Rug Buying Guide

Rugs are a primary accessory for every decorating style. From classic Orientals to bold contemporaries, traditional European to urban chic, there’s a color, style and design that will fit your decorating plans and budget.

Practical, versatile and affordable, an area rug can act as a room’s centerpiece or can easily pull eclectic elements together into a unified look. Use rugs to carve out a cozy, conversation island …make a crowded room seem bigger…express your creativity with a splash of unexpected color…mask an embarrassing carpet blemish…change rugs with the seasons…whatever your reasons for choosing an area rug, you’ll find one to suit your needs.

Table of Contents
Choosing Your Rug

What size rug do I need?

The size of a rug depends on multiple factors including: the size of the room, the area you want to cover and what effect you want the rug to create. When choosing between different shapes and sizes, the size, shape and use of the room is the most important factor. In general, rugs should mimic the size and shape of the room they are in.

These general guidelines may help you get started but your style and tastes will determine what’s right for your home.

Under a Dining Room Table

The rule of thumb is that the rug should be at least 4′ wider and 4′ longer than your dining room table. The goal is to be able to push the chair away from the table while keeping the back legs on the rug. We recommended a rug that is 8′ x 10′ or larger based on the size of the room and dining table.

Sizing-for-dining-room
Dining Room Rug
Bedroom-Rug---Surya

In the Bedroom

Select an area rug to place under two legs of your bed. The rug should extend at least 24” in length and width from the ends of your bed, so you can try either a smaller 5′ x 8′ or perhaps a larger room sized rug, depending on the look and floor coverage you want.

Sizing rug for bedroom

For the Living Room

Balance the size of the rug with the room size by choosing a rug smaller than the room by 8″ for a small room and 18″-24″ for a larger room.

Room-Sized-Rug-Sizing
Living-Room-Rug
Entryway rug

Hallway Runner

For a hallway runner, plan for the rug to be 4″-6″ narrower than the hall and shorter by 18-24″

 

Under a Coffee Table

Typical sizes are 4′ x 6′ or 6′ x 9′

 

Bedside, Entryway, Home-Office or Deck

Scatter rugs are ideal for small areas that just need some color and character. You can easily rotate them between rooms or seasons for additional effect.

What type of rug do I choose?

In addition to color and design, the texture, weave and materials are also important considerations when shopping for a rug. Different yarns, fibers and construction types produce rugs with distinct characteristics making some better suited to certain areas than others.

5 things to consider when buying a rug
5 Things to Consider

1. Traffic pattern and seating arrangement: If the rug will get heavy traffic, mid-tone or dark colors and a more detailed pattern may work best. Choose a fiber with high resilience to minimize matting and evidence of wear.

2. Rug construction: Tightly constructed rugs with coarse yarns and those with denser pile (close tufting or stitching) are known to wear well under constant use.

3. Cleaning and maintenance: For entryways or at the kitchen sink, look for durable rugs that are water-, stain- and fade-resistant made with color-fast dyes.

4. Rug texture and height: Highly textured or sculpted rugs add interest and depth to your flooring, and may show less dirt between vacuuming’s.

5. Be realistic: the long-term performance of your area rug depends in part on how well the rug is suited to your family’s lifestyle.

Rug Construction and Materials

Construction 

Construction is the term used to describe the technique by which area rugs are made. Depending on the type of wear and tear your rug will receive, the construction of your rug is very important.

Hand knotted

Hand knotted rugs are created by an intricate, labor-intensive technique that produces rugs of exceptional quality and density. Woven by hand, each knot is individually tied to the foundation. The ends of the knots become the pile of the rug. The more knots per inch, the more intricate the pattern and durability.

Hand-Knotted-Rug

Hand hooked

Generally less expensive but beautiful nonetheless, hooked rugs are hand constructed with a special hooking tool. Fibers are drawn through a grid or canvas cloth backing creating a looped pile. The basic loops are Gross Point, Petit Point and Micro Point; the smallest loop produces the finest weave, the most detailed design and is most durable. Following a design and color scheme, the rug is worked in a crescent pattern, not straight rows, creating a pile that doesn’t tend to separate. To keep the yarn in place, the backing of the rug is covered with a latex material and then another protective backing.

Hand-hooked-area-rug

Machine woven

Machine woven rugs are made on looms powered by hand, machine or computer. Almost any yarn or fabric can be woven on these looms but wool remains the traditional favorite. Today’s fast, cost-efficient high-tech, computerized looms make it possible to copy intricate patterns once only woven by hand. Today, you can chose from a growing array of stunningly beautiful rugs, rich in detail and color. From reproductions of classic Oriental, Persian, East Indian and European designs and color palettes to exciting contemporary textures and designs, the quality of machine woven rugs make them more than worthy of being passed down to future generations.

Machine-Made-Rug

Hand tufted

The technique for making these rugs is similar to that of the hand-hooked rug; the major difference is that hand tufted rugs have a flat, cut pile surface. Typically, the rug maker uses more fibers, a heavier backing and shears the loops to the length desired, creating a dense, plush pile finish.

