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You search high and low for the perfect rug then just plop it on the floor without so much as a second thought, only to have the inevitable happen: Dents from heavy furniture, annoying wrinkles, or worse—potentially an accident slipping on a wonky corner. The obvious fix here is a rug pad, but the better approach would have been to get one before you had a reason to.
While safety is first on the long list of rug pad benefits, did you know that rug pads can actually extend the life and condition of your area carpets and floors? And that’s not insignificant because rugs—and flooring—can both be major investments worth protecting. But before you buy just any old rug pad, there are a number of key details to keep in mind when shopping for one, from its material to how to find the right shape and size for your rug. To help you navigate these tricky waters, we turned to the pros for their insight on everything you should know before you buy a rug pad.
What’s the Point of a Rug Pad?
The primary function of a rug pad is to prevent slips and falls, but these pieces can be just as beneficial for rugs themselves. According to Ben Hyman, co-founder and CEO of Revival Rugs, rug pads exist to protect three things: You, your floors, and your rug.
“Rug pads help lengthen a rug’s lifespan and quality because they prevent direct contact with the floor, shielding it from dust and other particles,” says Hyman. “Plus, it allows the rug to lay flat, so it doesn’t bunch.” Consider a rug pad an extra layer of support between your floors and heavy furniture, cushioning the weight of your furnishings to prevent indents all around.
While the idea of shelling out additional money to purchase a rug pad can seem unnecessary, Katy McColl Lukens, editorial director of Annie Selke, says to think of it as a necessary investment. “A pad will help prevent any damage to the flooring underneath, and it’ll also hinder wear-and-tear on that hand-knotted Moroccan wool you saved up for.”
What is the Best Material for a Rug Pad?
Not all rug pads are created equal. A basic Google search will reveal a variety of options, most of which are made of felt or an “eco-friendly” synthetic material. Antique rug expert Omri Schwartz of Nazmiyal Rugs says that the majority of rug pads we see these days are comprised of either horsehair, felt, rubber, or jute, each bringing its unique benefit to the table.
“Some rug pads may combine a couple of those materials, such as rubber for grip and felt for cushion,” he says, while others will add in a layer of padding to give a rug more “body”. That said, Schwartz doesn’t recommend installing a really cushy pad under a thin or flat woven rug since the disparity in thickness can look strange or even cause you to trip.
“Often the thickness of the rug itself helps guide which type of pad you should go for,” notes McColl Lukens. “For example, if you have a higher pile rug, you should use a heavyweight or dense rug pad.” If your rug is thinner, best to use something that’s also low profile.
In terms of material, most experts agree that a rug pad featuring a blend of felt and rubber makes for the ideal pairing. “You can buy 100 percent felt rug pads, but a rubber composite is usually better, as it combines both recycled felt and natural rubber,” says Hyman. He also recommends steering clear of “non-stick” pads that are made of thin gridded rubber, which can fuse into the underside of a rug after years of use, harming both the rug itself and ultimately, the floors.
What’s the Difference Between “Grip” and “Cushioning”?
It’s exactly as it sounds: Grip is meant to anchor the rug to the pad, while cushioning provides an added layer of comfort and give.
Before making a rug pad purchase, McColl Lukens highlights the importance of thinking about where the rug will go. If you’re planing to place a piece in a high-traffic area, such as the entry or kitchen, or on a slippery surface, such as in the bathroom, you’ll want something that offers a solid grip—these are usually the models that have more rubber in them. If your rug is for a bedroom or if you’re layering a rug on top of another (yes, you still need a rug pad, even in that instance!), a solid or slightly thicker pad that adds softness and body will be a better bet.
“Thinner rug pads are okay for pile rugs that already have a cushion,” says Hyman. “But it’s always good to go with a pad that has a rubber backing to avoid staining the floor or stripping it of its finish.”
Most rug pads can be cut to the correct size, so buy one that’s slightly larger than your rug so you have room to customize it. You always want a rug pad to be completely hidden under your rug and to be roughly one inch less than your rug’s overall size on all four sides, notes Hyman. Here, trimming is key.
Grab a ruler to figure out the length and width of the rug you have. Then use a felt-tip pen to mark where to trim your rug pad and a pair of sharp, heavy-duty scissors to cut it. “Subtract 2-inches from your rug’s measurements, and that will give you the dimensions of the rug pad,” says Hyman. “So if you have a rug that is 7’7” by 10’2”, you’ll want a 7’5” by 10’ rug pad.”
Don’t forget: You can always go smaller but not bigger, so measure twice and cut once! If you have a round, oval, or an irregularly shaped rug, you’re better off tracing the rug’s shape on your pad and then carefully trimming it by sight to a smaller size, says McColl Luken.
How Long Do Rug Pads Last?
“Regardless of what people will tell you, all pads will disintegrate over time,” says Schwartz. “So all pads should be considered disposable and temporary.” In short, it’s not worth overpaying for a rug pad. Think of them as something that can serve a purpose for a period of time instead of purchasing an expensive one and thinking it will last forever. For maximum efficacy, most pros recommend replacing your rug pads every three to four years years. Two good times to start fresh with a new rug pad are when you’re buying a new rug or having your rug professionally cleaned.
Any of the following rug pads will serve your space well, so use this as a jumping off point for your search.
Both affordable and versatile, Revival Rug’s premium pad is comprised of a ⅛” thick felt and rubber rug pad, which offers both grip and cushioning. Made of 100 percent recycled felt and natural rubber, it’s not only safe for all floors but is moisture- and mildew-resistant as well.
Buy: Premium Rug Pad, Starting at $79.99 from Revival Rugs
Gray Premium Quality Rug Pad
Available in a variety of shapes and sizes (oval, included!) this foolproof option promises to keep your rug anchored in place. Made from 100 percent recycled synthetic fibers, this thin but slightly cushy piece can be easily trimmed to your preferred size.
Buy: Gray Premium Quality Rug Pad, Starting at
$26.99 $17.02 from Rugs USA
Made from recycled synthetic fibers and all natural rubber, this versatile pad comes with a non-skid backing that prevents slipping, wrinkling, and bunching. The cushioned piece—with plenty of positive reviews to back it up—won’t stain your floors and can function just as well on laminate, hardwood, or tile.
Buy: Mohawk Home® Dual Surface Rug Pad, Starting at $17.99 from Bed Bath & Beyond