How to choose the right rug pad for your area rugs

How to choose the right rug pad for your area rugs

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 will protect your floors from scratches, spills, and stains while protecting your rug from furniture indentations, stabilizing it to facilitate vacuuming, providing a buffer to minimize wear and tear, and increasing air flow to keep it cleaner every day. Rugs pads also offer stability and cushion, but the balance of grip and cushion you’ll need and want in a pad depends, in large part, on the size of your rug. In general, smaller rugs and runners need more grip while larger rugs need less grip and are often placed in rooms where you want more cushion under foot, like living rooms and bedrooms.

You may also want to consider the type and thickness of your rug. For example, though larger rugs are generally anchored by furniture and their own weight and don’t need pads with grip, thinner rugs, even large ones, tend to buckle or wrinkle, so you might consider pads that combine grip and cushion.

Fortunately, there are a range of options available in rug pads with strong grip and low-profile, a combination of grip and cushion in a range of thicknesses, and the thickest pads offering the most luxurious cushioning.

For Small Area Rugs and Runners

Scatter rugs, throw rugs, and runners need rug pads with a strong grip to keep them in place. Because they tend to be placed in high-traffic areas and in hallways, where door clearance can be an issue, low-profile non-slip pads are usually the best choice for these rugs.

  • small rug slidingSmaller rugs need rug pads with strong grip to prevent slipping, sliding, and bunching.
  • rug door clearanceLow-profile pads are ideal for high traffic areas and rugs underneath doors

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.

For great grip with a subtle cushion, consider Super Lock Natural. This classic waffle-style pad made with over 1 pound of natural rubber per square yard that’s thin enough to keep rugs in place while facilitating air flow, 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 100% 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. It’s also denser and heavier than comparable and PVC pads and will last longer, perform better, and offer a bit of cushion that won’t compress over time.

Nature’s Grip is another great, 100% eco-friendly choice. 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. In this pad, natural rubber is combined with a 100% plant jute base, one of the strongest naturally- produced materials available. Naturally safer than plastic non-skid pads, Nature’s Grip and will actually grip to floors rather than sticking 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.

For a solid take on maximum grip and minimal lift, consider RugPro, low-profile, high-performance pad that works particularly well in high traffic areas and in hallways and doorways. This pad’s solid design offers more floor coverage than traditional waffle-style non-slip pad, keeping dirt from accumulating and reaching your floors and making vacuuming easier, effectively extending the life of your rug by helping to keep it clean (especially important when you consider that dirt is the #1 cause of rug degradation; keeping your rug clean keeps it young!) RugPro is also needle-punched using very small holes to allow rugs and floors to breathe by improving airflow.

For Medium Size Area Rugs (roughly 4x6 to 5x9)

For area rugs that fall into this general size range, you’ll likely want some balance of grip and cushion. Look for pads that combine felt cushioning with natural rubber, the strongest gripping, longest lasting, safest and most eco-friendly material for keeping rugs lying flat and in place. The felt used in the high-quality pads listed here are made from new, unused, recycled rug and carpet fibers heat pressed so it won’t compress and retains its loft and cushion for many years.

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.

  • felt surface layerThe felt upper-layer fastens to rug fibers and keeps the rug from wrinkling and bunching.
  • natural rubber non slip backingThe natural rubber backing grips the floor and prevents the rug from slipping and sliding.

Three of the best pads on the market today offer this combination of materials and engineering with varying levels of cushion and lift.

For maximum grip with a minimal lift, consider RugPro, a low-profile, high-performance pad that works particularly well in high traffic areas and in hallways and doorways, where door clearance may be an issue. This pad’s solid design offers more floor coverage than traditional waffle-style non-slip pad, keeping dirt from accumulating and reaching your floors and making vacuuming easier, effectively extending the life of your rug by helping to keep it clean (especially important when you consider that dirt is the #1 cause of rug degradation; keeping your rug clean keeps it young!) RugPro is also needle-punched using very small holes to allow rugs and floors to breathe by improving airflow.

If you’d like a bit of cushion under your rugs but still need to keep a relatively low profile, consider Contour Lock. This 1/8 inch-thick felt and rubber pad offers a strong grip and moderate levels of cushioning without bulking. 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.

For more cushion, particularly under rugs in living rooms, dining rooms and bedrooms, there’s Superior Lock, combining the best of both grip and cushion. 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. 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 living room rugLarge rugs are often anchored by their own weight or surrounding furniture so they don't need a non-slip pad.
  • cushion memory foam rug padCushioned 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.

Tightly woven of 100% recycled new, unused carpet fibers and yarn, Eco Plush felt pads are heat-pressed to last longer and feel softer and maintaining their lift and cushion for many years. Backed by a 15-year warranty, Eco Plush pads are safe on flooring, non-toxic, and eco-friendly, 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 and available in thicknesses of 1/2", 3/8", and 1/4", depending on how much cushion you want.

For the ultimate in luxurious cushion, Cloud Comfort pads are made with the same type of 100% visco-elastic memory foam used in premium mattresses. These pads are specifically engineered to provide comfort for you as well as a supportive layer of protection for larger area rugs that lie flat on their own and do not require non-slip pads and the floors they lie on. They are completely safe for all floors and finishes, including hardwoods and laminates, tile, stone, and marble. Cloud Comfort’s proprietary 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. Ideal for environmentally-friendly work or living spaces, these pads contribute to LEED credits. This material also offers the highest levels of comfort, sound absorption, and insulation available in a rug pad. Cloud Comfort pads are available in 1/4" and 7/16" thicknesses, depending on how much lift and comfort you desire. A 20-year warranty assures these pads will maintain their lift and cushion and never harm your floors or rugs.

For the very best in floor protection from spill and pet messes as well as comfort and cushion under foot, the SpillTech pad utilizes 3M’s Scotchgard™ technology to create a 100% spill and pet proof rug pad. Designed to maximize cushioning and provide a barrier against stains and spills, SpillTech combines a 3/8’' thick layer of urethane foam with Scotchgard's Advanced Repel Technology, best in class for preventing liquids from reaching your floors.

Note that SpillTech’s thickness and lack of non-slip properties make it a good choice for large rugs that lie flat on their own, but not for thinner rugs prone to buckling of wrinkling. If you have a large flatweave that buckles or wrinkle, consider a moisture-resistant pad with some rubber for grip, like Contour Lock.

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