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What are the Healthiest & Safest Materials for Rugs?


A perfect rug can transform your home, from mediocre to an amazing space. Rugs add style, texture, and magically complement your furniture pieces. Think warm, cozy sanctuary. We love rugs for many reasons, and among them are their uncanny ability to define your spaces. Choosing the healthiest material for rugs is super important for your family’s well being. We’ve got you, and your floor, covered with our guide to the best material for rugs in your home. 

nontoxic rug guide

The Top 4 Reasons Why You Need A Rug In Your Home

The look and feel of a natural rug is a staple for modern home design. Contrary to popular belief, the right kind of rug can actually promote a healthy living environment.

This is because rugs are excellent for sound dampening while providing a soft layer of comfort and warmth under foot. Thermal comfort and sound are key factors when creating an environment that promotes less stress and more relaxation.

  1. RUGS PROVIDE COMFORT...  Nothing beats the feeling of sinking your feet into a soft, plush rug. Lots of our homes feature hardwood, tiled or marble floors. While these natural flooring materials are durable and amazing, they can feel uncomfortably cold when you wake up first thing in the morning. Rugs naturally insulate your home and treat your feet to a warm, soothing experience. 

  2. RUGS PUT SAFETY FIRST... Rugs are perfect for families with kids and pets. If you have a baby at home, a soft, cozy rug ensures they have a safe space to crawl, play, and learn to walk. For toddlers zooming around your home, rugs provide a buffer for all those rough and tumbles. Also on the safety list are slick areas and bathrooms which can benefit from a a snug rug under foot.

  3. RUGS REDUCE AMBIENT NOISE... Your home can be a whirlwind of hustle and bustle - kids, pets, music, cooking, high heels. The best material for rugs absorbs noises that can travel through your home. The soft fluffy nature of rugs will soften echoes and reduce sounds in high-traffic areas. So, you can enjoy the amazing feeling of peace and quiet. 

  4. RUGS ARE DESIGN HEROS... Rugs define a space, especially in an open floor plan situation. If you're looking for texture in the living room, a pop of color in the dining room, or that extra design element in a plain entryway, a rug can take the design of a room to the next level.

So rugs boost the comfort factor, provide safety measures, and create a calm and pretty environment to relax in. But, not all rugs are made equal. Next, we’ll explore the most common mistakes people make when buying rugs and how to avoid them. 

a dog sleeping on a non toxic rug

Key Considerations When Evaluating the Best Material for Area Rugs

Your typical rug materials are often treated with toxic chemicals. For example, flame retardants, toxic dyes, water resistant coatings, and stain repellent. These harsh chemicals contain VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that sit in your rug. They get released into your home's air and via skin contact over time without you even noticing. 

VOCs are related to serious health issues, such as respiratory problems and heart disease. And, the closer you are to your rug, the more toxins you an touch and breathe in, so kids and pets are more affected.

The healthiest material for a rug is nontoxic and free from chemical processing. It’s not just the rug material that you need to watch out for though. While the bulk of your rug may be nontoxic, the base layer may use an unsafe glue or synthetic rubber nonslip application. PVC, synthetic rubbers and adhesives with formaldehyde can irritate your eyes, skin, and nose, and cause unwanted chronic health problems with chronic exposure.

We mentioned the nonslip rug pads, which are common bad actors that many aren't aware of. They're generally made from materials like PVC and rubber that contains phthalates. These groups of chemicals are linked to asthma, low IQ, and childhood development issues. Not something you want young children exposed to. Natural latex (from the rubber tree) or silicone rug pads are wonderful healthy alternatives for areas where your rug may require extra nonslip grip.


Tips to Improve Your Indoor Air Quality with Rugs 

Did you know rugs can actually improve your IAQ? To sum up what we've discussed so far, here's some quick tips to protect your family and improve your indoor air quality

  • Check the rug label for certifications like OEKO-TEX and ISO. OEKO-TEX labels assure you that no harmful chemicals are used in your rug. Other meaningful labels include fair trade, ISO and organic. And while these are helpful, also look for handmade items. Oftentimes handcrafted pieces are also sustainable and nontoxic; just remember to ask and non assume.

  • Use natural nonslip rug pads when necessary. Jute, viscose and wool are nontoxic materials with a great grip to keep your rug in place and may not need a nonslip layer beneath. However, using a nonslip base layer with cotton rug is recommended if you feel your rug isn't secure underfoot.

  • Choose healthy rug materials. The best way to avoid harmful VOCs is to invest in nontoxic rugs made from healthy materials. The best material for rugs is natural and chemical free... Now, you know the importance of choosing the safest rugs for your home.


