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How to Choose Between Wool Rugs and Polypropylene Rugs

How to Choose Between Wool Rugs and Polypropylene Rugs

  • 100% wool rugs are hand-woven with natural materials, while synthetic like
  • Polypropylene rugs are hand-tufted with the most durable but cost-effective materials.
  • A wool rug can last for 50 years or more. Synthetic rugs usually have a lifespan of 3-5 years.
  • Both small wool rugs and synthetic rugs are easy to clean.
  • Wool typically feels softer and more luxurious than polypropylene carpet.
  • Wool rugs are flame resistant, while the chemicals in synthetic rugs might make them highly flammable.
  • Synthetic rugs are cheaper, but the quality is lower, and they can be harmful to the environment.

Differences b/w Polypropylene Rug & Wool Rug

Yes and no. The different types of synthetic materials are petroleum derivatives and treated with harsh chemicals during manufacturing. So… yes, the synthetic materials have different chemical properties and compounds. Polypropylene outdoor rugs are made with UV Stabilized fibers for outdoors. They have small differences in texture and color, but for the most part, the average person cannot tell the difference between synthetic materials.

What is Polypropylene Rug?

"Synthetic like polypropylene area rugs  (also known as olefin), nylon, acrylic, or polyester is made using man-made fibers." These materials are made from petroleum in a lab and sent to factories to be machine woven into rugs.

Checkout some of our Polypropylene Rugs

What is Wool Rug?

Braided Wool rugs are handwoven and use natural wool with hundreds of knots used to create intricate patterns and designs. Rug Knots also has the best collection of wool shag rugs that are far better than any other kind!

Checkout some of our Wool Shag Rugs

Did you know that wool is a natural noise insulator? 

It prevents your home from echoing and shielding you from hearing outside traffic noise. The most common type of wool used in wool rugs is known as woolens, which is a general term used to describe various fabrics woven from woolens yarn.

This polypropylene yarn fiber is spun from short wool fibers to create a soft and lavish fiber to later be handwoven into a rug. The shorter fibers are not combed to lie flat as they are in worsted yarn. Worsted yarn is most commonly used in wool trousers where a smooth, thin, satiny finish is desired. This results in soft and buttery surface texture.

With this technique, the weave of the individual yarn fibers does not show as clearly as it would in worsted fabrics. Contemporary wool rugs typically take 3-4 months from when the artisan begins weaving until it is on display in your home. They also come in many different sizes, such as 8x10, 9x12, and 10x14.what are wool rugs

 How long do wool & synthetic rugs last?

Wool: Well maintained wool area rugs will be in your home for at least 50 years and can be used as heirloom pieces for generations.
  • Wool is one of Mother Nature’s most durable fibers.
  • You will be able to pass your wool \rug down to your children and grandchildren for many generations.
Because of their durability and scarcity, wool rugs can make great investment pieces with antique wool rugs selling at high values.
  • Wool has a naturally crimped texture and spiral shape that makes it ideal for high traffic areas.
  • Wool will not become matted down over years of pitter-patter and heavy furniture.
  • Just like fine leather, wool runner rugs patina with age making them look and feel even more luxurious than the day they were delivered to your home.
How long do wool rugs and synthetic rugs last

 Synthetic: The usual life span of a polypropylene, nylon, acrylic, or polyester rug is 3-5 years with professional cleaning.

  • Synthetic rugs are not as resilient to foot traffic as wool rugs.
  • All synthetic rugs lack wool's brilliant spiral structure created by Mother Nature, meaning the fibers tend to become matted down and tear from foot traffic and heavy furniture.
  • Nylon tends to be the most durable of the synthetic fibers; however, a distant second to wool.
  • Nylon is a resilient fiber (meaning it is considered to be durable) and the strongest of the synthetic fibers.
  • In polypropylene carpet, used the most expensive synthetic fiber.
nylon with a high resiliency.
  • Acrylic tends to be as durable as nylon with high resiliency.
  • Just like nylon, the stronger the individual fiber, the rougher the rug feels.
  • Use the best liquid cleaner for Polypropylene rug cleaning.
  • Polypropylene, or olefin, is the most commonly used synthetic materials clothing for synthetic rugs and carpets.
  • Polypropylene carpet made from synthetic polypropylene, also known as olefin, is ideal for high-traffic areas. It is less expensive than wool.
  • Flame retardant polypropylene rugs are safe for kids.
  • Polypropylene is treated with chemicals to become stain resistant (except oil-based stains) and is less expensive than nylon.
  • Also used to make artificial grass carpets, polypropylene is the second least resilient of the synthetic fibers.
  • The material has a low abrasion tolerance and low melting point.
A 100% polypropylene rug will become matted very easily, become dull looking very quickly, and must be kept away from heat sources, including high sun windows.
  • Polyester is the least expensive rug material to manufacture.
  • That being said, it is also the first to show wear and tear.
  • Polyester has the lowest resiliency rating of the synthetic fibers and will show its age very quickly.
  • Polyester shaggy rugs warranties will never include claims against crushing or matting simply because polyester cannot hold up to the foot traffic.
  • All synthetic fibers are given their color in their liquid state, leaving the material unable to absorb and retain dye after processing.
  • They will never fade but may yellow with time and are prone to chemical and sun bleaching.
  • It is worth noting that synthetic rugs should be seen as “disposable.”
  • Just as anything else made with plastic, synthetic rugs have a lifetime and need to be thrown out when it is expired.

