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What Rugs Are Safe for Hardwood Floors?

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Hardwood floors have enjoyed renewed popularity in recent years. Homeowners have started pulling up old, ugly carpet and linoleum and discovering that wood floors not only look better, but can add value to their homes.

Beautiful rug on equally beautiful hardwood floor

The right rug not only makes a hardwood floor a little more comfortable to walk on, but can highlight how it looks. You’ll want to find the right rug for your hardwood floor to help pull your desired look together.

A comparison between natural rugs and synthetic rugs

A big part of that is picking a rug that won’t damage the floor. Are natural fibers the best, or should you go synthetic? This article will help you sort that out so that you can find the right rug for your hardwood floor.

What Kind of Rugs Are Safe for Hardwood Floors?

A good rule of thumb is that natural rugs are fine to use on a hardwood floor, but synthetic ones are not.

Living room with hardwood floor with synthetic rug

The problem with synthetic rugs isn’t that the fibers will damage the wood, but that the chemicals used to make the rug could react badly with the finish of a hardwood floor.

Jute rug on hardwood floor

The exception to that rule of thumb is jute-backed rugs. Jute is a plant fiber that can leach color when damp. And, when pressed against the floor, it can scratch and damage the wood.

Are Rubber-backed Rugs Safe for Hardwood Floors?

A rubber backing will protect your hardwood floor from your rug and vice versa. However, you need to ensure the rubber backing itself won’t smudge or discolor the floor.

A living room with a rubber-backed rug.

If you have a rug with a rubber backing, it’s a good idea to place a rug mat down between the rug and the floor. This will protect the floor from the rubber. It will also hold the rug more securely in place by creating additional tension between the rubber and the mat.

Do Rubber Mats Damage Hardwood Floors?

Discolored hardwood floor

The biggest risk from using a rubber mat on top of a hardwood floor isn’t physical damage. Instead, it’s discoloration from smudging or a reaction between the chemicals in the rubber and the floor’s finish.

Rug in a room where people stay often

That risk will be higher if the mat is used in a high-traffic area or in a room that’s particularly warm. Heat makes chemical reactions happen faster, and the traffic increases the tension between the rug and the floor.

Do Cotton Rugs Damage Hardwood Floors?

Cotton rugs have a few things going for them. They’re cheap, easy to clean, and they allow air circulation between fibers to prevent mold and mildew from setting in.

Living room with cotton rug

In addition, the fibers are soft enough that they won’t damage hardwood floors. But, it’s still a good idea to put a mat down underneath them because cotton rugs are prone to sliding.

Are Sisal Rugs Safe for Hardwood Floors?

Sisal comes from a plant that’s native to semi-arid parts of the world. It’s tough and durable, but not particularly comfortable to sit on. But, its brown tones make it a great accent for hardwood floors.

Sisal rug on hardwood floor

However, those positive attributes don’t matter much if sisal damages hardwood floors. Fortunately, the length of the fibers means that a sisal rug can sit on a floor for a long time without scratching it.

Is a Rug Pad Necessary on Hardwood Floors?

There are three reasons why you’ll want to put a pad between your rug and your hardwood floors. They include protecting the floor, protecting the rug, and protecting anything that walks on it.

An image of a rug pad

As a barrier between the rug and floor, a pad will prevent dye transfer from one to the other. That protects the floor.

It will also prevent mold and mildew from setting in on the rug, and it provides cushioning to prevent rug fibers from being permanently crushed. That protects the rug.

It will also hold the rug in place when people and pets move across it. That will help reduce slip-and-fall episodes, especially for small children and animals that might run across the rug.

Are Jute-Backed Rugs Safe for Hardwood Floors?

There are two reasons to worry about placing certain kinds of rugs on top of hardwood floors. The first is that they can stain the floor over time. The second is that the fibers can scratch the finish off a floor. Unfortunately, jute-backed rugs are guilty of both.

Jute rug

Jute is a kind of plant fiber known for being cost-effective and durable. It’s also environmentally friendly. However, that durability is also what makes it bad for hardwood floors. Not only will it leach out color when wet, but it will also scratch floors if pressed into them regularly.

Are Polyester Rug Pads Safe for Hardwood Floors?

A polyester pad is a good way to anchor a rug in place to prevent it from slipping around when people or pets walk on it, so it’s safe for people. But is it safe for the floor?

Polyester rug pad

It’s a good idea to avoid using synthetic pads on hardwood floors. Over time, the chemicals used in synthetic rug pads can cause marks to appear on your hardwood floor due to a chemical reaction between the pad and the floor’s finish.

Are Wool Rugs Safe for Hardwood Floors?

Wool is one of the most common kinds of rugs used on hardwood floors. That’s because they look good, are easy to clean, and are warm to walk on with bare feet.

Wool rug on wooden floor

They are also safe. Even though some wool sweaters can feel scratchy to the skin, they don’t damage hardwood floor finishes. They also don’t transfer dyes to the wood.


If you’re looking for rugs that are safe to use on a hardwood floor, think natural. Wool and cotton rugs— the most common materials— are perfectly safe. But, so are rugs that use sisal and rubber on the bottom. Avoid jute, which can damage floors.

The problem with synthetic rugs isn’t that they’ll scratch the wood, but that the chemicals used to make them can react poorly with hardwood flooring finish. That can cause discoloration or patterned staining.

You should now know enough about what rugs are safe to use on hardwood floors to feel comfortable choosing one. If so, we’d love to hear about it in a comment. You can also share this article on your social media networks.

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