Area rugs turn a home into an inviting space. Using different textures and colors can be a great way to express your interior design style, not to mention the essentials like comfort and floor protection.
We love them.
But when they bunch up and trip us—not so much.
Enter rug pads. All area rugs, no matter type, thickness, or size, need rug pads to protect them and the floors they lie on. The right rug pad offers a ton of benefits from protecting your floors to stabilizing your rug.
But with the various specifications of thickness, size, material, and price: How do you choose the right one?
We take a look at all the details.
Why your area rug needs a rug pad
Area rugs may look good, but if you look beneath the surface (literally), it’s the rug pads that do all the heavy lifting.
Here’s why you need rug pads in your home:
Over time, your area rug might bunch and curl at the corners. This happens when they don’t lay flat, or when some materials become damp or wet. Area rugs can also slip and move around on hard surface floors like hardwood or tile.
In both cases, you’ve got a dangerous tripping or slipping hazard on your hands (or should we say feet?). Using a rug pad under your rug can help it lay flat and keep it in place.
Preserve your floors
Rug pads act as a buffer between your rug and floor reducing friction and preventing scratches, spills, stains, and general wear and tear. They can also protect your floors against furniture like tables, chairs, or sofas.
Increase the life of your rug
Padded rugs make for breezy vacuuming (clean carpets last longer) because they lay flat and will move less. Additionally, they facilitate proper airflow between the floor and rug, keeping away mold and mildew.
What to consider when choosing an area rug pad
Rug pads make a huge difference in your area rug’s durability, comfort, and general feel in your house, but there are several different qualities and functions for a rug pad to consider so you can find the best pad for your needs.
These are the pain functions and considerations we recommend thinking about when starting your rug pad search.
There are many different thicknesses to consider for a rug pad from 1/16 inch to 1/2 inch and choosing the right one will largely depend on how much cushioning you want under your rug.
The thicker the rug pad, the more cushioning you’ll get from it, but you’ll always want to keep in mind how high the pad will raise the rug especially if it’s a smaller area rug or if it needs to have door clearance.
As chic as they are, rugs never seem to sit still—especially small ones. And it can be a never-ending annoyance to have to constantly bend down to adjust your rug.
Enter the non-slip pad which holds your rug in place and anchors it to the floor, reducing slipping or bunching.
Natural rubber rug pads are the best for their non-slip properties, but if you want an extra comfortable pad, go for a combination of rubber and felt.
Whether you’re concerned about the environment or toxic rug pads off-gassing and reducing your indoor air quality, an eco-friendly rug pad may be a good choice
Rug pads are a long-term investment.
The price will vary depending on size, cushion, and material, but keep in mind a good pad will help avoid more expensive costs from floor damage or having to replace your rug.
For a budget-friendly pad that is still safe for you and your floor, our Eco-Plush pad is an excellent choice (if you don’t need non-slip).
Choosing the best area rug pad by rug size
The best area rug pad will largely depend on your rug’s size. In general, smaller rugs and runners need more grip while larger rugs don’t need as much grip and are often placed in rooms where you want more cushion underfoot, like living rooms and bedrooms.
For small area rugs and runners (smaller than 4x6)
Small area rugs are ideal for busy areas in the house, but keeping them in position can be tricky. Scatter rugs, throw rugs, and runners need rug pads with a strong grip to keep them in place.
- Smaller rugs need rug pads with strong grip to prevent slipping, sliding, and bunching.
- Low-profile pads are ideal for high traffic areas and rugs underneath doors
If you plan to put your rug in high-traffic areas, entryways, or hallways, we’d also recommend a low-profile pad to make door clearance.
For the lowest profile and strongest grip, consider a classic, non-slip open-weave, waffle-design pad or a solid version combining rubber with a bit of felt.
- Non-slip grip
- Waffle-style structure for more breathability
- Primarily natural rubber
- Subtle cushion
- Low profile
- Not a huge amount of cushion
For excellent grip with a subtle cushion, consider our Super-Lock Natural rug pad.
This classic waffle-style pad made with just over one pound of natural rubber per square yard is thin enough to allow for door clearance, while also facilitating airflow, protecting floors, and keeping small rugs and runners lying flat.
