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2 Types of Patio Area Rugs? Materials, Shapes and More!

Patio with a large area rug.

There are two categories that an outdoor rug could fall into as far as material goes. The categories are determined by the type of fibers used to construct the rug. 

One category is synthetic, and the other is natural fiber—either synthetic or natural fiber. When we refer to a rug as synthetic or natural, we refer to the type of fiber used to make the rug’s material. Synthetic and natural rugs can be divided further by types of synthetic fiber and particular kinds of natural fibers.

Synthetic Fiber Outdoor Rugs

Synthetic fiber rugs.

Synthetic fiber rugs tend to be more resilient than 100 percent natural fiber rugs. There is no such thing as a weatherproof rug, but UV-treated polypropylene rugs are highly stain and fade-resistant. 

Polypropylene is also called olefin. It’s composed of plastic and is commonly used in the production of sportswear, rope, and even straws. It’s known for its breathability and moisture-wicking abilities. 

Synthetic outdoor rugs are popular due to their durability and affordability. Because synthetic rugs are made of non-porous materials, they are resistant to stains, fading, mildew, and mold and are much easier to clean than natural fiber rugs. However, synthetic rugs often contain natural fibers, such as cotton or jute, which can be a home to fungi and bacteria, and their durability can vary.

Alternate synthetic fiber rugs are made from nylon, acrylic, or polyester.

Benefits of synthetic rugs include

  • Inexpensive 
  • Available in a variety of colors, patterns, and sizes
  • Durable, withstand high-traffic and weather elements
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to clean 

Natural Fiber Outdoor Rugs

Natural fiber area rug.

Natural fiber rugs, while eco-friendly, will deteriorate faster than synthetic outdoor rugs. Natural fiber outdoor rugs are often made from bamboo, jute, hemp, seagrass, or sisal. Natural fiber outdoor rugs are a bit more expensive than synthetic outdoor rugs.

Furthermore, they will fade with extended sun exposure, absorb more water than synthetic rugs, and are more likely to be affected by mold and mildew. Still, they can have benefits.

Some characteristics of natural fiber rugs include: 

  • Strong
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Biodegradable
  • Sound-absorbent

If you purchase a natural fiber rug, you’ll need to remember to hang it up in the sun to dry it regularly.

Note: “Sisal” and “sisal-style weave” are similar-sounding terms with different meanings. Sisal refers to a natural fiber rug, but sisal-style can be made from either natural fibers or synthetics.

A sisal weave is an open weave such as a braid or a basket weave style that can allow for airflow. A sisal weave can be an excellent option for an outdoor rug, especially a synthetic fiber sisal weave outdoor rug.

There are just two types of outdoor rugs you’ll have to choose between, but there are a few things to consider that will help you determine which of the two types of outdoor rugs will be best for your purposes. 

Before shopping for an outdoor rug, consider the following: 

What is the purpose of the outdoor rug? 

Outdoor patio with wooden fence.

Generally, there are three reasons you would consider an outdoor rug: 

  • to protect and prevent damage to a surface 
  • to avoid slips and falls; safety
  • to add style to a living space

Understanding the rug’s purpose will help you prioritize what other features will be crucial and which features are a priority and which are not. 

Once you have determined what purpose the rug will serve, to determine which of the two types of rugs will be most suitable to your specific situation and needs, consider the following factors:

Breathability

Special area rug.

A rug made with material that doesn’t allow for airflow may not be the best choice if you live in a rainy or humid climate, as mildew will likely be a problem.

Durability 

Thick, stylish area rug.

Suppose you plan to use your outdoor rug in a high-traffic area or on surfaces readily exposed to the elements, such as areas without any shade. In that case, one material may prove to be a better choice over another. 

Ease of cleaning

Area rug cleaning service.

How labor-intensive will caring for and maintaining your rug be? This alone could be a deciding factor in your choice of material. Some materials may only need a light pressure wash, while others require professional cleaning.

An outdoor rug is exposed to the elements of sun and rain and wind and various types of plants and critters. Because of this exposure, especially to the sun and rain, it’s essential to look for a resistant to fading outdoor rug. Look for rugs with the actual fibers of the rug dyed before being woven together.

They will be labeled “solution-dyed” and hold patterns longer than rugs woven of natural fibers.