Hand-Tuffted-Rug

Braided

Early colonial settlers established the braided rug as an American standard in homes of all styles. Braiding together leftover scraps of wool, cotton and burlap or pieces of torn blankets and canvas, the materials were stitched together to form braided rugs. Braided rugs were an affordable, practical, durable way to add color and warmth to colonial homes. The same can be said about them today. There are many types, sizes and shapes of braided rugs, made out of virtually all yarns and fabrics. Flat braids are braided around two center “strands” of yarn, making them more durable. Rugs that have a single core with surface yarns knitted or wrapped around it are tubular braids. Tape braids are so called because yarn is first woven into flat “tapes” which are then folded and braided together in a traditional braid. The quality of a rug is based on the materials and the tightness of the braiding.

Braided-Rug

Flat woven

Flat woven rugs are one of the oldest rug making styles known, dating back to ancient times. These reversible, flat pile rugs are crafted on looms which weave a weft yarn across a warp yarn, creating a basket-weave design. The warp and weft of the rug may be a combination of traditional, natural fibers or contemporary synthetics. The intricacy of design and the quality of the materials determines the value of the rugs.

Flat-Woven-Rug

Materials

Rugs are constructed out of a variety of materials both synthetic and natural. To ensure you select a rug constructed of the right materials for your lifestyle, learn a little bit about each type before you choose.

Acrylic

These yarns come in vibrant colors and are relatively inexpensive. The acrylic fiber can feel like wool, velvety and soft, but costs much less than wool. Acrylics make a good choice when you want a rug which is moth proof, generally machine washable, crush-resistant and non-allergenic. Because acrylic yarn is also flammable, it is usually used in smaller rugs like bath mats or treated with a flame retardant.

Acrylic Rug

Cotton

Cotton is a natural fiber whose unique properties make it a mainstay material for area rugs: strong, durable, good dye-penetration, absorbent, abrasion resistant, soft, washable and easily spun into fine yarn.

Cotton Rug

Faux Silk

Because silk is so expensive, faux silk is often used to achieve the elegant, color-accent effect at a fraction of the cost. Faux silk is usually a synthetic, polyester or rayon, or a mercerized cotton fiber (a wet finishing process that increases cotton’s luster and color vibrancy.)

Faux Silk Blend Rug

Jute

Also a natural plant fiber, jute is second only to cotton as the most important crop for making fibers and textiles. It is soft, strong and suitable to be blended with both synthetic and other natural fibers. Because it is biodegradable, it disintegrates when subjected to moisture for prolonged periods.

Jute Rug

Nylon

Nylon is an excellent choice for all high traffic areas primarily because of its durability; the fibers are highly resilient so the rugs show less wear and matting. Nylon is also static-free, mildew-resistant, soft, easily cleaned and shows colors brilliantly making it the most widely used rug fiber.

Nylon Rug

Olefin (Polypropylene)

Olefin is second only to nylon for use in today’s rugs and carpets. Because it’s derived from petroleum products, Olefin is inexpensive, moisture-, mildew-, bacteria- and insect-resistant. It’s strong, easy to clean, quick drying, colorfast and lightweight. Olefin is used in making outdoor as well as indoor rugs.

Olefin Rug

Polyester

Polyester is appreciated as an attractive choice for luxurious, colorful, plush rugs. It’s naturally stain- and fade-resistant, strong and crush-resistant. Polyester rugs‘ reputation as great looking, easy to care for and inexpensive make them an increasingly popular choice.

Polyester Rug

Rayon

Rayon is mostly blended with wool, cotton, chenille and other materials to add colorful fibers, reminiscent of silk. By itself, rayon is a poor choice; it doesn’t wear well, is highly absorbent, has a tendency to shrink and for colors to bleed.

Rayon Blend Rug

Sisal

Sisal is a strong, natural fiber resembling hemp. It is from a plant of the genus Agave. Woven sisal rugs are versatile, anti-static, and durable and retain the aura of natural beauty even when blended with other materials. They are low maintenance, chic, contemporary, inexpensive and available in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes.

Sisal Rug

Wool

Carpets and rugs made from wool are the royalty of all rugs. They are beautiful, soft, rich, warm, comfortable, and long-lasting. As wool ages over time, it develops a rich patina, further enhancing its allure and value. Wool naturally sheds water, resists static electricity and the protein in the wool fibers make it naturally flame resistance. Wool’s long-wearing durability arises out of the fiber’s natural resiliency; an elasticity that allows them to stretch and still bounce back.

Wool Rug
Care and Maintenance

You’ll enjoy your area rug for years to come with a little TLC. Here are some simple steps to help make your rug last.

Rug Cleaning 101

Before the rug arrives

  • Make sure the area under the rug is clean and smooth
  • Purchase a quality rug pad. Using a pad will help to reduce wear on the rug as well as protect the floor under it. Rug pads also help control slippage and absorb noise on hard surfaces.

Unpacking

  • If you use a sharp object to remove the rug from its packaging, be especially careful to avoid slitting or puncturing the rug.
  • Retain all packaging materials and paperwork in the event you have to make a return.
  • Rugs are rolled tightly for shipping so it’s not unusual for them to initially have creases, folds or crushed pile. The coiling effect will wear off after lying flat for a few weeks. Light vacuuming or reverse rolling may help to speed up relaxing the fibers.