While this pad may look identical to plastic versions of the same rug pad type, it’s different. Made with primarily natural rubber, this pad will grip better than plastic pads, won’t outgas, and will never strip, stain, or stick to floors as plastic pads made with synthetic adhesives can.
If that’s not enough, it’s also denser and heavier than comparable rubber and PVC pads and will last longer, perform better, and offer a bit of cushion that won’t compress over time.
- Natural rubber and jute mix material
- Non slip grip
- Webbed structure for breathability
- Low profile for door clearance
- Good for runners and scatter rugs
- Minimal cushioning
Nature’s Grip is another great, eco-friendly choice for a low profile and non slip grip compared to what's currently on the market.
Nature’s Grip weds hand-woven organic jute fibers to natural rubber to maximize your rug’s grip, protect your flooring and extend your rug's life.
Naturally safer than plastic non-skid pads, our Nature’s Grip pad will actually grip to floors rather than stick to them. Nature’s Grip’s low profile is a choice when door clearance or rug thickness is an issue. It’s also a favorite for runners and scatter rugs that should lie flat with flooring.
- Mix of felt and natural rubber
- Excellent grip
- Extremely low profile for door clearance
- Solid design for more coverage
- Needle-punched felt for breathability
- No cushioning
For maximum grip and minimal lift, consider the low-profile, high-performance RugPro rug pad.
The thin felt layer firmly grips the bottom of your rugs, keeping it flat, while the natural rubber anchors it to the floor and reduces buckling, especially when vacuuming.
This pad’s solid design offers more floor coverage than traditional waffle-style non-slip pads, keeping dirt from accumulating and reaching your floors. The RugPro is also our thinnest pad at just 1/16” thick so it’s ideal for if you have low door clearance.
For medium size area rugs (roughly 4x6 to 5x9)
Area rugs in this size range require a balance between grip and cushion. We recommend pads that combine felt cushioning with natural rubber.
Our natural rubber pads are famous for keeping rugs in place, while our felt material keeps them flat and add cushion.
To ensure our high-quality pads are environmentally friendly and retain their loft and cushiony feel for many years, we use recycled fibers from unused carpet and yarn and heat press them together without any chemicals or adhesives.
Beyond the combination of rubber and felt, you want to look for pads engineered and designed for great grip. The best rubber and felt rug pads are made by heat pressing the top of the felt so it grabs the bottom of the rugs, almost like Velcro, but more gently (like a strong hug.) This keeps the rug lying flat against the pad. The rubber bottom then tightly grips floors (without sticking to them or staining them, the way some synthetic adhesives can) keeping rugs stable and smooth.
- The felt upper-layer fastens to rug fibers and keeps the rug from wrinkling and bunching.
- The natural rubber backing grips the floor and prevents the rug from slipping and sliding.
If you plan to put your medium-size rug in a high traffic area that needs door clearance, the RugPro pad is still a great option. It offers maximum grip with minimal lift using a blend of felt and natural rubber.
We already discussed the RugPro in our small rug section, so we won’t go into too much detail here.
- Budget friendly
- Non-slip grip
- Moderate cushioning
- Relatively low profile
- Uses natural rubber and felt
- Offers a happy medium between cushion and lift
- Not as cushioned as some thicker pads
If you’d like a bit of cushion under your rugs but still need to keep a relatively low profile, consider the Contour-Lock.
This 1/8 inch-thick felt and rubber pad offers a strong grip and moderate levels of cushioning without bulk. Rugs often tend to have rough backings, so this pad’s slightly thicker solid design not only helps keeps rugs clean, but fully protects floors from scratches. This pad offers a great overall value for reliable grip and subtle cushioning.
- Lots of cushioning
- Non slip grip
- Uses natural rubber and felt
- May interfere with door clearance
For more cushion, particularly under rugs in living rooms, dining rooms and bedrooms, we recommend the Superior-Lock rug pad.
Made with more felt and a gentle heat-pressing technique, Superior-Lock offers unyielding, non-slip traction with thick, cushioned support. It’s essentially a thick layer of felt combined with a thinner non-slip, natural rubber pad.
