When a hand-knotted wool oriental rug meets hardwood flooring, a lot of homeowners get nervous.
Will the rug slip and slide all around the room? Will the rug damage the floor? Will the floor damage the rug?
To dispel some of these initial fears, allow me to mention that wool rugs have been around a lot longer than hardwood floors. People have used wool rugs for thousands of years with minimal difficulty by simply placing them on the ground.
Given a large enough rug, this ancient technique may work just fine in the home. But when smaller or thinner rugs are placed on hardwood floors, sliding and slippage become an issue.
There are many ways of addressing the rug-flooring interface problem, from masking tape and hot glue to rug pads made of various materials. The thrifty DIY homeowner may be satisfied with a solution that would make the more discerning rug fanatic cringe. The price tag accompanying some super premium rug pads may make a lot of us cringe.
Let’s take a quick look at several methods of securing oriental rugs to hardwood flooring, ranging from quick and cheap to durable and a tad more expensive.
1. The Ubiquitous Cheapish “Rubber” Rug Pad
Available at big-box retail outlets and more often than not manufactured in China, these waffle-pattern thin “rubber” rug pads are one of the most common solutions for securing oriental rugs to hardwood flooring.
While they are affordable, easy to install, and certainly do hold rugs in place, these budget rug pads come with several adverse side effects that may make them more of a problem than a solution.
Anecdotal evidence abounds of these pads leaving behind a sticky, waffle-patterned residue after even only a few months of use.
Apparently most cheap “rubber” pads are actually manufactured with PVC or other plastics which bond to polyurethane floor sealant over time. Some of these rug pads are also treated with mysterious adhesives that only worsen the residue issue.
Depending on how much you care about your flooring, it may be best to leave these pads behind.
2. Rubber Shelf Liner as Rug Pad
Several creative homeowners have suggested using rolls of rubber shelf liner instead of pricier material made specifically for rugs.
Simply measure the length (or width) of your rug, and cut several strips of liner to size. After laying the strips down on the floor, carefully position the rolled up rug at one end and unroll it evenly to avoid wrinkles.
While this method is charming in its economy, thrift, and effectiveness, it may be prone to the same sort of reaction with hardwood flooring that cheap rug pads often undergo. After a few weeks or months of use, check the floor underneath to ensure that no sticky residue is being deposited.
3. A Fair Warning About Carpet Tape for Oriental Rugs
Double-sided carpet tapes may seem the most intuitive solution for slide-prone area rugs, and many homeowners have used them for years without experiencing floor damage.
That being said, I remain somewhat skeptical of carpet tape, especially when applied to hand-knotted oriental rugs. I just don’t like the idea of strong adhesives pulling at the hundreds of thousands of knots that form an oriental rug’s intricate pattern.
Carpet tape may be better used with cheaper tufted rugs, where it can stick to latex backing rather than the wool fibers themselves.
Once again, adhesives can be a real pain to remove from hardwood flooring, often damaging the finished surface.
4. Felt Rug Pads
If the health of both flooring and rug alike are of great concern to you, felt rug pads are hands down the best solution for securing oriental rugs in place. Most felt pads are made of recycled plastics, so they are a bit more eco-friendly than many other rug pad options.
While pure felt pads offer wonderful cushioning and harm neither rug nor floor, they aren’t very grippy. Felt rug pads are recommended for larger rugs or rugs with furniture placed on top: instances in which slipping isn’t much of an issue.
The dense cushion of felt pads also helps mitigate premature pile wear from heavy furniture or foot traffic.
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5. Natural Rubber Pads
For thinner flatweave rugs, smaller wool pile rugs, or any oriental rug prone to sliding, natural rubber rug pads do a great job of keeping rugs in place without damaging flooring.
Unlike cheaper, synthetic “rubber” pads that often contain various other plastics and adhesives, natural rubber pads will not degrade or bond to polyurethane floor coatings.
Pure rubber pads don’t provide nearly as much cushion as do felt pads, so several manufacturers have begun producing felt/rubber hybrid pads that pair the grip of natural rubber with the density of felt.
Keep an eye out for rubber-felt hybrid pads that use heat, rather than adhesives, to bond the rubber base to felt backing. While likely the most expensive solution, these pads hit all the marks: they’re non-slip, they cushion and protect oriental rugs, and they won’t damage hardwood flooring.
Do you have your own method for securing oriental rugs to hardwood floors? We’d love to hear about more innovative solutions or rug pad alternatives.
Feel free to reach out to us here at RugKnots with any questions or stories you may have about oriental rugs and hardwood floors!