Are you trying to choose between a wool rug or a silk rug? While both types can produce beautifully crafted rugs, the differences are quite profound. It’s important to know these differences so you understand which rug type is right for you.
There is a ton of information out there on wool rugs vs silk rugs, so let RugKnots condense it into a single article that will help you figure out which type of rug to buy. Here are the five difference we’re going to go through:
- What each rug is best suited for
Wool vs Silk Rugs: Cost
The first difference most people notice between wool and silk rugs are their costs. This is how each type of rug is priced:
The Cost of a Wool Rug
Wool rugs are some of the most common available, so their prices range dramatically. You can find wool rugs for less than $100 and into the upper five figures.
However, in general, wool rugs are on the cheaper end of the spectrum. Here are some products and prices for quality, hand knotted, wool rugs hand-woven in some of the more popular sizes:
Be wary of any wool rug price that seems too good to be true. In the rug world, you get what you pay for. However, you can also end up overpaying for a rug. Many rug retailers are simply re-sellers — they buy from manufacturers and mark up their prices, so you can expect to pay double or triple for rugs like the ones above.
RugKnots manufactures our own rugs, allowing us to sell them at wholesale prices while maintaining high quality standards. Learn more in this video:
Wool rugs can fit any size budget. They’re excellent choices for almost every rug buyer. And you should definitely invest in a few! If you are an interior designer or have a Washington DC area blog, you will love our rugs.
The Cost of a Silk Rug
Silk rugs come in two forms: 100% silk rugs and a wool/silk blend together.
We’ll break down the material more in the next section, but either type is more expensive (in general) than wool rugs. Rugs containing silk usually feature higher knots per square inch, which is one of the major indicators of quality and craftsmanship. Historically, they have also been highly sought after by those of royalty.
Here are some example products and prices for quality hand-woven wool and silk rugs:
You will typically pay more per foot for a silk rug than a wool one. But let’s break down what you’re paying for, specifically…
Wool vs. Silk Rug Material
The rug’s material is its cornerstone. This is where all other rug characteristics derive from.
What is a Wool Rug?
Wool is the most commonly used material in oriental hand woven rugs. It is easily available, usually sourced from sheep. The age, breed, climate they live in and diet of the sheep all affect the wool’s quality.
(RugKnots only makes our rugs using 100% New Zealand wool.)
Since wool is widely available and a renewable resource (no sheep need to be killed to harvest their wool, and it regrows each year), it’s one of the cheapest rug materials. This is one of the reasons wool rugs are priced for the average rug buyer.
Wool is also easy to handle in the rug making process — learn exactly how an oriental rug is made — and it comes out soft to the touch so buyers can feel its quality. Visually, wool rugs have a matte, flattened appearance, appearing more subtle and tending to blend into their surroundings.
What is a Silk Rug?
Silk is a natural fiber harvested from certain insect larvae like silkworms. Silk fiber is extracted from the larva's cocoon — it takes a lot of larvae to produce a vast amount of silk, and it takes a long time for that silk to form and be made into a workable material. This is one of the reasons why silk (and therefore, silk rugs) is so expensive.
Because silk is so expensive, silk rugs are typically woven with wool as well. Thus, they can feel similar to 100% wool rugs (but not quite the same).
The beauty of a silk rug is unmatched. Silk rugs have a fine, shiny finish to them and their additional knot count also adds to the time/effort put into their creation and how they feel to the touch.
Note: Make sure you’re not allergic to wool when purchasing either a wool or silk rug.
What is Bamboo Silk?
Bamboo Silk is made from bamboo cellulose and is a type of viscose. The base material is treated so that it becomes a paste. It’s then blended together with other ingredients, expelled, and dried to produce the soft, silk fiber.
The only difference between bamboo silk and traditional silk is how it’s made.
Wool vs. Silk Rugs Durability
A rug’s durability is extremely important. It let's you know where you can place a rug to maximize its lifespan and your enjoyment from it.
Are Wool Rugs Durable?
Wool rugs are extremely durable — their pile comes out thick and strong. They also offer a natural resistance to spills, stains, and foot traffic. These rugs can last 50 or more years with regular usage (and maintenance, of course). Wool rugs are also fire resistant and less susceptible to dust mites.
Are Silk Rugs Durable?
Even though silk is a strong natural fiber, silk rugs are much more delicate than wool rugs. They should be placed in areas where foot traffic is minimal. It’s often advised that silk rugs even be hung on walls to preserve them for as long as possible.
They get dirty faster and aren’t very practical carpets for your home, but if you can keep them clean, the aesthetic appeal of a silk rug is immense.
However, a bamboo silk rug that’s blended with wool is typically more durable than a traditional silk rug. These rugs are more practical floor carpets to handle foot traffic or heavy furniture.
Wool vs Silk Rugs: Caretaking
Because of the materials used, how you take care of a wool rug vs silk rug differs slightly. Check out how each rug type should be maintained:
How to Take Care of a Wool Rug
First, a wool rug should be vacuumed twice a month. Wool rugs contain tiny air pockets where dirt can hide. Not only can excess dirt become visible and reduce the rug’s aesthetic appeal, it can also bother people with allergies. Vacuuming helps to remove this dirt and dust.
Just make sure not to vacuum your rug too much. Over-vacuuming can actually pull the wool fibers apart and out of the rug. Here’s a quick instructional video:
If vacuuming isn’t your style or you’re worried about ruining the rug, you can also simply take it outside every once in a while and give it a good shake, or hang it on a clothesline and smack it with an old fashioned rug beater. Since it’s wool, it can handle a beating like this.
You will also want to rotate your rug every once in a while. Odds are, parts of the rug are getting more foot traffic than others. Rotating it will even out the foot traffic and prevent discoloration.
How to Take Care of a Silk Rug
Silk can lose up to 20% of its strength when it gets wet, and abrasive cleaning agents, hot water and steam cleaning can damage its fibers. Like wool rugs, you should vacuum silk rugs a couple times per month, but because they’re more delicate, only use a brushless vacuum head. Other types can pull out or damage the fibers.
You can also sweep the rug gently with a broom, or take it outside and give it a shake. Beating silk rugs isn’t advised, as you want to be as gentle as possible.
To remove stains, try to absorb them quickly. If you aren’t comfortable with the detergent you have, silk rugs should be taken to a professional cleaner as soon as possible. To reduce the amount of cleaning required, hang your silk rug on the wall or place it in a low traffic area.
Wool vs. Silk Rugs: What Each Rug is Best Suited For
Wool Rugs are Better for Budgets than Silk Rugs
If you’re on a budget, you should look at wool rugs first. They are the most economical, as they cost less per foot than silk rugs do. They also tend to last longer, so you will get to enjoy your investment for an extended period of time.
Silk Rugs are More Stunning than Wool
If your main priority is aesthetic beauty, you can’t beat the shine and fine finish of a silk rug. (There’s a reason they were highly sought after by royalty.)
Wool Rugs are More Durable than Silk
Wool rugs can be placed in any area of the home, even kitchens. They are strong enough to handle years of foot traffic, cleaning, and maintenance. Silk rugs are best suited for areas of extremely low foot traffic or wall hangings.
Finally, if you’re new to rug buying, start off with a wool rug. If you’re looking to venture out and try something new, you will be pleasantly surprised with a silk rug.
Wool and silk rugs differ immensely. It’s these differences that have delighted rug buyers for generations.
Most of the rugs at RugKnots are 100% wool, but we also have a collection of wool and silk rugs that you can page through.
If you have questions about any of our rugs or rug buying in general, feel free to ask in the comments below. We are always happy to help.