Our Top Healthiest Materials for Rugs 

Rugs and bathmats are an interesting category when it comes to non toxic home accessories. This is because rugs:

a) need to be soft and chemical free (we walk on them, so lots of skin contact)

b) need to be resilient (able to trap water and dirt, while being mold resistant and durable)

As you know, we are huge fans of natural fibers when it comes to all things healthiest in a home. However in this case, our favorite healthiest materials for rugs includes options from the natural fibers and synthetic yarns families. Let's discuss each, so you can figure what works best for your family's needs. Among them are wool, cotton, viscose, polypropylene and natural fibers like jute and sisal.  

 ...Warm + washable wool rugs

Wool rugs are soft, wonderful insulators, and can be washable, too! The beauty of wool rugs shines through their natural color variations from sheep in different regions. 

What are the advantages of wool rugs

Wool is a durable and resilient material that is sustainable and plentiful, thanks for our friendly sheep friends. Spring is the most common season for sheering sheep, which is where wool yarn comes from. Sheep may actually be sheered at any time of year so long as there is enough wool to keep the animals warm during the winter months.

Wool rugs come in longer versions and shorter pile. The long wool rugs are unique though, as their super fluffy thickness and texture is hard to mimic with synthetic look-a-likes. Wool rugs are popular for the dining room, living room and even as wall art. Braided wool rugs are exquisitely soft and keep your floors warm. Also, wool naturally repels water and dirt and is naturally fire resistant.

Wool area rugs are also great for families with kids and pets. They’re water resistant, noise insulating, and can handle lots of foot traffic.

What to look out for with wool rugs

Pure wool rugs are very durable and often harder to source. In fact some handwoven wool rugs are prized legacy pieces that are handed down for generations and can be quite expensive. Sometimes, wool may be combines with other materials like polyester, which isn't necessarily a detriment. Just make sure that your rug isn't treated with stain treatments or fire retardants, since lesser quality fabrics like polyester may be treated.

Wool does contain lanolin, the natural oil found in a sheep's wool coat that conditions and softens. It's also a contact allergen for some people. If you or a family member has an allergy to wool or lanolin, we recommend cotton or viscose (bamboo).

While we're on the subject, it's also important to know that a wool rug will likely shed a little at first when you first bring it home. It's nothing to be alarmed about. This is completely normal and will lessen over time. We recommend vacuuming our wool rugs with the beater bar off to help speed up the initial shedding process.

Since our wool rugs are also washable, take care to remove any agitators before washing. The fluff at the bottom of the wash drum is normal. In fact, it's testament that washing a washable wool rug helps to speed up the shedding process.


Some of the oldest rugs in the world are made from wool, for example, antique Persian rugs. A wool rug called the ‘Pazyryk Carpet’ was hand woven back in the 5th century BC (that’s over 2,500 years ago!)

...Soft + sustainable cotton rugs  

For a modern organic look, go for single color cotton rugs that feature texture and varying pile heights. And for a look that features colorful design elements (like patterns and subtle color accents), a cotton rug with nontoxic dyes is a beautiful option for a healthy home.

What are the advantages of cotton rugs

Cotton rugs are plush, soft, and absorbent. The key is finding cotton rugs that are also washable, since they're commonly used in messy areas like the kitchen, bathroom and kids' rooms.

Cotton rugs are economical, breathable and easy to maintain in comparison to other yarns. They come in a range of designs with options that feature interesting patterns and solids. Most cotton area rugs are machine washable and are easy to spot clean. Opt for flat woven or braided rugs that won’t leave indents from heavy furniture pieces.

Considerations when buying a cotton rug

Organic cotton rugs are cozy but may start to fade if exposed to direct sunlight over time. It's a good idea to avoid placing cotton area rugs outdoors, as cotton is not suitable for outdoor wet or damp areas. Cotton rugs may also be less durable than wool rugs. The upside is that they’re usually more affordable and easier to replace. 

...Plant-based natural fiber rugs

Natural fiber rugs are your ultimate design chameleons. They’re handmade from plants like jute, sisal, palm and seagrass. These natural rugs add depth, warmth, and texture to any room in your home and come in a plethora of patterns, shapes and braided textures.

Advantages of natural fiber rugs 

Natural fiber rugs are among the safest options and suit any decor style – from minimalist to farmhouse. They’re made from plants that are naturally grown without the need for herbicides or pesticides. Mother nature made them pest resistant. We love the effortless modern organic look of woven jute and sisal. Woven area rugs also resist dirt stains and are easy to wipe clean. They’re characterized by their natural reed like textures that blend in seamlessly with modern, traditional, tropical and cottage decor. 

