Homeowner’s Guide to Buying Rugs Online

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Here's how to buy rugs online. We spoke to a rug expert and ordered three rugs online to demystify the online rug buying process.

A house isn’t a home without a rug. Rugs serve functional and decorative purposes. Whether you need a rug to warm your feet, tie the living room together or just provide space to wipe off muddy boots, rugs are a key piece of home furnishing.

Buying a rug online is often more affordable than finding one in stores, and online rug inventory is vast. But finding the perfect rug online can feel overwhelming. There are decisions to make on retailer, size, material, shape and pile — not to mention care and cleaning.

To help you navigate buying a rug online, we spoke with a rug expert and ordered three rugs for our home from Ruggable, Boutique Rugs and Overstock. Here’s what we learned about buying rugs online; how our rugs held up over three months of use; and everything we wish we knew before we unrolled them.

What to Consider Before Buying a Rug Online

I recently moved into a new home with vinyl flooring throughout. I was in desperate need of indoor rugs to cozy up my space, but I had no idea where to start. Shopping for rugs online provided more questions than answers. But I loved having all the size, color and material options at the click of a mouse, instead of going to a rug store.

After hours of research and measuring, I chose three rugs: a wool area rug for the living room, a decorative jute accent rug for a sitting area, and a washable rug for the bedroom. Need carpet instead of rugs? Here’s how to choose carpet.

Before you add a rug to your cart, there are a few questions to ask yourself and some research to do. We also spoke to Lisa Wagner, better known as The Rug Chick, a rug expert based in San Diego. Here’s how to buy rugs online.

Size and shape

Size is one of the key components in buying a rug. Size is determined by where your rug will lay in the room. As a rule of thumb, bigger is usually better. Larger rugs anchor a space and offer visual interest. In a dining or living room, at least two legs of all your furniture should fit on the rug. Smaller rugs are better used as accents, in minimal spaces like entryways, or between the sink and island in the kitchen.

The shape of the room dictates the shape of the rug. Long, narrow spaces call for a runner. A room with clean lines can be emphasized with a rectangular rug or softened with a round rug.

It’s hard to visualize a rug on a website versus seeing it actually laying under your couch. Pro tip: Use a measuring tape and painter’s tape to mark off the rug’s footprint on the floor. This way you can visualize how much floor space the rug will take up. Don’t forget to factor in rug clearance if you need to open a nearby door.

To choose the size of the jute rug I used under my chair, I measured how each size would look and decided the 5-ft. x 5-ft. was the best fit. It was maybe an inch too large for the corner I planned to put it in, but that looked better than going with the 4-ft. x 4-ft. option.

Materials and style

Admittedly, when I started to shop for rugs online, I focused way too much on style and color and less on the material. If I could start over, I’d filter my options by material, then look at the available styles and colors.

The material is what shapes the style of a rug. Material is also the biggest factor in cleaning, maintenance and price. Wagner says the most common rug material categories are natural fibers like wool, cotton silk, jute and sisal; synthetic fibers like acrylic, polyester and polypropylene; and artificial silks such as viscose, bamboo silk and banana silk.

Natural fibers are the most durable and last the longest, but these rugs often require professional cleaning. Avoid silk if you’re prone to water spills, or have kids and pets. Synthetic fibers are pretty affordable and the easiest to care for. They’re usually stain-resistant, and some are machine washable. Artificial silks are the cheapest, but the fibers are easily ruined — even by water spills.

After looking longingly at gorgeous hand-knotted wool rugs and silk showpieces, I knew I had to be more practical. I live with a small dog and have eight nieces and nephews. Plus, I’m a clean freak, so even a small stain would ruin a rug’s appeal for me.

I decided to go with a natural fiber jute rug in my sitting area as an accent piece. For my main living room rug, I chose a substantial wool option in a striking black diamond pattern. And next to my bed (where the dog loves to roll), I grabbed a machine washable polyester rug.

Pile

Kind of like thread count for sheets, rug pile is a term I often hear in home décor but don’t really understand. Turns out, the pile of a rug is just a point of reference for the density or thickness. It doesn’t have much to do with quality.

Low-pile rugs have shorter fibers and loops, making them ideal for high traffic areas. You should also place low-pile rugs in front of doors since the clearance is low.

High-pile rugs have taller and looser fibers. Imagine a shag rug or a really plush carpet that easily shows vacuum tracks. High-pile rugs are cozy in living rooms and bedrooms; just keep them away from doorways. If you’re after sound or warmth insulation, thick high-pile rugs are the way to go.

For my lifestyle and design scheme, low-pile rugs made more sense. I live in an industrial-style space with lots of brick, metal and exposed wood, so a big fluffy rug would look out of place.

The Rugs We Ordered Online

Ruggable Verena Dark Wood Rug

Ruggableverenadarkwoodrugvia meganwood/familyhandyman

If you have an Instagram account, you’ve likely seen Ruggable rugs. These are two-layer, washable rugs made from polyester with a polyurethane water-resistant barrier. They come in hundreds of sizes, shapes, color options and patterns. I chose the Verena Dark Wood Rug in the 3-ft. x 5-ft. size to place next to my bed.

There’s no real pile to these rugs; they lay almost flat with a 1/8-inch clearance. The top layer is thin. Coupled with the included no-skin underlayer, it feels like a sturdy carpet underfoot. You can order a cushioned underlayer if you want more padding.

The Ruggable arrived in a lightweight box. Assembly was easy. I simply shook out the top layer and attached it to the underlayer. I did have to smooth out a few wrinkles, but I was immediately impressed with the classical pattern and muted, soft colors.

For some reason, my dog is obsessed with this rug. I often find him napping on it, though it isn’t much softer than the floor.

