Ultimate Guide: How to Buy Your Perfect Area Rug


A guide to choosing the right size, material, and construction for your space.

Finding the perfect area rug for your space can be a daunting task. From color, pattern, and textures to choose from, you want to make sure it’s just right. Having the right rug can help visually define a space, and protect your floors. Consider both the style and the purpose of your space. Let this area rug buying guide serve as your starting point to finding the perfect area rug for your space.

When you have the right rug in your room, you can create the kind of space you’ve always dreamed about. The right rug can make a room come to life and can really add a lot to any part of your home.

What Size?

The first question you want to ask yourself is what size of a rug? Finding the correct size of your area rug is determined by several factors: dimensions of the room, the furniture arrangement, the function of the space, and the look overall aesthetic you’re trying to achieve. Here are some tips that will help you on your journey.

The type and size of a rug can differ from each room. Different styles of a room can affect the type of rug you want to buy. Use the tips below to help make shopping for your area rug an easy experience.

Living room

Picking the right kind of rug for your living room is as easy as determining how you want your room to be set up. For example, do you have a very small living room? If you only have enough space for your furniture without a lot of extra walking room, it’s best to stick to smaller rugs to help balance the room’s visual weight. If you have a larger room, you can choose whether you want all the legs of your furniture to sit on your rug, only the front legs to sit on it, or none of the legs to touch the rug. The last method is much more modern and contemporary, while the first is very traditional.

In a living space, a rug should be centered under your coffee table and chosen with the furniture arrangement in mind. Living room seating can be positioned in a number of ways: with four legs on the rug, with four legs off of the rug, or with only the front two legs on the rug.

A common mistake is buying a smaller rug, so make sure you think on the larger size. A few feet of bare floor coverage can make a huge difference between a room that feels cluttered to large and airy.

Dining room

Typically a rectangular rug works best in a dining room setting. When you’re choosing a rug to place beneath your table, be sure all the legs of the table and chairs sit on the rug. Make sure to chose an area rug that is resistant to food stains such as sisal and viscose.

Choose a rug that is larger than your dining table. To prevent chairs from rocking on an uneven surface, the area rug under your dining table should be big enough to account for the distance that dining chairs get pushed back from the table when people sit or stand. To find the ideal size, add 36 inches to both the length and width of your table.

Bedroom

In the bedroom, you can use a large rug beneath your bed or choose a smaller one to place half under your bed.

If your bed is flanked by nightstands, measure the distance from the outer edge to edge of both nightstands, and use this width as your guide. When determining the length of the rug, account for any furniture at the foot of the bed: All four legs of the piece should either fit on or off the rug.

Know your weaves

The weave of your rug will determine everything from how it feels to how it wears over time. Below is a roundup of the most common rug weaving techniques, and the pros and cons of each.

Hand-knotted

This is a time-tested, time-intensive manufacturing technique in which rug fibers are tied by hand on a loom. The meticulous process results in heirloom quality and built-to-last construction, but expect a higher price point to match. Hand-knotted rugs make a great choice for any area of the home. Hand knotted rugs can last forever.

Tufted

Tufted rugs are created by cutting off the tops of loops of yarn to create a flat, plush surface; the tufted pile is attached to a latex backing. These rugs are a budget-friendly alternative to a hand-knotted rug and come in a wide variety of styles. Hand-tufted rugs use high-quality wool so the finished product looks and wears much like a hand-knotted rug. Unlike a hand-knotted rug, a hand-tufted rug is created without tying knots. Making a hand-tufted area rug takes a fraction of the time to make, therefore greatly reducing the cost. As a result, hand-tufted rugs are very affordable area rugs.

Hand-tufted rugs can withstand high traffic and will begin to wear out after 12 to 20 years of use. High traffic areas include hallways, family room, and entryway. Medium traffic areas include the dining room and home office. Low traffic areas include bedrooms and formal living room.

