Home & Garden

4 things to consider when buying an outdoor area rug

Your deck wants to look good, too

Outdoor area rugs give a finished feel to your outdoor space Credit: Getty Images / runna10

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Just as an area rug does for any room inside your home, it can also help “define” your outdoor living space. Choose the right outdoor area rug, and you bring a polished and finished look to a bare patio or deck.

Since one of the guests to your outside area is Mother Nature (hello, weather elements), not just any rug will do. We asked a few experts to weigh in on common questions about material, patterns and cleaning. Their answers have your outdoor décor needs covered.

Material matters

Credit: Ruggable

This Moroccan-inspired outdoor area rug looks natural but is actually made with a synthetic material that's easy to keep clean.

“The most important element to consider when purchasing an outdoor rug is whether it is waterproof or water-resistant,” says Karen Michela Parziale of The Staging Studio in Hoboken, New Jersey. “A rug for the deck, patio, or outdoor space must be durable and weather sensitive.”

While rugs, in general, come in a variety of materials, two stand out for outdoor use: synthetic and natural. Each has its own benefits.

Polypropylene (aka olefin) is the most popular synthetic outdoor rug material. Stain- and mold-resistant, and easy to clean, it won't fade from sunlight. This type of material can also handle high moisture and heavy foot traffic. Ruggable sells this popular option.

You will find them in a variety vibrant colors, and they can even be safely placed in direct exposure to rain. But Parziale offers a warning, “Because of its chemical makeup, it’s highly flammable. So, it’s best to keep [the rug] away from intense heat, such as fire pits or grills.”

Malka Helft likes to work with natural, plant fiber rugs, such as sisal, hemp, and seagrass. “These rugs are sustainable, extremely durable and cleanable,” explains the New York designer at Think Chic Interiors.

Because this type of material can develop mold and mildew more easily, these rugs are ideal for a covered porch or patio. Helft also suggests buying a rug pad for whichever material of rug you choose, since this allows air circulation.

Plant fiber rugs are usually available in more natural shades, muted tones, and gentle colorways.

Choose dithered over solid colors

The rug is the most humble and lowly (literally) of your outdoor home furnishings. It gets stepped on and becomes dirty from day one. For this reason, Terry Lin suggests buying rugs in several colors. Lin co-founded Outer, a new direct-to-consumer outdoor furnishings company in Santa Monica, California.

“Find rugs that are tonal or ‘dithered,’ so stains are less apparent,” he explains. Dithered means the rug has a dominant color at a distance, but, on closer inspection, many tones make up the rug’s color, like this blue outdoor area rug from Annie Selke. “This helps with hiding dirt and extending the interval needed to clean your rug.”

annie selke
Credit: Annie Selke

Dithered-style rugs are great at hiding stains

Keep it clean

At the end of the day, rugs do get wet and dirty. There’s no way around it. But, if a rug stays wet for prolonged periods, the dirt on top of its mildew-resistant surface will grow mildew.

Lin suggests paying attention to a rug’s care instructions. For best results, choose an outdoor area rug that can be scrubbed down with a thick-bristled broom and an everyday cleaner.

Don’t overthink it

“I associate designing an outdoor space the same way you would create a flavorful meal. In every cuisine, you start with a flavor base using humble and un-fancy vegetables,” says Lin.

“A rug shouldn’t dictate the design of your space, but instead, it should serve as the foundation to which you begin to build your layers of style.”

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