Can Cheap Rug Pads Ruin Your Expensive Floors? (Yup.)


A rug brings comfort, soundproofing, and floor protection to your home. It’s also a great expression of style. That’s why most people invest in a high-quality option.

As a savvy shopper, you’ve likely put a lot of thought into buying new rugs. You’ve not only chosen the look and feel you want, but done your research on how well your rugs have been made, the materials, and how they will wear over time.

If you value your wood floors, read this now

When it comes to choosing what comes between your rug and your floor, quality and materials are just as important—assuming you care as much about your floors as you do about your rugs.

Once you’ve shopped around and finally chosen just the right rugs for your home or business, choosing a rug pad can feel like an afterthought. But if you choose the cheapest options available, you might want to think again.

Rug pads provide comfort and a sound foundation for your rug or carpet, but the most important thing a rug pad should deliver is protection for your hardwood and other hard surface flooring, which can be very vulnerable when it comes to staining and stripping.

A great rug pad provides a protective buffer against the rough underside of the rug and potential dye leaching that could discolor your floor.

The internet is filled with stories about how a rug pad damaged, stripped, or stained floor finishes. Unfortunately, today's rug pad market is filled with inexpensive but truly inferior rug pads that can cause serious harm to floor finishes.

The rug pads that cause floor damage are usually imported plastic rug pads, and they are everywhere in the market, usually offered at appealing price points. But the actual cost of using these pads can be steep, as they can ruin the finish on your valuable wood floors.

In this article, we’ll go over the risks of low-quality and the friendlier alternatives you should consider.

How cheap rug pads can damage your floors

It’s possible to make a costly mistake when buying rug pads if you don’t look beyond the price.

Of course, you may have landed an irresistible bargain, but bargain pads can come with a serious price tag down the line from floor and rug damage. (The average cost of repairing moderate hardwood floor damage is a whopping $1200.) Not to mention the frustrations of an uncomfortable surface can be unbearable.

True, most rug pad options can grip your area rug and prevent it from sliding on hardwood floors, but a cheap one can scratch your floors, create some ugly marks, and eventually stop working.

A wrong rug pad can also discolor wood or tile floors. Imagine lifting a rug pad only to see stamped-like stripes on your floor? Sadly, these stains on hardwood floors are often permanent.

The dangers of low-quality rug pads

An inferior quality rug pad is risky to your floors as well as your health and safety.

Health hazards from toxic chemicals

The main problem with most imported plastic pads is that they are coated with adhesives to enhance grip, which can destroy your floors. These pads contain a combination of toxic chemicals which can "off-gas" and stain floors. Even worse, they can fill your home with toxins.

The vast majority of these pads on the market come from overseas manufacturers and usually contain chemicals, oils, or adhesives that may negatively react with the chemicals in your floor finishes.

A perfect example of this is the use of phthalates in many plastic rug pads. Phthalates are a class of chemicals used to make plastics tougher and harder to break, however, they are also extremely toxic and can be used as dissolving agents. As you can assume, you probably don’t want something that is listed as a dissolving agent on your brand-new polyurethane-finished hardwood floors (or even old ones!)

Some cheap rug pads also use synthetic latex, which contains styrene, a known carcinogen. Think about inhaling toxic, cancerous particles as you enjoy the comfort of your rug pad. It’s a bargain that gnaws at your life span every day.

Adhesive coating sticks to floors (and itself)

Another issue with a cheap imported plastic rug pad is that manufacturers make them with adhesive coating to enhance their non-slip grip. Unfortunately, these pads just end up literally sticking to your floors rather than gripping them.

Also due to this adhesive process, the pad usually ends up sticking to itself creating lumps under your rugs and not actually functioning to keep your rugs in place.

Safer rug pads for hardwood or hard surface flooring: why is felt and rubber better than plastic?

No rug pad material beats natural rubber in providing safety and floor protection. It’s free of toxic chemicals that can ruin your floors. It’s also a non-adhesive material that provides a firm grip without sticking to your floors.