Some disadvantages of natural fiber rugs 

There are types of natural fibers, like sisal and seagrass, that tend to shed more. The upside is that many designs come with pure cotton or recycled leather borders to help reduce shedding or fraying. Some natural fiber rugs can show water marks easily, so not all materials are fit for spills. Watch out for using these in humid or damp environments, as some plant-based materials like seagrass may tend to develop mold spots in damp environments.

natural fiber rug in dining room
natural fiber rugs create a modern organic look


Is jute a good material for a rug? Yes! in fact, jute is becoming increasingly popular, because it's one of the fastest growing plants. It's nontoxic, renewable, and grows to maturity within 4 to 6 months. Just like all the natural plant-based rugs, jute is 100% biodegradable wat the end of its useful life. Jute does have a distinct earthy smell, which can bother some people sensitive to its natural oils.

...Silky soft viscose rugs

If you're wondering, is viscose a good material for rugs, it actually tops our list! When it comes to our favorite rugs, bamboo viscose is simply amazing. While viscose rugs are less common, these diamonds in the rough are hypoallergenic, super soft, and feature the look and feel of expensive silk rugs.

Why we love viscose rugs 

Viscose is a natural fiber from the bamboo plant. Sometimes it's referred to as rayon from bamboo. Bamboo is a fast-growing, sustainable grass that requires little water and no pesticide intervention. Viscose yarn that is manufactured via a closed loop system is important. This means there was no environmental pollution involved during the manufacturing process, which also ensures worker safety is a priority. Viscose rugs are super soft, silky and are among the most hypoallergenic of all the rug materials, making them especially excellent for babies, pets and those with allergies.

Viscose rug maintenance

Viscose rugs are not meant for heavy traffic areas and can be damaged if water or other liquids are spilled onto them. Also avoid using viscose in humid or damp environments. While they are not machine washable, they do hold up well with weekly vacuuming.

Other Materials for Rugs to Consider 

  • SILK RUGS...  Silk rugs are smooth and shiny, and add subtle elegance to your home. Although silk is one of the strongest natural fibers, spills should be avoided at all costs. Liquids can cause permanent damage (even water). They’re better suited in low traffic areas, like your second floor hallway or your bedroom. 

  • ANIMAL HIDE RUGS... Real genuine pelts come in a variety of shapes – from soft hides to stitched panels. Sheep pelt rugs are among the most popular designs. Their organic irregular shapes add interest to your home office or den. Perfect for rustic style homes and every single one is unique to you. Our repurposed pelts come from sustainably managed pasture-centric farms that are a by-product of the meat industry, eliminating unnecessary harm or waste. And instead of AZO dyes, only the safest metallic and acid dyes are used without added fire-retardants or chemical treatments 

  • INDOOR/OUTDOOR RUGS...  Indoor/outdoor rugs often feature a blend of natural and synthetic fibers, like polypropylene (PP) or PET. Indoor/outdoor rugs are suitable for your entryway where muddy shoes (and paws) are common. They're also great on patios, decks and anywhere inside the home. Even though they are a synthetic plastic material, PP and PET are completely non toxic, easily recyclable and soft under foot. Best part.... if the rug gets dirty, just hose it down or throw it in the laundry. And they are recyclable.

Is Polypropylene A Good Material for Rugs?

Polypropylene (or olefin) rugs are popular for indoor/outdoor rugs. They can handle messes and spills, and many designs are machine washable. Plus PP is non toxic and recyclable at the end of its useful life. The only thing to avoid with PP is putting it in the dryer. Always let these rugs air dry, as they're sensitive to high heat.

recycled rug
sustainable materials // mindfully modern indoor+outdoor rug

When it comes to the easiest rug materials to clean and maintain, natural rug materials like wool, viscose and cotton repel dirt and dust mites. The indoor/outdoor rugs are also super easy to clean with just a water hose and air dry. There are also many machine washable rug out there... At the end of the day, it's about what fits your lifestyle, budget and design preferences best.


The next part of our post explores the best rug materials for every room in your home... Let’s dive in!

natural area rug in living room

The Best Rug Material for Dining Room

Placing a rug under your dining room table enhances the space and protects your flooring. The best rug materials for your dining room need to handle moving chairs and constant spills.

Picture this: trying to extract spilled food out of a shaggy rug. A flat woven wool area rug is easy to clean and maintain. For everyday family meals, a wool rug can handle regular spills and stains. In comparison, a plush cotton rug does the trick for a dining room reserved for special occasions. While we love viscose, it stains easier and is not ideal for the dining room.

