How to Choose a Rug Pad
You bought a new rug, but now you need a pad for it.
Maybe it’s because you noticed your rug damaging the floor it lies on. Maybe it’s because the rug is slipping all over the place. Or maybe it’s because you’re planning ahead and want to protect your new rug.
All of these are good reasons, and in most cases, if you have a rug, you need a rug pad. I’ll cover everything I can think of about rug pads, and hopefully give you some ideas on what to buy.
If there are any questions I don’t answer that you have on padding for area rugs, let me know in the comments at the end of the article.
Benefits of rug padding
Rug pads are not just an upsell for the rug sellers. They bring several benefits to both your floor and your area rug.
The most important benefit is that the rug pad will keep your rug from slipping and getting bunched up. Bunched up or sliding rugs are a safety issue and potential tripping hazard for everyone, but especially kids, pets, and people with limited mobility. With the right rug pad, the rug will stay flat even on a smooth surface.
Did I say reducing slipping was the biggest benefit? On second thought, maybe it’s the fact that it protects your floor and rug. This is especially true if you have an expensive rug. The padding will give a cushion, just like carpet pad does to carpet, that keeps the rug from wearing out prematurely. But it also protects the floor. Some rug backings are abrasive to the floor beneath it. A good rug pad should prevent this.
And there’s also the benefit of insulation. This is a smaller benefit since the rug usually isn’t over your whole home, but it provides insulation against cold floors (so your feet stay warm) and sound.
Captain’s notice! When I link to a rug pad, I may get a small commission from Amazon based on what you buy. This does not affect what you pay or what I recommend. I only link to rug pads I would consider buying if I were in your shoes, and any commission helps pay the bills of the site.
What size rug pad do I need?
The first question you’ll come across is what size rug pad do you need.
As you can guess, it’s based on the size of your rug. Here are some common rug sizes, and the size of the rug pad you’ll need:
|Rug Size||Pad Size|
Side note: Amazon can actually be a pretty good resource for area rug padding. In particular, there is a “rug store” on Amazon I like. They let you filter by size, and you can see what other owners think of them, and what rugs they’ve had success with–click here to check them out. (note: I receive a small commission if you buy through Amazon, but this doesn’t affect the price you pay).
See the general trend?
The rug pad needed is 2″ shorter in the length and width. This makes a rug pad that is 1″ shorter on all 4 sides. Of course, you can always cut a rug pad that is bigger than your rug, and then trim it down, but definitely don’t go with shorter than the guidelines above!
Materials for rug pads and how they perform
The material you choose for your rug pad makes a big difference in performance. You’ll
- Felt/Rubber combo
- Polyester and/or vinyl
Let’s talk about each briefly, so you can be familiar with their pros and cons:
PVC rug pads are generally less expensive than others, but can cause some problems with the floor. The plastic chemicals do not interact well with vinyl or hardwood floors, causing discoloration or voiding the floor’s warranty. They do make cheap non-slip surfaces. In most cases, I’d avoid PVC pads.
Felt pads are excellent for at extra cushion and support but do not do well at keeping the rug in one place. With larger, heavier rugs this will not be so much of a problem. Their thickness gives some added protection to your floor and more insulation under your feet. Felt pads are considered higher quality since they are great “shock absorbers” to give your rug protection. Here’s a 100% felt pad on Amazon that comes in multiple sizes.
Rubber pads are thin and sticky. They provide a very small amount of cushion and insulation, nothing compared to felt. However, rubber only pads are perfect for smaller rugs where they critical job is keeping it in place. They’re low profile so all you see is the rug; this is especially important for thin and small rugs. Here’s a rubber pad on Amazon in multiple sizes that has good reviews and is fairly inexpensive.
Rug pads made out of both felt and rubber are able to combine those qualities. They give more grip like a rubber pad, but also the comfort and protection of a felt one. Combined pads place felt on the top, to prevent abrasions on the rug’s underside and rubber on the bottom to keep the rug from slipping. For most people with decent quality or better rugs, I think felt and rubber is the way to go. An excellent rug pad at a great price is this felt and rubber pad on Amazon in multiple sizes.
Polyester and vinyl are usually used for rug to carpet padding. This material does well for preventing the rug from bunching on the carpet but also not damaging the carpet beneath.
Captain’s warning! If you’re getting a rug for a carpeted floor, it’s important to look for a pad that is specifically a “rug to carpet pad.” Other rug padding designed for hard flooring may not work as well as it should on carpet, but worse, there’s a good chance it will cause your carpet to blossom or fray.