Regular maintenance

  • The best way to keep your area rugs clean and beautiful is to keep dirt from being ground into the rug, which drives fine grit to the base of the fibers.
  • Vacuum regularly. For Oriental rugs, vacuum in the same direction as the nap and avoid vacuuming loose fringe. Raise the beater bars/brushes to the appropriate level for your style vacuum and if possible, use only suction on looped textured rugs.
  • Never shake or beat rugs.
  • Rotate area rugs 180 degrees every year or two to even out traffic patterns and the fading effects of the sun.
  • Never pull loose threads of yarn or tufts; use a scissors to cut them down to the height of the pile.
  • Rearrange furniture every now and then to avoid deep indentations. You can help the pile bounce back by dabbing an ice cube on the spot.
  • Clean up spills right away to avoid staining.

Rug Cleaning 101

First and foremost always follow the manufacturer’s suggested cleaning instructions. Different materials, fibers and construction methods require different cleaning practices and no one knows your rug’s needs better than the rug maker. Although these basic guidelines are commonly accepted, they don’t supersede those of the rug manufacturer.

Treating simple spills and stains

  • Test the area to be cleaned; all fibers and dyes act differently.
  • Speed is of the essence. As soon as a spill occurs, blot up excess moisture and dilute the stain with cold water.
  • Gently blot the stain with a clean, white cloth, working from the outside of the spill inward to avoid spreading the stain. Avoid rubbing.
  • Elevate the rug to allow air to circulate.
  • For more serious spills (Be sure to test the area first and remember, you can always call a professional rug cleaner.)

Check out our Rug Cleaning Infographic

Cleaning Simple Stains
Frequently Asked Questions

Q- How do I select a rug that will be correctly sized for my furniture? Do I place the legs of my furniture on or off the rug?

A- Select a rug, that when placed maintains a minimum of 6-10″ of excess rug on either side of your sofa. This will make the space feel open and less cramped. The width of a rug should ideally always be wider than the width of a sofa. A common mistake is selecting a rug that is too small for a space and that simply “floats” in the middle of the room. By purchasing a larger rug, your furniture can rest on the rug and your room will feel more spacious and cohesive.

Q- What is warp and weft?

A- Both are weaving terms describing the direction that fibers are attached to the loom. Those that attach to the loom vertically, the warp, are the fibers which run the entire length of a rug. The knots are tied to the warp. The weft threads are the fibers which extend across the width of the rug and which run parallel to the warps. The weft threads hold the pile knots in place.

Q- Are synthetic rugs better than natural fiber rugs?

A- Both have different qualities so can’t be compared on an absolute scale. Which is “better” is a matter of your preferences, how and where you expect to use it, how much you want to pay, how heavy the traffic will be, etc. Knowing the characteristics of different materials and constructions will help you decide which is best for you.

Natural Area Rugs vs Synthetic

Q- If the rug will get a lot of traffic, should I get a less expensive one rather than wear out a more costly, “good” rug?

A- Actually, in the long run, you may save money by starting with a quality rug with long-wearing fibers and durable construction methods. The cost of frequent replacements of an inexpensive rug can really add up over time. Rugs with dense construction and more tightly twisted yarn will be the most durable.

Is rug padding really necessary?

Q- Is padding really necessary?

A- Since rug padding is always out of sight, it may not seem very important but it is. The purpose of padding is to protect the rug from wear through repeated stretching of the fibers. The padding should be dense in order to keep the rug firm and flat. So even though walking on a rug with a thick pad under it feels soft and luxurious, the pad is actually not doing the job for which it’s intended.

Q- Will my area rug fade?

A- It’s best if you can avoid placing your area rug in direct sunlight – over time, constant exposure to sunlight will caused colors to mute and fade. Synthetic dyes don’t usually fade as fast as natural vegetable dyes. But, under normal lighting conditions, regardless of the dye used, rugs should provide beautifully vibrant colors for many years.

Q- How long will my area rug last?

A- Mainly, quality of construction and quality of materials are the variables that determine how long a rug will last but obviously, how well it’s cared for and how heavily it’s used will also play a part. There are many fine Oriental and Persian rugs that have lasted for centuries.

Q- I love the motif and color scheme I already have; how can I make sure my rug matches it?

A- Today, area rugs are available in a wide variety of patterns, colors, textures, sizes and shapes to enhance or complement any décor. Choose a rug with colors that pick up your existing color palette’s theme: accent with contrasting colors or monochromatic shades and tints.

If your upholstery, drapes or flooring are highly patterned, select a rug with simple lines or subtle patterns or neutral colors.

Harmonious, neutral tones complement any color scheme and serve as a quieting element to a busy room. Remember, lighter colors make a room seem larger while darker tones create a more intimate, cozy environment.  If the room is large, it can accommodate larger rugs with more complex patterns and multiple colors.

Selecting a new rug to match existing decor
Rug Cleaning Guide Infographic

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Lifestyle imagery and associated graphics courtesy of Surya, Artistic Weavers, Loloi, Pantone Universe