The Best Rug Material for Living Room

A large area rug protects your floors and provides a cozy space to relax. Wool rugs are highly durable and well suited for busy households with young families. Cotton is lightweight and easy to clean, too. Especially, if you’re worried about frequent spills from snack bowls or sippy cups.

In low traffic living rooms, the best material for rugs can be decorative and display intricate woven patterns. For instance, viscose and silk rugs are extremely soft and are a great way to make a style statement. For smaller living rooms, place a rug underneath your coffee table. Or, arrange your furniture around the rug to frame your space.

It might not seem obvious at first, but large area rugs make your rooms look even bigger. They’re great for anchoring furniture in your living room, dining room, or bedroom. A floating furniture arrangement creates zones in your home. This allows you to enjoy all sides of your sofa, tables, and floor lamps. 

The Best Material for Fireplace Rug

Accent your fireplace with a safe and flame resistant rug in your living room, home office, or den.  It’s important to make sure your rug is at least 3 feet away from your fireplace (whether it’s electric, gas, or wood burning). 

Real animal hide rugs create a beautiful centerpiece in front of your fireplace. Natural fibers like jute and seagrass have fire resistant properties. Similarly, wool rugs have low flammability and provide a warm, safe place to rest. Opt for a low pile wool rug, so it’s easier to remove stray soot particles.

Over time, even the best material for rugs can look tired. A cleaning routine helps to maintain your lustrous fibers and ensure your rugs last.  


Tips for Cleaning and Maintaining Rugs

Natural rugs can harbor dust mites, allergens, mold spores, and pet dander. These hazardous pollutants can trigger health issues and allergies (more on this in a bit). Even the best material for a rug still requires thorough cleaning. 

Here's How to Clean & Maintain Your Rug: 

  • Treat spills and stains as quickly as possible. Use baking soda to remove tough stains with a pour over of white vinegar. 

  • If your rugs are machine washable then go for it! Wash rugs separately on a cool, gentle cycle with a mild detergent and no agitator. Always follow the instructions on the tag.

  • Vacuum your rugs regularly with the beater bar off to remove dust and dirt (if the manufacturer recommends)

  • Take care to vacuum the back of your rug for any dust that may have settled there 

  • Avoid vacuuming the fringe of your rug. Start from the center and work your way outwards 

  • Consider switching out your beater bar for an upholstery brush if your unit has one

  • Rotate your area rug to develop an even patina and prevent excessive wear patterns 

  • Call in the professionals every once in a while for a deep clean. There are eco friendly services, but make sure they use non toxic cleaning solutions.

Did you know?

Beating dirt out of your rug with a broom can actually loosen the threads of your rug and may permanently alter its shape. Frequent vacuuming and washing once or twice a year are the best ways to keep your rugs looking brand new. 

Regularly cleaning your rugs and removing dust is a top priority for a healthy home. Especially for households with pets or if you have family members with allergies or asthma. 


The Best Hypoallergenic Rug Materials

Contrary to popular belief, allergy sufferers don’t have to avoid rugs. This might seem counterintuitive as rugs are often seen as ‘dust collectors’. In fact, they can help remove allergens from your indoor air. 

Pollutants like dust mites and pet dander can trigger allergies or asthma flare ups. On smooth, exposed floors a gentle breeze can stir up these particles and carry them from room to room. 

That’s where rugs come in. Hypoallergenic rugs improve your air quality. They bind dirt and trap dust mites into their fibers. This stops harmful pollutants from spreading. When you vacuum your rugs with a HEPA vacuum, you remove these particles from your home. And, your family can breathe easily. 

The Best Rug Material for Playroom

Every kid has a one-of-a-kind personality and deserves a playroom to match. A thick, plush rug provides a safe space for your kids to explore and let their imaginations run wild. 

Pure wool, plush cotton, and soft viscose rugs provide a soft landing for kids to play on. Many designs feature shapes, numbers, or animals to help with learning. We love the modern Scandinavian style rugs for kid's playrooms and bedrooms that feature plush pile heights and subtle tribal patterns. 

The Best Material for Bath Mat

Cotton rugs are a popular choice for bath mats. Cotton is absorbent and able to soak up spills from your shower or bath tub. In particular, washable cotton is important to keep the fibers sanitary and clean.

Other materials for bath mats include natural teak wood, wool and hemp. Wool bath mats are extremely warm and quick drying – perfect for a large family bathroom. Teak, wool and hemp bath mats resist mold and mildew, making them excellent for the tub or shower area.

modern organic bath mat
wool, cotton and hemp are amazing bathmat options


The Best Materials for Outdoor Rugs

Are you looking to spruce up your patio, porch, or deck? An outdoor rug is the perfect place to start. The best material for rugs on your patio or pergola can take a real beating from the outdoor elements. 

