The Best Rug Pads Are More Than a Buffer of Protection for Your Floor
They’ll prevent sliding, wrinkling, buckling, and more.
Published Jul 29, 2022 4:07 PM
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So you found the area rug of your dreams—maybe it’s a neutral, braided jute with tasseled edges or a lush, hand-knotted vintage wool. But before unfurling it below your coffee table, you need to lay down a different layer first. A rug pad.
“In our opinion, every rug needs a pad,” stresses Cyrus Loloi, principal at Loloi Rugs. “It helps prevent slipping, adds cushioning, and improves the durability and life span of the rug. But it is especially critical for hardwood floors, tile, or other hard surfaces, as it keeps the rug from sliding, wrinkling, or buckling.”
But, you guessed it, rug pads aren’t a one-size-fits-all kind of situation. They vary in height, weight, and thickness, and the wrong selection could actually damage your floor rather than protect it. To help you find the best rug pad for your home, we rounded up a few of our favorites based on the most popular material choices available.
- Best rubber: Room & Board Natural Rubber Rug Pad
- Best felt: Loloi Dual Grip Felted Rug Pad
- Best polyester: Annie Selke Rug-Stop Rug Pad
- Best vinyl: Wayfair Basics Non-Slip Outdoor Rug Pad
- Best blend: West Elm Premium Rug Pad
Best Rubber: Room & Board Natural Rubber Rug Pad
Thickness: Less than .25 inches | Construction: Waffle | Performance: Mildew resistant
What we like:
- 100 percent natural rubber
- Mildew resistant
- Free shipping
Why we chose it: An au naturel pad that’ll stop your rug in its tracks.
Choosing a rug pad isn’t nearly as glamorous as picking out that checkerboard Moroccan or scouring Etsy for a perfectly unique vintage find. But while there may not be much to say about it looks-wise, this waffle rubber option comes with glowing reviews from designers Kevin Francis O’Gara and Fanny Abbes of the New Project Group. It’s the perfect balance between grip and comfort (thicker than other rug finds, but thin enough that it’s still discreet). Mini perforations promote airflow, which helps keep any mold or mildew at bay, and nine sizes means you should find a fit for any rug in the house.
Best Felt: Loloi Dual Grip Felted Rug Pad
Thickness: .25 inches | Construction: Solid | Performance: Insulating
What we like:
- Durable, wool-based fabric
- Great for enhancing the feel of a high-pile rug
- Anything over 5-by-8 feet gets pretty expensive
Why we chose it: If you crave cushion (but not too much).
Loloi’s felted pad offers the best of both worlds—thick, insulating comfort and a grippy dual-surface texture that’ll stick to both the floor and your rug. Felt pads are ideal when you want extra cushioning or firm support, and adding rubber to the equation (in this case, about 10 percent) brings a nonslip benefit into the mix. And while this product will be fully hidden, we can’t help but mention that if you take a closer look, the plain gray is dotted with pretty flecks of blue, red, and yellow as a result of various fibers being pressed together.
Best Polyester: Annie Selke Rug-Stop Rug Pad
Thickness: Less than .25 inches | Construction: Open weave | Performance: N/A
What we like:
- Promotes airflow
- Sticky, nonslip grip
- Not compatible with radiant heat flooring
Why we chose it: For a sturdy yet barely there feel.
Before you cringe at the word polyester, hear us out: This artificial alternative makes a budget-friendly, durable rug pad. The PVC (polyvinyl chloride)-coated polyester will anchor your rug in place since it’s inherently grippy (think: shelf and cabinet liners), and its open-weave construction provides a bit more breathability than a solid counterpart. This all-around utilitarian pick will let your Annie Selke rug be the star of the show.
Best Vinyl: Wayfair Basics Non-Slip Outdoor Rug Pad
Thickness: .08 inches | Construction: Open weave | Performance: Waterproof
What we like:
- Dries easily
- Fine on heated floors
- Can be cut for a custom fit
- 30-day returns (free shipping on orders $35 and up)
- Clean with a mild soap
Why we chose it: Outdoor rugs deserve support, too.
If you’re in need of something weatherproof, this vinyl-based polyester and latex pad can be taken outdoors to go down over pavers, a concrete patio, and even a pool deck. The open-weave grid design not only suctions a rug to the ground, it also prevents the material from bouncing up. If you hate crinkled corners, or want to keep a lightweight outdoor mat from blowing up in the wind, this basic pad can help (and provides an extra bit of cushion on a supersolid surface, to boot). If you happen to have an odd-size outdoor space—say, a mini balcony—or have a round rug, this pad can be cut to fit whatever awkward corners you’re dealing with.
Best Blend: West Elm Premium Rug Pad
Thickness: .13 inches | Construction: Solid with backing | Performance: Resistant to mold and mildew
What we like:
- A whopping 20-year warranty
- Discoloration may occur
Why we chose it: Flooring transitions have met their match.
Do you need to layer a rug over a combo of carpet, tile, laminate, wood, or radiant heating? This pad, made from a blend of post-industrial, recycled fibers, can do the trick. It’s also a favorite of Abbes for projects, especially those in an open room. “It is a necessary purchase when working with a large rug circumference because it helps keep the rug lying flat and in one place,” she shares. This one has all the benefits of polyester, polypropylene, and nylon, complete with a rubber and latex backing, so it’s naturally mold- and mildew resistant.