Rug size makes a difference in the pad material you should choose
The last section gave you an overview of each material. And hopefully, it let you narrow down what you want.
There is one more consideration:
The size of your rug can help determine what material you should choose. Different sized rugs have different problems that the rug pad can fix. And depending on the problem to be fixed, different materials will be best:
Small rugs or runners
The smaller the rug, the harder it will be to keep it in one place without some sort of weight or padding. You will also want to keep the pad as thin and lightweight as possible since thicker pads would bring too much bulk underneath a small rug.
For these, a rubber pad is best, but it should allow air to flow freely or it can trap stale odors. The pad should be able to grip both the rug and the floor without sticking to your floor’s finish. That way, the rug will be kept from bunching together or sliding when you walk on it.
Here is my favorite pad to support smaller rugs.
Medium rugs, loosely defined as those 4-5 feet wide and up to 9 feet long, don’t have quite the “banana peel” effect of smaller rugs where they slide under your feet. However, they still can have problems bunching up.
Unless your rug is under furniture, you’ll want rubber in your pad to grip it. A blended material will do the job best, with the felt side able to grip the rug and the rubber side keeping it together. Usually, a medium rug pad will be between 1/8 and 1/4 of an inch thick.
Here is my favorite pad to support medium rugs (note: this is a fairly thin pad, which I prefer for most medium rugs, but if you want thicker check out my recommendation for large rugs below)
Large area rugs frequently take up most of a room and often have furniture such as couches and chairs placed on top of them. Those will help to hold it in one place, but even then the pads are necessary to keep the rug and the floor in their best condition.
A felt pad is ideal for large rugs that are heavy or bulky enough not to move on their own. They add extra comfort and provide a layer between the floor and the rug so neither of the more valuable items becomes damaged by constantly grating against each other.
If your large rug is in a high traffic area, is thinner, or tends to slide or bunch up to one side, then you would be better off using a combined felt and rubber pad to keep it in one place.
Here is my favorite pad to support large rugs.
We’ve covered materials of rug pads and choosing your rug pad by size, but there one more thing that may be the most important:
Compatibility with your floor.
One rug pad may work great on carpet, but it might slip on hardwood. Or another rug pad might leave your hardwood looking flawless, but stain luxury vinyl flooring that is under it.
The challenge here is there is no one size fits all answer. However, there’s a few things you can consider.
- If you’re putting the rug pad on top of vinyl flooring, read the manufacturer’s guide on the vinyl floor. Many prohibit use of certain pad materials (PVC is a common one)
- If you’re putting the rug pad on carpet, there are carpet specific pads that may be preffered. Rugger based pads could wear on the carpet with time.
- Outside of these two exeptions, most pads are universal with floors like tile and hardwood. However, considering the amount you invested into your floor, I would still read what the manufacturer recommends to be safe.
Rug pad thickness
Another decision you’re going to make is how thick of a rug pad you want.
Some people like to go with the “squish test:” pinch the pad between your fingers and figure out more comfortable.
But there’s more to it than that. The thickness can affect the performance, functionality, and safety.
You’ll find rugs pads anywhere from 1/16″ to ½”. That’s an 8x difference in thickness! Usually, people tend toward thicker pad, but there are times where thick may NOT be better:
- with a thin or small rug (you don’t want your pad getting more attention than your rug)
- the rug has to be cleared by a doorway
- with too thick of a rug (who wants to step over both a thick rug and pad?)
Shameless advertisement that I stand by: Want to shop for rug padding? Click here to check out a rug pad store on Amazon that has great quality and lets you choose by about any size.
Thicker pads are going to cost a little more, and give your rugs more protection. If you have a nice, thick oriental rug, you’ll want to protect it with a thick pad. However, if you have a thinner less expensive rug, you may just want your pad to keep it from slipping. You only need a thin pad to do that.
Captain’s warning! Don’t forget about your surroundings! While thicker pads are often preferred, be sure that you don’t have a door that opens over the rug, or that the rug is in an area that potentially could be a tripping hazard. These cases a little thinner may be better.
Captain’s parting words!
Rug pads bring several direct benefits. They keep smaller rugs from bunching or sliding around underfoot and add an extra layer of protection between heavy larger rugs and the floor. They also are comfortable and give extra padding when you walk on the rugs.
When you are buying pads for your rugs, you will want to pay close attention to the materials. Felt, rubber or a combination of the two work with almost any kind of floor or rug but you may want to check your flooring warranty to make sure before you purchase it. The size of the rug is also a factor for which type is the best for you to choose.
Anything else you want to know about rug pads? Let me know in the comments below… I usually get back within 24-48 hours.