(253) 544-4032


6 Common Materials for Area Rugs

Choosing the right rug for your space can be tricky. Here’s a breakdown of six common area rug fibers to help you make the best decision.

What are some common area rug materials?

  1. Synthetic fibers
  2. Natural fibers
  3. Hydes
  4. Silk
  5. Cotton
  6. Wool

Cotton, wool, nylon, triesta, viscose, yadda yadda – common area rug fibers can be so confusing!

At least until you happened upon this blog.

Area rugs bring texture, color, warmth and beauty to any room in your home. For most of us, choosing a rug based on these factors is the easy part.

The confusion comes in when you start thinking about one important detail – the fiber type.

Some rugs are inexpensive and others can reach into the $40,000+ range. YIKES.

So, where to start?

Let’s break down the pros and cons of these common area rug fibers and you can be the judge as to which one is the right choice for you and your space.

Pros and Cons of 6 Common Area Rug Materials

1. Synthetics

AKA: man-made material. These fibers are made from a combination of man-made material and chemicals.

Here’s an example of a synthetic rug. This one is olefin.

Olefin and polyester fibers have a “plastic” feel and are shiny in appearance. Whereas rayon, nylon, triesta and viscose fibers have a softer feel with a lower shine. Viscose fiber is made to imitate silk rugs.

Pros and cons of synthetic fibers


  • Synthetic fibers are mostly stain-resistant and easy to clean with home remedies.
  • When kept up with routine maintenance-cleaning to remove embedded soil out of the fibers of the carpet, a rug can last up to a couple of years before the traffic patterns appear worn and soiled.


  • Notice we said “mostly” stain-resistant. There is one source that will stain a synthetic fiber and that is anything oil-based, such as salad dressing, spaghetti sauce and, of course, grease. Oil-based stains can be extremely difficult to remove, even for the professionals.
  • If used in a high-traffic area without frequent (quarterly) professional cleanings, traffic patterns appear quickly, giving the appearance of worn, soiled carpet.
  • The more soiled a rug is before cleaning, the more likely a permanent traffic pattern will remain.

Special note: Nylon is the best overall when it comes to synthetic fibers for both carpet and rugs. Nylon is much more durable and withstands heavy traffic without matting and crushing. Plus, it’s far easier to clean – even with oil-based stains. (PSST! Nylon gets our vote! )

2. Natural Fibers

Jute and sisal are natural-fiber carpets that come from plant materials such as cellulose and lignin.

This picture shows an example of this type of area rug:

Pros and cons of sisal and jute


  • They have a really cool, contemporary look.
  • They can withstand a ton of heavy traffic.
  • The coolest part is that they’re inexpensive.


  •  Just about anything spilled on the fiber will stain it – permanently. Especially anything oil-based, just like the synthetic fiber.
  • Once dark traffic patterns appear, they can be fairly difficult to remove, even with professional cleaning. There may be a slight discoloration left.
  • The fiber is scratchy. Even Fido the pup may not be happy to lay on the carpet. (Which could be a bonus as dog oils can stain the fiber as well!)

Special note: Don’t let the cleanability scare you. These rugs are inexpensive, so buy two if they look awesome in your home, then switch them out when the first one gets trashed.

3. Hides

These are pretty easy to explain: A hide is an animal fur. There are several types, such as sheepskin, cow, and even bear.

Pros and cons of hide rugs


  • If you’re into an animal hide, it can look spectacular in front of a fireplace.
  • Most hides are water-resistant, meaning you can wipe up a spill before it’s absorbed into the fur.


  • Hides are not meant to be in a heavy traffic area. They’re best left as an accent rug. If walked on by a lot of feet, the fur will twist, matte and crush.
  • They’re not resistant to any kind of pet urine and will permanently stain.
  • Depending on the hide, it can be fairly expensive.
  • Some people don’t agree with owning a hide that came from an animal.

4. Silk

Silk is a protein fiber and is produced by silkworms that lay larvae to form cocoons.

Pros and cons of silk rugs


    • Silk has thin, fine fibers, giving the rug a shiny, natural beauty (picture an expensive silk blouse, compared to a polyester blouse).
    • Silk rugs look beautiful hung on a wall.


    • Silk rugs can be costly (Just like the blouse option!).
    • They don’t like a lot of traffic. Silk is a delicate fiber that will lose its smooth texture with lots of feet traveling across the rug.
    • Silk requires a delicate, professional cleaning process to avoid damage to the fibers.

Special note:

Be aware that some cotton or viscose rugs have been sold as silk, only to find out the rug was mostly viscose, or cotton with a bit of silk tied in (Shame on them!).  Also, a silk rug is perfect for a room that is hardly used, such as a living room or, as we mentioned earlier, it can be hung on a wall out of harm’s way.

5. Cotton

Cotton comes from cottonwood trees.

Here’s a cotton rug:

Pros and cons of cotton rugs


    • Cotton too can have a shiny thin fiber look as well or it can have a soft unshiny look like the image above.  Silk rugs look beautiful hung on a wall.


    • Cotton rugs, like the white t-shirt that has been worn over and over, discolors and no matter how much bleach you use, you can’t bring the bright white back. It tends to lose its luster over time.

Special note: Cotton area rugs are usually braided or made with a flat weave. They’re much softer than jute or sisal and provide a more casual look for your space.

6. Wool

We saved the best fiber for last.

Wool, as you know, comes from sheep.

Pros and cons of wool area rugs


    • It cleans up easily because wool is naturally water-repellent (to keep Mr. Sheep dry from the rain), allowing you time to wipe up spills.
    • Wool’s cleanability is high due to the natural repellant when professionally cleaned. It’s much easier than a synthetic fiber.
    • When properly maintained, wool can last years – we’re talking generations, 60+ years.


    • Wool is more expensive than synthetic or natural fibers like jute.
    • If you like to change out your decor frequently, this may not be the best option for you as a wool rug is meant to last for years.

Special note:

Among all of the common area rug fibers, hands down, wool is the most durable and cleanable fiber available. We pick a wool area rug as the winner. YAY!

Final thoughts about common area rug fibers

You can’t go wrong with nylon or wool fibers. They’re both the easiest to spot clean, professionally clean and they wear the best.

If you choose to go a different route – or if you already have – it’s okay. YOU’VE GOT KNOLL to keep your rugs clean all year round.

Have a pro or con to add about your experience with these common area rug fibers?  We’d love to hear it.