How We Chose These Products
At the outset, we asked designers Abbes and O’Gara for the rug pads they regularly reach for and prefer. And according to O’Gara, material and thickness are the most important features to consider when shopping for the best rug pads. Based on their recommendations, we expanded our list to find a top contender in every popular material offering, from brands we love and trust, to provide quality products at a range of price points. And while some of these definitely skew toward the pricier side, Loloi stresses that it’s an investment worth making. “A good pad will help avoid more expensive costs from floor damage or having to replace your rug,” he notes.
Our Shopping Checklist
Rug pads are made from a variety of natural and synthetic materials, and each type comes with its own set of pros and cons. Below are the most popular options on the market, according to O’Gara, and you’ll recognize them from our list:
- Rubber, whether it’s 100 percent natural or an added detail, is the material to tap if grip is a top concern. It doesn’t provide a whole lot of cushion on its own, but O’Gara says that rubber-backed felt, for instance, is a combination that’s nonslip and soft, making it a great choice for flat-weave rugs.
- Felt ups the plush factor and is often a blend of wool and polyester fibers. “It provides the most cushioning and extends the life of your rug,” adds O’Gara. If you’re worried about a runner moving around the hallway, you might want to skip this material. But if you already have a rug locked down by furniture and are going for softness underfoot, this should probably be your top choice.
- Vinyl, which with rug pads is often called out as PVC, can be solid or a coating. While it’s a material that O’Gara generally avoids (those made on the cheaper side can discolor your floor), it’s a great choice for outdoor situations since it provides greater weather resistance. It can also be used to anchor rugs over carpet.
To note: It’s always important to check with your flooring manufacturer to see which materials are best, as some may not be recommended for use with your type.
Material choice often has a direct impact on the thickness and texture of your pad. Felt-and-polyester blends offer more range than their rubber and vinyl counterparts, which are stereotypically pretty thin. But it’s a choice you’ll want to make based on placement and comfort level (the thicker the pad, the more cushion it’ll provide). “A slimmer rug pad works best in hallways, outdoors, near a doorway, and in spaces where furniture often moves, like a home office,” points out Loloi. “A thicker or cushioned rug pad works best in places where comfort is important, like a living room, bedroom, nursery, and kids’ playroom.”
You’ll also want to consider the type of flooring and rug you’ll be placing on top of a thick pad. A flat-weave, for instance, may look more like it’s floating on a floor than resting on it with anything .25 inches or bigger. In this case, you’ll want something that prioritizes nonslip stickiness but with a touch of squishiness to make up for the comfort the rug might lack on its own.
While thickness is about the feel underfoot, texture is all about grip. An open-weave construction, for instance, will create more tension between the surfaces to keep your rug in place. A waffle-y texture is best for soft on soft, whereas something more solid and flat is best suited for hard surfaces.
Generally speaking, aim for your pad to be an inch or two smaller on all sides than the rug it’s being paired with. Any bigger, and you might be dealing with a tripping hazard. “The best way to ensure your rug pad will fit is to order one slightly larger or the same size as your rug, and then trim it down,” advises Loloi.
Q: I have kids and pets. Should my rug pad provide some level of protection against messes and spills?
For sure. While moisture-blocking capabilities are more common when selecting carpet underlayments, they certainly can come in handy in rooms that are prone to moisture. This is especially true if you have a floor underneath that could benefit from the extra layer of protection (literally), such as hardwood. The pad is your first line of defense, so you can soak up a spill before it seeps through and potentially damages the floor.
Q: Do I need to clean my rug pad?
“Rug pads, in general, require little maintenance,” explains Loloi. “However, a few care tips should be kept in mind. For solid pads such as felt or polyester, a vacuum once a year is recommended depending on how much foot traffic the rug receives. Spills that occur on these types of rug pads, he adds, should also be blotted up as quickly as possible: “Open-weave or rubber rug pads are breathable, so they do not need to be vacuumed themselves, but the floor beneath them should be cleaned at least once a year.” During that time, it’s a good idea to shake the pad out, too.
Q: Does the best rug pad depend on the room?
Not necessarily, but it could alter what you’re looking for. In a bedroom or living room, for instance, designers recommend going with something plush and thick (think: rubber-backed felt, a wool-and polyester blend, or even foam—though the latter is reserved for those who want something extra, extra soft). And really, rug pads do more than just hug your feet and protect your floor coverings; they can offer sound-abatement qualities, too.
Q: My rug is still moving all around my room. Is there anything else I can do?
If the pad you chose doesn’t provide as much grip as you wished, consider adding on grippers or tape. These can help your rug flatten out if a new piece happens to arrive a bit wrinkled.
The Last Word
Not only will the best rug pad protect your floors from scratches and dents, it can extend the life of the rug that rests on top. A pad is necessary to keep a rug in place (who else hates when the runner appears to have snaked down the entire hallway?) and looking good. It’s less likely to be matted down from constant foot traffic and will feel far more comfortable on your feet, especially if what’s underneath is a hard surface like wood, tile, or vinyl (even an outdoor concrete patio). “Ultimately,” says Loloi, “the best rug pad for your home ensures that both your floors and your rug are protected from excess wear and tear.”