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Looking to buy a cheap rug? Think again

by Sandy Wong September 07, 2018 7 min read

1 Comment

Looking to buy a cheap rug?  Think again

Gone are the days when rug shopping only had two options - cheap wool or expensive wool?

Now, you have all sorts of materials to choose from due to innovations in the world of natural and synthetic fibres. The 'look a-likes' to wool are endless and at extremely affordable price points making them very attractive options for the new and growing family. But is affordability the only factor you should consider? Maybe you want to consider something a little nicer that will last a little longer? We've got you covered as we dive deep into what you get for what you pay.

When shopping for a rug, many people start with the budget. How much am I willing to pay? $200 or $800? But many don't understand exactly what these price points mean when it comes to what you are getting.

$200 can get you a synthetic rug that will last about 3 to 5 years. Some people are okay with this. A rug that you can toss after the kids are done with it. There's no worry that the kids will ruin it because you can simply replace it with another $200 rug.  The designs are also endless so there is no fear of compromising on style.

But what if I told you that rugs in this price point may have been made by a child, or that it may be constructed from material that contains pesticides? Would you think again?

An $800 rug, on the other hand, can last for decades and is usually made with the finest quality wool derived in a sustainable and eco-friendly manner.  Fair trade and child-free labour are at top of mind.  Consider this not only an investment in a good quality rug but that you are also supporting a valuable social cause.     

What You Get for What You Pay

Before you decide on your rug budget, it is important to understand what you are paying for at each price point. The following prices are for a typical rectangle room rug of approximately 5' x 7' in size.

Factors to Consider
Under $200
$200 to $500
Over $500

Materials Typically Used

Low quality Wool or Synthetic materials (e.g. Cotton, Polypropylene, Nylon and Acrylic).  It is important to source from a reputable brand to safeguard against unwanted chemicals and toxins.  

Better quality Wool, Cotton, Polypropylene, Nylon, Viscose

Best quality Wool sourced from low impact, sustainable environments that uses child-free labour

Technique Used in Construction

Hand made or Machine woven

Hand made or Machine woven

Hand made

Life Span

2 to 3 years

5 to 30 years

30 years and up

Kid and Pet Friendly

Synthetics are usually harder to rid of bacteria, odours and stains

Depending on brand and materials used, maybe

Good quality wool is naturally anti-bacterial and stain resistant.  Wool can be washed to rid of odours.


Often made from synthetic plastic fibres, these rugs can feel soft initially but will quickly deteriorate and become sticky and scratchy

Some 'look alike' materials such as viscose can feel silky and luxurious. Handmade wool rugs feel soft and supportive to the feet.

Best quality wool rugs are soft and buttery feeling. Their dense quality also makes it highly supportive for the feet.

Under $200

Also dubbed as 'disposable rugs', the rugs in this category are purchased mainly because of their cheap price point. You may be able to find some machine woven wool rugs under $200 but most are made out of synthetic materials. When shopping in this price category, there are several notes of caution that you should be aware of.

Chemicals and toxins in materials used: When shopping in this price point, it is important to go with a reputable brand. Low quality natural materials such as cotton and wool that are not carefully sourced may contain pesticides and other agricultural chemicals1. Low quality synthetic materials such as polypropylene, viscose, acrylic and nylon are made out of plastic materials that aren't generally toxic but may be coated with flame retardant chemicals that make it toxic. Going with a reputable brand will ensure you minimize the risk of chemical off-gassing in your rug, which probably isn't something you want in your child's room.

Unethical Practices: The international rug industry is famous for using child labour. Where adult labour is used, they are often paid unfair wages and work in unsafe and/or unhealthy environments. If you find a rug in this price point that is handmade, make sure it is coming from a reputable brand to avoid unknowingly supporting unethical practices.

