When anyone asks me the best type of rug to buy, I don’t choose a country, I choose a FIBER. And the best fiber to have a rug made out of is wool.
A weaver crafting a wool rug by hand, one knot at a time:
Wool is the king of rug fibers, for many reasons.
1) Wool is STRONG.
In durability tests it takes more than 10,000 bends to break a single wool fiber. This is because wool has lots of layered cuticles and can bend easily. So walking on it is not a problem.
In comparison, silk is 2,400 times before breakage, and rayon/viscose – the WORST fiber on the planet for rugs and fabric – breaks in only 70. This is why you should NEVER buy a rug made of rayon or viscose. (To see the difference between an artificial silk rug of viscose or rayon, and a real silk rug, here is a post on the differences => Fake Silk Rugs, What You Need To Know. One of the biggest scams in rugs today are fake silk rugs being sold as the real thing.)
We have wool rugs come through our shop in San Diego that are decades old, and centuries old, that still look fantastic. In fact, we often say that rugs are not a part of our lives… but that we are a part of theirs.
A well made wool rug will last for generations if it’s properly cared for.
2) Wool can be dyed in many VIBRANT colors.
You have a huge variance in color possibilities with wool, it accepts and holds dye amazingly well, and if it is very good quality wool it will have a fantastic sheen with that color. If you see tribal rugs you know what I mean here, great wool looks like really healthy, shiny hair.
Wool comes in a HUGE variety of colors. So if you are decorating for your home, you have many more amazing options when you choose wool as your fiber versus your other synthetic choices like nylon, olefin, acrylic, and polyester (which are all essentially plastic pellets, and when is the last time you looked at your tupperware containers and said “what great deep colors they have”?)
3) Wool is naturally fire resistant and spill resistant.
Wool fibers won’t carry a flame, so they self-extinguish (unlike some synthetic fibers that burn like crazy or just melt).
Wool also has a natural moisture repellency. This means when you spill on it, the liquid will be suspended for a time before it soaks into the fibers. So when you spill on a rug, if you blot it up quickly, you are often just fine.
4) Over time wool gets a fantastic PATINA and look to it.
Wool rugs age beautifully, at least the ones with great quality wool and dyes do.
And the great quality wool with the great quality dye results in a fantastic patina (sheen and texture) as the rug ages, which is why older rugs have such a great look to them. They literally do not make them the way they used to.
Look at the difference between the older piece on top of the newer knock-off. It’s a night and day difference.
You can absolutely find great quality new wool rugs today, investment quality rugs, but you need to research to find them. The market today is inundated with synthetic knock-off’s, and lesser quality tufted rugs. But there are great rugs being woven today, and of course many older rugs looking for a new home. (In fact, there are a number of rugs being sold on this website in our “Good Rugs Looking For Good Homes“ section of our clients looking to sell their great old – and new – rugs.)
5) Wool is SUSTAINABLE and the ultimate GREEN choice.
Wool comes from sheep, which need to be raised and cared for out in the countryside, and every year there is more wool to sheer. It grows back. It’s the ultimate sustainable fiber.
Synthetic fibers (nylon, olefin, polyester, acrylic) are petroleum products (plastic) – and do not have the great look, feel, or strength as wool does. If you are looking for the choice that is a better product, and also better for the planet, then wool is the clear winner here.
If this is a pro/con list, then one “con” about wool is that pets LOVE natural fibers. They remind them of their fellow furry friends. So dogs do tend to be drawn to your wool rugs, they will like to lay on them.
So, if they are not properly trained, then pet stains on rugs can be very tough to remove. Sometimes impossible to remove. But as mentioned before, if you get to it quick, you can avert a rug disaster. That said, if you do believe you will have a chronic problem with pet urine contamination, then you might choose a synthetic rug instead… not because it won’t stain (it will), but because it will be cheaper for you to replace it.
Other than that, there is nothing more gorgeous, rich, and attractive as a great wool rug.
Wool rugs… whether chosen as art for your home (like these older pieces), investment pieces to hand down to your kids, or simply an attractive, strong, elegant choice for your room – you really can’t go wrong here. Wool is the best choice for a rug if you are really, truly are looking for the best and don’t want to worry about having to baby it.
It will outlast us all.