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11 Natural Area Rugs: Their Pros and Cons

by Staff Account February 10, 2022 8 min read

11 Natural Area Rugs: Their Pros and Cons

Natural area rugs are growing in popularity. More people want to protect the environment and having organic home furnishings is a great step towards sustainability.

It’s not only the planet that benefits – natural fiber area rugs are good for human health. Would you like to put a man-made rug treated with toxic chemicals in your child’s bedroom?

You don’t have to do that - there are other options. Read on to find out what they are!

Natural Area Rugs Vs. Synthetic

Each material has its own advantages, but how do you pick a good quality rug? What are the overall pros and cons of choosing natural instead of synthetic rugs?

  • Chemical use - Synthetic rugs are made from materials like nylon, polyester, polypropylene, viscose, and acrylic. They are often chemically treated to make them stain-resistant. (Polypropylene has extremely low stain-resistance without treatment). With natural fibers, you don’t need to worry about toxic chemicals diffusing through your home.
  • Price - Synthetics are usually cheaper as they’re produced in bulk at a low cost. They don’t have the same luxurious feeling underfoot compared to natural rugs (which are often hand-made). With that said, there are plenty of affordable organic rugs on the market. 
  • Color – Not all-natural materials absorb dye as well as synthetics. As a result, man-made fibers are often the choice for vibrant, bold-colored rugs. Certain types of natural fibers can color well and the shades tend to be deeper, creating a rustic feel.
  • Durability – Natural material area rugs last longer than synthetics. 
  • Biodegradability – You can give back to nature with natural area rugs. 
  • Outdoor use - Some synthetic materials aren’t suitable for use outside. If you want a rug for your patio, certain natural fibers work great in this situation.

Below, you’ll find out exactly which natural fibers are suited to which areas, and their pros and cons overall.

Natural Fibers – Pros and Cons

Natural rugs are made from plant fibers and other natural sources and they bring an earthy, rustic quality to your space. Some of these materials have rich and interesting textures which synthetics can’t match. 

Wool and cotton are the best choices in many scenarios - they’re long-lasting, soft, and undergo high-quality manufacturing methods. However, they’re not appropriate for all situations. Materials like bamboo, jute, and seagrass are good alternatives.

1. Cotton

These rugs look fantastic as feature pieces in large rooms. This is due to their intricate designs (which are often hand-woven).


  • Easy to clean – Cotton rugs are often machine washable, making them the perfect choice for messy areas like kitchens. 
  • Soft – The most comforting sensation for your feet, as you stroll through the house on a winter’s morning, on your way to make a hot drink.
  • Lightweight – Easy to move around.
  • Price – Cheaper than wool but still high-quality.
  • Light colors - They can be dyed but their natural shades create a sense of spaciousness. 


  • It’s not as durable as wool and may wear out faster. 

Organic Cotton

There’s a big difference in the production of organic vs. non-organic cotton. Non-organic production involves pesticides which inevitably make their way into your home via your rug. These chemicals can irritate the skin and cause allergic reactions.

The farming practices on organic cotton farms are ethical and there is no forced labor. They also use methods that are much healthier for the soil and environment overall.

2. Wool

As with cotton, their unique designs make them great feature pieces. They may also be the most comfortable type of rug. 


  • Durable – It will last for years and can handle the significant weight. The fibers are springy and don’t wear down easily, so it’s perfect for areas with high foot traffic.
  • Soft – Wool is perhaps the softest rug material on the market.
  • Insulation – Great for winter, especially in large rooms that are difficult to heat. 
  • Color – It absorbs dye, making it available in a range of shades.
  • Stain-resistant – Its natural coating repels stains.
  • Fire safety - Wool is naturally flame-resistant


  • Absorbent – Not well-suited to humid and moist areas.
  • Shedding - There may be some, but this will reduce over time.

Organic Wool

The difference between organic and non-organic wool is not as clear as with cotton. For a long time, there were no global standards about organic wool. The International Wool Textile Organization (IWTO) created one to classify wool as organic.   

When companies use the term “organic wool”, they might not need this standard’s criteria. They might mean that sheep (or alpaca, and other wool-producing animals) were not harmed during production and that no pesticides were used.  

The standard requires that no chemicals were used (like medicines to prevent lice). Genuine organic wool is not common, because newer treatments for sheep are not as widely available.

 3. Silk

Bring an exotic touch to your space with a silk rug. Its beautiful sheen reflects light in a way that gives its colors enchanting luminescence.

It may be combined with wool to create the ultimate soft, luxury rug, but there are plenty of pure-silk options as well.


  • Luxury - The sheen that silk provides makes it the perfect choice for an exquisite feature piece in any room, but it’s best suited to low-traffic areas. Place it in an alcove or reading corner to embellish the space, making it stand out from the rest of the room.
  • Detailed designs – Silk allows for more intricacy - ideal when you want something with fine, ornate detail.
  • Strong – Silk is one of the strongest natural fibers on Earth. 
  • Soft and safe – That’s why it’s so great for making clothing and despite its texture, it’s not slippery. 
  • Color – Rugs are available in numerous shimmering shades.


  • Maintenance – Silk is not stain-resistant. It also requires professional cleaning (which does not involve hot water or steam).
  • Price – Like cotton and wool, the work and cost that goes into making silk rugs give them a higher price tag.
  • Footprints – They may show on silk rugs.

4. Hemp

Humans have been cultivating hemp plants for numerous purposes for thousands of years. The plant grows easily and quickly, making it a sustainable choice for textiles.  