Cost

Area rug for sale in a store.

Outdoor rugs are generally considered to be disposable because the weather degrades them over time. Because of this, outdoor rugs are often much less expensive than their indoor counterparts. 

An 8×10 outdoor rug, large enough for a sofa and coffee table set up, will generally start at around $125. The outdoor rug’s style, construction, and type of material will make a big difference in price, with some outdoor rugs costing upwards of $1000.

Size

Area rug with special design.

If the purpose of your outdoor rug is to serve as a base for your outdoor furniture, it will need to be large enough to go under the furniture items. A good rule of thumb for determining rug size is to leave at least 6 inches of the rug to spare on all sides of your outdoor furniture. The same rule applies to dining setups. 

If you’re looking for a smaller option, a rug that holds at least the two front legs of the sofa will suffice. A runner extending down the area’s length is a good option for a narrow balcony. 

Typically, outdoor rugs are anywhere from 2’x3′ to 10 x 12, though they can often be custom ordered for additional sizes. The size will also be determined by the shape, usually square, rectangle, round, or oval. Rarely will you encounter a triangle rug, though I am confident they do exist. 

Construction

Repairing damaged area rug.

Synthetic rugs are never handmade, whereas natural fiber rugs, while sometimes machine-made, are often handmade. Handmade rugs are always more expensive due to the labor cost. On the other hand, synthetic rugs will always be machine-made, making them a cost-effective, easy solution. 

Ease of cleaning

  • Synthetic fiber outdoor rugs are popular because they are easy to clean and easy to vacuum and spot clean. Many rugs can be washed with dish soap and sprayed with a hose to remove dirt. To dry, lay them out in the sunlight.
  • Natural fiber rugs will require you to raise a stain, often using baking soda and water, and allowing it to sit overnight. For spills, be sure to spot-treat as quickly as possible. 
  • Whatever type of rug, shake it out or vacuum it often to keep it free of dirt.

Pattern or Solid

Stripe patterned area rug.

A pattern can help to hide dirt and debris. Because of this, a patterned outdoor area rug tends to look cleaner, even if it really isn’t. Also, consider that bright colors can fade with time, so how long you plan to keep the rug may be a factor in whatever decision you decide to make. 

A boldly patterned rug or something you might not be willing to take a chance on indoors could be a good idea since an outdoor rug won’t last as long and will be traded for a different style when it wears out. You can feel more free to experiment with color and pattern when shopping for an outdoor rug, so it can be an excellent opportunity to try something new, different, or unusual.

Recycled Plastic Outdoor Rugs

You can also buy recycled plastic rugs. These are great if you want to reduce your impact on the environment. Recycled plastic rugs tend to retain the least water and are suitable for decks.

Type of Surface the Outdoor Rug Will Cover

Area rug on a large deck.

Concrete

Concrete, unless sealed, is porous and could present challenges for some outdoor rugs. If moisture can’t evaporate from your rug, it can lead to mildew, so you’ll need a breathable rug if your surface is concrete.

Grass

As with concrete, topping a grass surface with a rug traps moisture. Temporary flooring, such as click-lock tiles, usually made of plastic or a wood composite, can be used to serve as a base and help the rug dry after it gets wet.

Steel

 Balconies and decks made with metal flooring are frequently found in coastal settings, and while they can be pretty durable, they are not impervious to rust and corrosion. Click-lock tiles installed on top of steel flooring can help to keep the outdoor rug dry and prevent rusting of a metal floor.  

Tile

Outdoor area rug on brick tiles.

 If your rug is covering either ceramic or porcelain tile, moisture trapped by the rug can potentially damage grout, especially if the rug is rubber-backed. Grout must be clean if you want to avoid the growth of mold and mildew.

Wood stained deck

Large deck with an area rug.

Regardless of the material, a rug on a stained wooden deck can impact the deck’s surface. Your rug will inevitably remain wet for some time after it rains, and this will mean the deck area under the rug will be damp longer than the rest of the deck. This wetness can encourage mildew growth in the area covered by the rug.

Natural fiber rugs hold more water than synthetic rugs, meaning that the deck underneath a natural fiber rug will stay wet for even longer than a deck under a synthetic fiber rug. 

Now that you have taken all of these considerations into account, you will have a much easier time determining which of the two types of outdoor rugs will be best for you.