Ruggable Pros

  • Machine washable. The top layer can be tossed in the wash with cold water and dried on low heat.
  • The material is stain-resistant and contains an internal waterproof barrier.
  • Ideal for high traffic areas like the kitchen, entryway, mud room doors and front hall.
  • Comes in almost unlimited sizes, shapes, patterns and colors, including Disney and Star Wars rugs.
  • Interchangeable. You can swap out the top layer with a new pattern and keep the bottom layer if your design tastes change.
  • Free shipping.

Ruggable Cons

  • If you don’t like your rug for any reason, it’s $25 to return it. Exchanges are free.

How the Ruggable rug held up after three months

I’ve stepped on my Ruggable rug multiple times a day for more than three months, and it looks brand new. I vacuum it a few times a week and the corners stay flat. Washing and drying was easy, and I didn’t experience any color fading or shrinkage. I’m considering getting a second, larger Ruggable rug for my home office — maybe in their new washable shag line.

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Boutique Rugs Garran Area Rug

Ruggable Verena Dark Wood Rugvia meganwood/familyhandyman

For my living room, I wanted a show piece rug to tie the room together and add visual interest. The living room is open concept with the kitchen, so defining the living room was important, too. I decided to shop on Boutique Rugs because it’s easy to sort rugs by size, color and material — and prices are low. Specifically, I knew I wanted a black and cream rug, and the site offered a big selection.

I chose the Garran Area Rug with some hesitation about the decorative tassels. Wool shedding was also a worry, a common problem in wool rugs. But I was sold on the diamond design that looks striking but not busy. And the 8-ft. x 10-ft. rectangle fit the space perfectly.

Shipping was super fast, but the rug was heavy! I had to drag it through my front door and wait for a friend to help me unroll it. It was love at first sight.

As for the tassels, once I laid out the rug I liked the slight boho touch. Shedding hasn’t been a problem, but I do notice my vacuum pulls up a lot of fibers.

As often as you need to sweep your floors, you should be vacuuming your wool rugs,” Wagner says. “A light stick vacuum can quickly dust the surface fibers and not dig into the rug and cause any damage with the vacuum brush.”

Boutique Rugs Pros

  • Enormous selection of in-stock rugs, and some of the lowest rug prices on the internet.
  • High quality products — you can find silk rugs here.
  • Runs regular sales and offers promo codes for additional savings.
  • Fast and free shipping, and returns.
  • My wool rug arrived in perfect condition; no shedding.

Boutique Rugs Cons

  • Navigating the endless rug choices is overwhelming.
  • Wool rugs require professional cleaning.

How the Boutique Rugs rug held up after three months

Fantastic. The wool rug is easy to care for and it’s obviously high quality. When you open my front door, the rug is one of the first things you see and I get a lot of compliments.

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Overstock Safavieh Jute Rug

Overstockjuterugvia meganwood/familyhandyman

I’m a big fan of shopping on Overstock. The home décor and furnishings super site has seemingly every product you could need for the house and yard. Overstock also hosts regular mega sales and offers additional 15 percent off coupons. They have some of the best rug prices on the internet. When I decided I wanted a jute rug, I went straight to Overstock.

Wagner says jute is a plant fiber that can turn yellow or brown with spills, so shouldn’t be used in high traffic areas unless you’re okay with replacing it. Since I wanted a jute rug as a statement piece in a sitting area, I wasn’t concerned about staining. I chose the Safavieh jute rug based on its 4.8 star rating, scalloped edges and neutral color.

Shipping on Overstock is always fast and free, and the Jute Rug was no exception. When I unrolled the rug, the corners were slightly bent upwards. A care card explained that bent corners were normal from shipping and would relax in a few days. After three days, the rug laid flat. Phew.

Overstock Rug Pros

  • Huge selection of in-stock rugs in all shapes, sizes and styles.
  • Low prices and regular sales selections.
  • Free and fast shipping.

Overstock Rug Cons

  • Rug sizes can sell out quickly, so act fast.
  • Jute is difficult to care for and clean.

How the Overstock Jute Rug held up after three months

I’m really happy with the jute rug. The material has softened a bit and sort of settled, and I love how the natural material looks in my home. I vacuum it occasionally and shake it a little to loosen any dust caught in the fibers.

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What I Wish I Knew Before I Ordered Rugs Online

Rug pads

My biggest regret was not buying a rug pad for my wool living room rug. There are two indents on the rug from the weight of the front couch legs. When I switched the position of the rug, I was stuck with two indents in the carpet that a pad would have easily prevented.

Odors

The jute rug and wool living room rug both had a distinct odor when I opened them after shipping. I immediately Googled the problem and discovered that it’s common and often comes from chemicals used in the rug’s manufacturing.

The living room rug smelled slightly like wet wool. I sprinkled baking soda on the rug and vacuumed it up. After a week, the smell disappeared. The jute rug had a more chemical scent that went away after a few days.

The smells weren’t a big deal. I just wish I’d known to expect them beforehand.

Carpet cleaner

It didn’t take long for my dog to have an accident on the living room rug. I was caught without carpet cleaner! Soap and water didn’t take the yellow stain out, but I’ve since gotten my hands on Rocco and Roxie Stain and Odor eliminator to solve any carpet stain problems. I also bookmarked these rug cleaning hacks.

Overall, I’m happy I ordered rugs online instead of going to multiple stores to rug shop. I saved time, money and learned something new about home décor and rug maintenance.

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Megan Wood
As Commerce Affiliate Marketing Editor, Megan helps Family Handyman readers find the best products to make their lives better, easier, and more joyful. She's contributed to The New York Times, Cosmopolitan, SELF, Refinery29, and Wisconsin Public Radio. When she’s not at her desk, you can probably find her walking her dog.