Unlike many imported plastic pads, a natural rubber rug pad will never stain or discolor hardwood floors. A quality rug pad will anchor your rug for many years, be odor free, not disintegrate and never stick to or stain your floors; it will protect your floors, never destroy them.

degraded low quality rug pad

Let’s take an in-depth look into pure rubber rug pads and other safer rug pads for hard surface flooring.

Natural rubber rug pads

Nature's Grip Rug Pad on hardwood floor

Natural rubber is the best overall option for hardwood floors in terms of both safety and performance. It’s perfectly safe to use with all hardwood flooring and finishes. Natural rubber also has very strong gripping power but will never stick to your floors.

Natural rubber pads are also far more eco-friendly than plastic pads. This is important because plastic pads often contain chemicals that can "off-gas". This "off-gassing" is actually what causes the rug pad to eat away at your floor finish. The rubber used by reputable manufacturers is derived from white sap from the hevea brasiliensis tree, is 100% natural, and doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals or plasticizers that can damage floors.

Natural rubber is superior in terms of non-slip grip, eco-friendliness, and floor safety and protection. Natural rubber is particularly suitable for hardwood floors and poly finishes that are prone to staining.

This sustainable and eco-friendly material can be used with all types of carpets and rugs, vastly outperforming its synthetic and plastic counterparts.

Primary benefits:

  • Non-slip grip
  • Floor protection
  • Cushioned comfort that doesn’t compress over time
  • Sustainable and eco-friendly
  • No toxic chemicals

Cost: Low to Medium

The best natural rubber pads for hardwood floors and finishes include:

Felt and natural rubber rug pads

Superior Lock Rug Pad on Hardwood Floor

A blend of felt and natural rubber produces a dual surface non-slip rug pad that offers top performance and comfort for your carpet.

These rug pads come with a thick layer of felt combined with a thinner non-slip, natural rubber pad.

The two materials create a durable and long-lasting pad that will extend the life of your rug and floors. Felt and rubber pads are ideal for flat-weave rugs because the needle-punched felt surface naturally clings to the bottom of rugs to anchor it to the pad’s surface.

Primary benefits:

  • Extra cushioning below your rug
  • Stops your rug from sliding and scratching
  • Eco-friendly with natural rubber and recycled felt
  • Resists pressure so it will not bunch up or flatten over time
  • Uses a chemical-free heat-pressing technique to combine the felt and rubber so the pad won’t off-gas or come apart over time

Cost: Medium to High

The best felt and natural rubber rug pads for hardwood floors and finishes include:

100% recycled felt

Eco Plush rug pad on hardwood floor

Our 100% recycled felt pads are made in the USA from natural jute fibers and recycled materials from unused yarn and carpet.

Ideal for large area rugs that do not require a non-slip grip, 100% felt rug pads provide that extra layer of comfort and support that non-slip rug pads do not.

Larger rugs and carpets, like 8x10 and 9x12 rugs, tend to be anchored down by their own weight or by furniture on top of them and therefore do not require a rubber backing that would help keep the rug in place.

The thicker the rug pad, the more soundproofing, insulation, and cushioning you will enjoy. These eco-friendly, ultra-soft pads are totally safe, not only on wood floors, but on all natural and synthetic floor surfaces.

Primary benefits:

  • Environmentally friendly
  • Thick comfort underfoot for large area rugs
  • Soundproofing
  • Insulation

Cost: Low

The best 100% RECYCLED FELT rug pad for hardwood floors & finishes:

Invest in a high-quality rug pad

A high-quality rug pad properly anchors your rug to the floor, stays odor-free, does not cause lumps, and is less likely to stain your floors.

On the other hand, a lower quality cheap rug pad may cost less, but your initial savings could lead to much greater issues in the long run.

Make the right choice.

At RugPadUSA, we are dedicated to providing the best quality rug pads at a fair price. Buy your rug pad today and get a 10 to 15 year warranty.

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