Hooked

Hooked rugs are made the same manner as tufted ones, but the yarn loops are left intact instead of being sheared off. This creates a nubby, textured quality. Hooked rugs are less prone to shedding than tufted styles. These rugs do not have a pile. Instead, small bumps or knots appear on the surface and has the look of needlepoint. Hooked rugs also have a latex backing because they do not have knots to hold the weave in place. Petite point is a more time consuming and detailed version of hooking, making it look like fine embroidery, which puts them in a higher price category. Fine petite point hooked rugs are made with very small needles to enhance the yarn colors and delicate patterns. Hand-hooked rugs can withstand medium traffic and will begin to wear out after five to 15 years of use. High traffic areas include hallways, family room, and entryway. Medium traffic areas include the dining room and home office. Low traffic areas include bedrooms and formal living room.

Flat Woven

Flatweaves come in a variety of materials and are very durable, but they don't come on any sort of backing, so a rug pad is highly recommended. Since flatweave rugs are reversible, they work especially well in high-traffic areas like entryways, family rooms, and kid’s rooms.  

Know your materials.

Rug materials offer different levels of softness, stain resistance, durability, and price. Consider these tips when making a purchase.

Wool

Wool is the most common fiber used in rug construction. It’s durable, affordable, soft, and naturally, stain resistant. Wool rugs also have good heat retention and insulation properties. In tufted constructions, wool rugs are prone to shedding and may require regular vacuuming.

Cotton

Cotton rugs are versatile, low-maintenance, and easy to clean. Cotton is far less likely to shed than wool but tends to be less durable than wool, too. Since they’re usually machine-washable, cotton rugs make a great choice for the kitchen.

Natural Fibers

Natural-fiber rugs are created from materials like jute, sisal, and bamboo. They’re most often used for flat weave or braided rugs. Natural fibers are eco-friendly and among the most affordable for rug construction. Choose a natural fiber rug if you’re looking for something environmentally safe. You might also go with one of these rugs if you prefer a coarser texture in your room or if you want something very delicate and fine, depending on the type of natural fiber you choose.

Take care of your area rug.

For the Messy Moments: Cleaning & Care

Accidents can happen and when they do, act quickly. Here are some proven tips to keep handy.

Cotton

If stated on care instructions, small rugs can be machine washed in warm water with mild detergent. Larger Rugs should be treated with a dry cleaning powder to prevent any damage.

Jute

Jute is not water-resistant, so don't place a jute rug in an area with high moisture.

Blot the stain with a dry cloth immediately and if necessary, opt for a professional cleaning service.

Sisal

Immediately remove any spills or stains by blotting with a dry cloth or scrape up solids with a dull knife. If necessary opt for a professional cleaning service.

Wool

Use a common wool cleaning detergent or create one with a teaspoon of neutral detergent and a teaspoon of pure white vinegar combined with a quart of warm water. Absorb as much of the liquid as possible before applying the cleaning solution to the stain.

Viscose

Avoid placing a viscose rug in a high traffic or high moisture area.  Whisk up any spills or stains by blotting with a dry cloth. We recommend scraping solids with a dull knife or nail file. If in doubt, opt for a professional cleaning service.

Regardless of the type of rug, you decide on, following a few important care guidelines will ensure your purchase lasts.

Rotate It

Once a year, turn your rug 180 degrees. This will help prevent certain spots from fading or wearing more than others.  

Vacuum with Care

Today’s powerful vacuums will easily remove dirt and dust from a rug, but they can just as easily loosen or tear rug fibers. To preserve your area rug, use vacuum attachments, which are gentler, especially around the binding or serging at the rug's outer edges. Alternately, try a carpet sweeper, which is manual and very gentle. Keep in mind that for the first few months after you set down a new rug, some shedding is normal and not a cause for concern.  

Read the Label

Some rugs are machine-washable, but many are not. Before tossing your rug in the wash or bringing it to a dry cleaner, refer to the care instructions on the label.  

Spot Clean the Right Way

A rug will warrant a professional cleaning once every one to two years. In between, spot cleaning is the best way to minimize stains. Though the exact cleaning process may vary depending on the type of rug and source of the stain, this method is safe and effective for most rugs: blot the stain (never rub it!) with a dry white cloth on both sides, spray or dab it with water, and repeat this process until the stain fades.  

Use a Rug Pad

Not only will a rug pad provide extra padding and prevent slips, it can also help extend the life of your rug. By keeping the rug in one place, the pad reduces friction between the bottom of the rug and the floor.