The Best Material for Entryway Rugs

mid century modern rug

Welcome your guests home with an entryway rug. A welcome door mat can protect your floors from rain, snow, mud, or sunshine. To extend the life of your entryway rug, use a silicone or natural latex nonslip pad that stops your rug from shifting and bunching up. 

Whether you have a narrow entryway or a large foyer, wool is a great rug material for entryways. Wool rugs are moisture and dirt resistant. They’re very easy to spot clean with water and dish soap, too. Opt for a low pile, so your rug doesn’t get in the way when opening your front door.

PET and PP rugs are also so suitable for entryway rugs. They’re durable, easy to clean and vacuum, and are ideal for mopping up wet shoe prints

The Best Material for Patio Rugs 

Synthetic fibers like PP and PET are the best material for outdoor rugs. They’re stain and water resistant which means that your sangria or red wine spills aren’t the end of the world. In the same way, food crumbs can be vacuumed up without the fear of snagging on delicate fibers. If you have large trees or shrubs in your backyard, stray leaves can be swept away effortlessly. 

Although polypropylene rugs are nonabsorbent, they should be used in covered areas. Small openings and gaps on the surface can allow water to seep through and damage your rug from the inside. Avoid rubber, PVC or vinyl rugs, as these will offgas chemical fumes.

outdoor area rug
outdoor polypropylene rugs (aka PP) are soft, durable + and easy to clean

Choosing the best material for rugs depends on your interior space and how you’ll interact with it. It’s time to reveal our top picks!


Our Top Pick for the Best Material for Rugs

With our rug guide, you have a certain and effective way to select healthy rugs for your home. The safest materials are natural, nontoxic, soft and easy to clean. 

… So What Material Is Best for Rugs?

The answer is easy. All of the options we discussed are amazing and beautiful! Cotton is the easiest for clean up. Wool is the warmest and fluffiest. Viscose is the softest and most hypoallergenic. And PP and PET are best for your outdoor living areas.

All of these rug materials can be cleaned and all are completely nontoxic. Equally important, they won't break the bank and come in the latest modern designs.

It's time to rest and rejuvenate, and a soft, warm rug is essential for feeling comfy inside your home. That's exactly what the collection of Healthier Homes' nontoxic rugs is all about.


natural rugs


A quick summary and some final considerations when shopping for the healthiest rug materials!

... What Materials Should I Avoid When Shopping for Rugs?

Always check if natural or synthetic rug materials have been treated with harsh chemicals. For example, stain repellents, water repellents, flame retardants, and unsafe dyes. The best material for rugs is always chemical free. 

... What Type of Rug Is Easiest to Maintain?

Look for rugs with a short to medium pile height, or flat weave rugs that are easy to spot clean, and vacuum. Machine washable rugs are of course brilliant and easy to wash with mild detergent on a gentle spin. And nontoxic outdoor polypropylene rugs are a synch, since they can be hosed down and air dried.

... How Can You Tell If A Rug Is High Quality?

Count the number of knots in the woven fabric – the more knots, the higher the quality! Also, high quality rugs should use high quality dyes, so the color doesn’t transfer to your clothes or your flooring. Avoid machine and hand tufted rugs that use unsafe glues or contain a PVC or synthetic rubber backing.

... What Is the Best Material for A Braided Rug?

Wool is the best material for a braided rug because it’s durable, holds its colors, resists dirt, and is soft to the touch. Moreover, wool is a heavier fabric that will lie flat so the side of your braided rug won’t curl up. Don't forget natural materials like jute and sisal make for amazing braided rugs, too.

... Are Polypropylene Rugs A Health Hazard?

Polypropylene rugs are far from being a health hazard. We are picky about plastics, and PP is one of the few that makes our healthier homes happy list. It's inert, doesn't offgas and won't leach into ground water. It's also recyclable.

... Which Type of Rug Is Most Durable?

Natural fibers like wool and cotton are more durable than their synthetic counterparts. Both wool and cotton can withstand heavy foot traffic without showing wear and tear. For outdoor rugs, opt for polypropylene or PET rugs that can handle a variety of weather conditions and can be cleaned easily. 

Bottom line, we practice what we preach. If it's on HH, it's because we feel comfortable having it in our own home with our fur babies and kiddos, too. Feel free to check out our curated collection of modern and classic rug styles made from the safest natural materials. Want something you don't see, let us know! Here's to happy toes :)