Not recommended for homes with pets:  If you have a pet that sheds a lot, you should be changing out your cheap synthetic rug every year. Synthetic fibres are plastic fibres that are solid and smooth. Soil sticks to the outside of the fibres making them dull fast and needs to be cleaned often. However, vacuuming doesn't often do the trick because the fibres are also sticky. Dog fur sticks to the fibres and a vacuum isn't strong enough to pull them off the fibres. Furthermore, cheap synthetic rugs typically have a jute backing, which is a highly absorbent plant based fibre. If you have a dog that has the occasional accident in the house, no amount of cleaning can get rid of the odours that get absorbed into the fibres (think straw and wet pee). And if you think bringing it to a professional carpet cleaner can do the job, well think again. Average professional cleaning cost for a rug is $2 to $5 per square feet2. For rugs in this price point, you might as well buy a new one.

$200 to $500

Most consumers land in this price bracket when it comes to shopping for a rug for their child's room. In this category, you will be able to find a variety of suitable options ranging from good quality hand made wool rugs to machine washable cotton rugs.

Quality materials used: Brands in this price point pay closer attention to the quality of the materials used and where they are sourced. You may be interested to know that wool naturally resists colour and has to be treated with extra harsh chemicals to achieve different colours. With innovation, some companies in this price bracket have been able to achieve the same vibrant colours using natural dyes, making it an attractive option for a child's room.

Ethical practices: You will be happy to know that you can shop ethically in this price point. Rug companies like Oh Happy Home! is a great example of a company that does it right. All their rugs are certified with Goodweave International, an organization that is against child labour, forced labour and bond labour. They are also committed to abiding by the 10 Fair Trade principles put forth by the WFTO.  

Machine washable rugs: In this category, you may start to find 100% cotton rugs that are machine washable. The minds behind the making of these rugs are simply brilliant. These rugs are perfect for homes with young children or pets. Simply throw them into a domestic washing machine on cold water and then lay flat to dry.

Over $500

Most rugs in this category are made of wool, the most common ones being from New Zealand, Australia and Argentina. Wool contains lanolin, a natural protectant against moisture and common elements. When used to construct a rug, it is naturally stain resistant and easy to clean. It is hard for spills to penetrate the wool so when a spill does happen, simple blotting with an absorbent towel usually does the trick. It is also fire retardant, static resistant and acts as an air filter to provide healthy air for your home.

Eco-friendly New Zealand wool:  Not only is New Zealand wool the purest, whitest wool in the world offering excellent dyeing characteristics that create long-lasting colours, the New Zealand sheep industry is one of the world's greenest animal production systems. The sheeps are raised with little impact on the natural landscape (on land that is not suitable for vegetation) in a pesticide free environment. It really can't get any better than this.

Easy care:  Not only does a good quality wool rug last long, their appearance remains as good as new if you take proper care of it. The great thing about wool is that the fibres have lots of "pockets" in its construction to hide dust and grit, so they look good even when they are dirty3. You don't need to vacuum them as often as synthetic rugs. And contrary to ordinary belief, wool rugs are best for homes with dogs because wool has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. To remove odours, a proper wash will do the trick.

Soft, supportive and noise insulating: Wool yarn is spun to create a soft and lavish fibre that is handwoven into a rug. The wool fibres are short and have a natural spiral construction resulting in a soft and buttery surface texture. Wool is also a natural noise insulator, helping to prevent your home from echoing.  

We started Rugs by Roo with the intention of bringing designer rugs to busy families who can use a little bit of pick-me-up in their homes. We were shocked when we made these discoveries about the rug industry. We quickly realized that it wasn't only about the designs.

The rug industry is large and complex. As a retailer of rugs for children's rooms, we offer a wide selection of rugs to meet all price points and it is our responsibility to choose suppliers that are ethical, who share our social mission, who invests in sourcing quality materials and is responsible to our environment. When it comes to choosing our suppliers, we are very selective in our process because we have to be. Even if you choose not to shop from our store, we hope this article will help educate you in your buying process and to buy from reputable brands that care about our little ones and everything around them. Happy shopping everyone!

1  Article Choosing a Non-Toxic Area Rug by Maia James, Gimme The Good Stuff
2  Article Cheap Synthetic Rugs.  What You Need to Know by Lisa Wagner, Rug Chick
3  Article Synthetic Fiber Rugs.  The good, the bad and the ugly.  by Lisa Wagner, Clean Fax  

1 Response


June 06, 2022

Love this information. So helpful for those both looking to live clean and support ethical practices.

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