  • Hypoallergenic – Any family members or guests with allergies will be safe around this type of rug.
  • Durable – Hemp is extremely strong, so it’s suitable for high-traffic areas.
  • Color – It takes dye well, giving you more options than some other natural fibers.
  • Environmentally-friendly – The hemp plant produces a large quantity of oxygen per square acre (more than some tree species). This is great for us, our planet, and its wildlife.   
  • Mildew-resistant – Mildew is a type of mold which is notorious for being difficult to remove. With a hemp rug, you won’t need to worry about that.  
  • Comfort – It softens over time. If it doesn’t feel nice, to begin with, it will.


  • It may shed so be sure to vacuum often.
  • Its colors are not as vibrant as with other materials.

5. Jute

Jute is the plant that’s used to make hessian cloth. It grows in countries near the equator, including India and Bangladesh, and its stalks are spun and weaved.

It’s a versatile fabric, used for making outdoor baskets and cushions, flour sacks, and more.


  • Color – if you want an Earthy feel, the jute’s natural tone is perfect. It can also be dyed in vibrant shades.
  • Soft – The plant’s stalk is much softer than the leaves. It’s a good alternative to wool in terms of comfort.
  • Sustainable – It’s easy to produce.
  • Price – It’s cheaper than wool and cotton.
  • Outdoor-friendly – Place it on your patio without issue.


  • Absorbent – Not suitable for use in humid areas.
  • Staining - It’s not the most stain-resistant fiber, but if you clean up spills before they have the chance to sink in, you should have no problem in keeping jute rugs in top condition.
  • Durability - It’s not the best in this regard, so use it for medium to low traffic areas.

6. Sisal

Sisal comes from the sisalana plant, also known as agave. It grows in parts of South America and Africa, and is often used for making rope (so it’s among the strongest rug fibers).  


  • Durable – Perfect for hallways and other high-traffic areas.
  • Color – It can be dyed.
  • Price – Like jute, this material is cheaper than wool and cotton.
    • Suitable for outdoor use


    • Uncomfortable – Its fibers may feel scratchy, so it’s not the rug for your kids’ bedrooms or playroom areas.
    • Clean up quickly – This material is absorbent, so you need to clean up stains before they have time to sink in. If you clean spills early, a bit of water and soap will easily do the trick.  
    • Avoid slips - It may become slippery over time, so avoid using it on stairs or other areas where it could be a hazard.  

    7. Seagrass

    This plant grows in saltwater marshes. In its natural form, colors range from light green to khaki to brown. These rugs often come with non-slip-backing on the underside and it’s more comfortable than sisal.   


    • High stain-resistance – This is due to its waxy finish. Wipe it with a soapy solution and it will be as good as new.
    • Water-resistant – It’s non-porous, so it won’t absorb moisture, making it ideal for kitchens and bathrooms.
    • Sustainable - It grows quickly so it’s easy to cultivate.   
    • Price – Its easy cultivation makes it cheaper than other materials.
    • Mold and mildew-resistant
    • Suitable for outdoor use



    It doesn’t dye well so opt for something different if you’re looking for some bold color to liven up your room. 

    8. Leather

    If you’re not looking for a vegan rug, leather is another option. Like silk, this material adds a luxurious, sophisticated touch to a room, making it a great choice for offices or formal living and dining areas.


    • Soft – The smooth surface of leather adds to its luxury.
    • Durable – While leather is durable on its own, it’s often mixed with other fabrics to enhance it, including wool and cotton.
    • Easy to clean – Blot spills and avoid using detergent or soap, as it will remove the color.  
    • Hypoallergenic – No watery eyes to worry about here.


    The main issue with leather is that moisture can damage the fabric. When cleaning, make sure to gently wipe off stains with a damp cloth and don’t let it get too wet. 

    To keep leather rugs in top condition, use a conditioner every 6-12 months.

    9. Bamboo

    A bamboo rug creates an exotic, relaxing atmosphere. It’s an elegant yet calming design choice, inspiring a sense of ease when you enter the room. Its light caramel color brings an airy yet warm quality to the space.

    There are two common styles – wide strip and narrow strip. A narrow strip is a more intricate weave.  


    • Durable – Perfect for high-traffic areas.
    • Safe and sturdy – Many bamboo rugs come with anti-slip backing.
    • Insulation – The strips retain warmth.  
    • No anti-static treatment required – Some other rug materials need this treatment because they conduct electric charge. With bamboo, that’s not a cost you need to consider.  
    • Suitable for outdoor use.


      • It’s not soft like many other rug materials and there are limited color choices for bamboo.  

      10. Animal Hide

      Ethical animal hide rugs are sourced from cows and other animals that are used for their meat. It’s a common misconception that they’re slaughtered purely for their skin – they’re not. (Check with the manufacturer to be sure).


      • Rustic – Perfect for cabins and traditional spaces.
      • Unique – Every piece is original.
      • Resourceful – Using all parts of the animal prevents waste.
      • Durability – They’re strong and resistant to wear and tear.


      • Unlike other natural rugs, these have to be treated to make them suitable for use as rugs. However, the chemicals used are safe – they’re not toxic. However, if you want something purely organic, this may not be the material for you.

      11. Mountain Grass

      Now for another plant-based option. Mountain grass grows in Pacific regions. The color of these rugs ranges from brown to green.


      • Sustainable – This plant grows fast.
      • Easy to maintain - Wiping away dirt and spills will not damage the fibers.
      • Natural UV resistance – It won’t fade in sunny areas.


      • They’re not soft and are best used solely for decoration - not in areas where you might tread barefoot.

      Closing Thoughts

      As you can tell, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to natural area rugs! Plenty of them blend different fibers together, giving you the best of what each material has to offer.  

      Whether you want something for indoors, outdoors, a high-traffic area, or a formal, low-traffic room, there’s a material for the job.

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