Picking the right rug material for your home can feel like a challenge. With so many different types of rugs and so many different rug material types, finding the best material for a rug can feel more like guesswork than making an accurate decision. Fortunately, there are defining characteristics of each type of rug that can help you make a decision based on your needs – whether you need a rug that will last, a rug that’s easy to clean or a type of rug that’s affordable. So, what are the characteristics of each rug material type? How do you go about picking the best rug?

Children's Room featuring light blue walls, kelly green sofa, and a leopard wool rug
Photo courtesy of Lynne Scalo Design

Determine Your Needs

Before selecting a rug material type, you’ll want to consider what it is you want a rug for. Is this a rug that will be placed in your living room and will receive a large amount of foot traffic? Will this be a rug that decorates an office or a den? How much are you willing to spend on a rug, and how often do you plan to clean it? By considering what it is you’re looking for prior to actually looking, you’ll be able to make rational choices based on each rug type rather than attempt to make a rug that won’t work for your needs work. After all, there are many unique types and styles of rugs available to you, so finding one that looks great and matches your unique needs shouldn’t be a problem.

There are five major common types of rug material: synthetic, cotton, wool, silk and animal skin. You may also find rugs made of seagrass and jute, which are less common but still available – these types of rug are made of natural fibers and are durable but coarse. The other five types of rugs are more regularly used in homes due to their availability and range of designs and styles. Each of these five types of rugs has its own benefits and downsides, so if there’s a particular type of rug material that you’re interested in, it’s worth investigating its benefits and negatives more thoroughly.

Living room with light blue painted built in bookshelves, purple velvet wingback chair, and layered rugs made of different materials
Photo by M. Steffens Interiors / Photo Credit: Ross Group Creative


Rugs made of nylon or polypropylene are common and these days can mimic the characteristics of wool, cotton and many other fabrics. Due to their man-made nature, these types of rugs tend to be durable and resistant to water, making them suitable for environments where they may potentially get wet or damp. However, while synthetic rugs can mimic other fabrics, it’s still a long way from being identical, and it won’t always be hard to notice. If you’re looking for something luxurious, this probably isn’t the choice for you – but if you simply want a rug that will last and is good for outdoors, bathrooms and other high-traffic areas, synthetic rugs might be your new favorite.

Colorful Galley Kitchen with Glass Pendants and a geometric wool rug in Pacific Heights Home
Design by Marsh and Clark Design / Photo by Michele Lee Willson


Cotton rugs are cheaper than wool rugs and are their most popular alternative. Cotton rugs are affordable, making them great for anyone decorating with a limited budget. They’re also easy to clean as they’re machine washable – just like cotton clothing. Cotton rugs are also environmentally friendly, being made of a renewable resource, but this is also one of their downfalls as they’re quicker to decompose and fall apart through regular use. Cotton rugs are best for individuals looking to decorate on a budget or for individuals who want an easy to clean rug that they can replace easily and affordably. 

A Bright Living Room with a white sofa, pink curtain, and a pink wool rug
Design by Allison Caccoma / Photo by Stacy Bass


Silk is a luxurious choice for a rug, and these gorgeous rugs are well-known for their softness as well as their subtle sheen. Silk rugs are easily to identify and are often designed with high-quality patterns and designs. However, with a beautiful and instantly recognizable appearance comes a higher price tag, and silk rugs will often cost extra – not just in purchasing but maintenance too, as they will need to be cleaned by a professional. A silk rug makes a good choice for low-traffic areas and rooms of your house where you’d like to show off its quality, like less-used dining rooms or bedrooms. 

White modern living room with hexagonal bronze coffee tables, brown sofa, colorful abstract over the fireplace, and a Beni Ourain black and white wool rug
Design by Sean Anderson Design / Photo by Alyssa Rosenheck


Wool rugs are common and fairly popular as a result, and often considered one of the best all-around rugs to buy due to their durability and resiliency. Wool rugs are naturally stain resistant due to a protective layer of oils and they’re also extremely easy to clean – so even if dirt or grime is tracked onto your wool rug, you’ll be able to clean it off relatively easily. A small wool rug can be placed in a washer and it’s eco-friendly as well. However, wool rugs can often be pricy, and the quality of wool rugs can differ from store to store, so you won’t always be sure you’re receiving a high-quality rug. As such, a good wool rug is an investment that can be used anywhere in your home but especially in high-traffic areas and living rooms.

Elegant White Entry with Graphic Hide Rug a
Design by Michele Plachter Design / Photo by Andrea Cipriani Mecchi

Animal Skin

Animal skins come in a variety of forms, ranging from complete hides to woven strips of leather, so there’s quite a bit of variety to be had when purchasing an animal skin rug. These types of rugs are generally soft and easy to clean and can come with a lot of unique appeal that makes them one of a kind. Like silk rugs, animal skin rugs are generally rugs that should not be tread upon too frequently due to their cost and unique nature. These sorts of rugs should be used for bedrooms, dens and other low-traffic areas where they can be appreciated without being stepped on too much.

With all of these types of rug materials in mind, you should be able to make a more informed decision on which kind of rug you need, or at least be able to take a step in the right direction when it comes to making a choice. Of course, vintage and antique rugs are always available at Chairish – so if you’re looking for something vintage and one of a kind, make sure to check in.

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Lead image design by Gil Melott | Studio / Photo by Ryan McDonald


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January 22, 2023

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