We use our signature 12-ounce jet black natural rubber backing and an additional 5 ounces/square yard of heat-pressed natural rubber face coat for extra durability. The needle-punched felt surface naturally clings to the bottom of rugs to anchor it to its surface, giving your rugs the ‘hug’ they need while giving you extra softness and comfort in two thicknesses, 1/4 inch and 7/16 inch, the best choice for maximum comfort under rugs.
For large or oversized area rugs (8x10 or larger)
In general, larger rugs call for cushioned pads versus non-slip pads. Most large rugs, especially those heavier, thicker pile, remain stable on their own and are often held in place by furniture so they don’t require pads with grip.
However, some thinner large rugs (like flat weaves) can tend to buckle and wrinkle and may need pads with a combination of cushion and grip (see suggestions for Medium Sized Area Rugs above).
- Large rugs are often anchored by their own weight or surrounding furniture so they don't need a non-slip pad.
- Cushioned rug pads add extra comfort, soundproofing, and insulation to large area rugs
For large rugs that don’t require any grip, a variety of pads offer great cushion, floor protection, sound-proofing, insulation, and varying levels of lift.
- Environmentally friendly
- Budget friendly
- Safe for all flooring
- 15-year warranty
- No slip resistance
For the most budget friendly, eco friendly cushioned pad without grip, we recommend our Eco-Plush rug pad.
Tightly woven of 100% recycled new, unused carpet fibers and yarn, Eco-Plush felt pads are heat-pressed to last longer, feel softer, and maintain their lift and cushion for many years.
They are heat-pressed to last longer and feel softer, maintaining their lift and cushion properties for many years.
Backed by a 15-year warranty, Eco-Plush pads are safe on flooring and non-toxic. This pad is also our most eco-friendly cushioned rug pad, tested quarterly by the Carpet and Rug Institute, a non-profit agency with strict environmental standards.
Eco-Plush felt pads contribute to the LEED point rating system of the U.S. Green Building Council for low emissions, design innovation, and recycled content. They’re also resistant to mold, moisture, mildew and odor-causing bacteria. Depending on your cushion preference, you can choose from three different thicknesses: 1/2", 3/8", and 1/4”.
Cloud Comfort Memory Foam
- Thick comfort
- Floor protection
- Low VOC content
- Can pose an issue for door clearance
- More expensive
- No slip resistance
For the ultimate in luxurious cushion, the Cloud Comfort Memory Foam rug pad is a game-changer.
Made with 100% viscoelastic memory foam—the same material used in premium mattresses, these pads are specifically engineered to provide maximum comfort for larger area rugs that lie flat on their own and do not require non-slip pads. The pads are also great for sound absorption and insulation.
The Cloud Comfort pad is completely safe for all floors and finishes, including hardwoods and laminates, tile, stone, and marble. Plus, Cloud Comfort’s moisture barrier protects floors by blocking spills while at the same time allowing vapor to escape.
Not only safe for floors, these eco-friendly, toxin-free foam pads are also completely safe for you and your family and good for the planet as well. They’re made with natural minerals and soybean oils instead of petro oils, resulting in very low VOC content.
FAQs about area rug pads
Still not sure what to pick? These FAQs may help.
Can I use a rug as a rug pad?
No. It will not anchor your rug and you will need to re-stretch it regularly to reduce lumping, wrinkling, or bunching.
What is the best area rug pad for hardwood floors?
We typically recommend natural rubber rug pads for hardwood flooring, considering both performance and grip safety.
While the grip is firm, your hardwood is safe from staining.
For more information on the best area rug pad for hardwood floors, check out our hardwood floor collection.
How thick should an area rug pad be?
Your cushioning should be no thicker than ⅜ inch for heavy traffic areas, while ½ inch pads work for less-visited areas like bedrooms or larger rugs.
What size rug pad do I need for a 9x12 rug?
Pads should be one inch less than your rug on all sides to avoid peeking and raised corners. For a 9x12 carpet, a pad measuring 8'10″x11'10” is the best choice.
However, our custom cutting and sizing tool will automatically calculate the right size for your rug pad so you can just enter your rug’s actual size and we’ll do the rest.
What do you put under area rugs?
You should be as selective about your rug pads as you are your carpets, but it shouldn’t take the same amount of time and consideration.
When you choose RugPadUSA you’re assured of only the best, so you don’t have to stress about finding a high-quality product.
Our rug pads look good, feel great, and are good for the environment.