot traffic. These skins are not ideal for damp and humid areas. You don't necessarily have to feel guilty when buying one of these rugs. They are simply the by-product of meat processing. If you're vegan it makes sense instead to purchase a faux animal rug.

Sheepskin rugs are soft and stylish but keep them away from high traffic areas.
Sheepskin rugs are soft and stylish but keep them away from high traffic areas. | Source

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Linda Chechar

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      • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Chechar 

        9 months ago from Arizona

        Emmy ali, it is definitely true. Rugs can really make the room. I have a dog so I stick with synthetics because they're cheaper and easier to clean. Thanks for stopping by for a read!

      • Emmy ali profile image

        Eman Abdallah Kamel 

        9 months ago from Egypt

        Valuable information about different fibers of the carpet. I agree with you that the carpet area plays a major role in the overall appearance of the room.

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