How Do I Clean Wool Rugs & Synthetic Rugs?

Cleaning Wool Rugs:  Despite the rumors, wool rugs are very easy and simple to clean.
  • Wool rugs contain tiny pockets that camouflage dust and pet hair.
  • Although they should be vacuumed every 1-3 weeks, wool rugs always appear fresh and new due to their design and structure.
Your guests never have to know you forgot to vacuum!
  • If a stain occurs, simply place a cloth dampened with a water and white vinegar solution on the stain within 15 minutes of the accident to make sure the stain does not set in.
  • Wool is naturally hydrophobic, meaning it is a water repellent.
  • Wool will wick away water-based stains, making them ideal for dining rooms and other accident-prone areas of your home.
  • For more in-depth information, check out our post on cleaning and maintaining an oriental wool rug. If you are looking for information on professional cleaning, check out our post on how much a professional rug cleaning service should cost!
Cleaning Polypropylene Rugs: Because of synthetic materials, polypropylene, polyester, and nylon rugs are also simple to clean.
  • Water-based stains sit on top and can be wiped away with a damp cloth.
  • Just as stains sit on top, so does dirt. Polypropylene, nylon, and polyester rugs do not contain the tiny pockets found in the wool rugs construction — polypropylene rugs cleaning need to be vacuumed every day to avoid a dull and dingy looking room.
  • Synthetic rugs are susceptible to oil-based stains.
  • Oils from skin (and puppy paws!) press into the rug, requiring synthetic rugs to be cleaned professionally at least once every year.
synthetic rugs to be cleaned
  • A great upside is to synthetic rug fibers is that they are not porous and do not hold odor.

Is there a difference in design quality?

Absolutely! You will notice that even in the best synthetic rugs, the design may be slightly off-center, bulky and less detailed than in wool rugs. The bottom of the rug is an exact mirror image of the decorative top pile In synthetic rugs. The top pile is bonded to a plastic bottom with glue. wool vs synthetic rug
 The back of wool rugs are soft and will not damage hardwood or carpeted flooring.      The back of synthetic rugs is bonded with a hard plastic backing that will slip and scratch hardwood floors.

As you can see in the image above, the 100% polypropylene rugs design is less detailed than the wool carpet. The eye for detail comes with hundreds of years of expertise and wool rug craftsmanship. One of the design drawbacks to synthetic rugs is that they cannot be over-dyed, like this vintage blue over-dyed wool rug pictured above. We love the modern and antique juxtaposition at the moment!

So How Do They Feel?


  • Handwoven wool rugs are silky, luxurious, and soft to the touch.
  • Hundreds of knots are tied, creating the design and pattern - the rugs have a soft and sturdy pile.
Wool is a natural staple fiber, meaning the individual fibers have a natural spiral construction. This helps the rug to maintain its shape and is duplicated in synthetic fibers used in rug making to help prevent matting. Synthetic:
  • Synthetic rugs will feel soft to the touch when you first bring them home but will become “plastic-y” and rough with time.
  • Nylon will have the softest feel, but as we said earlier, the softer the nylon fiber, the less durable the rug.
  • As the synthetic pile wears down with foot traffic and heavy furniture, the rug will soon feel hard and brittle.

Is polypropylene safe? Yes! Polypropylene rug is totally safe as they do not contain any harmful chemical or material. It is made of pure and soft plastic, flexibility and softness are the main features of polypropylene carpet and rugs. Quick tip!  When buying a rug, many clients will run their fingers through the pile of the rug to “feel the quality.” This is known as perceived quality. Do not do this! When you are looking for a quality rug, you should not be able to run your fingers through the pile very easily. This displays a high knot content resulting from a thicker, higher quality pile. Wool rugs like this green shag wool rug are perfect for soothing your soles and for baby’s precious first steps.

green shag wool rug

Are they Flammable?

Wool Rug: Wool is a natural flame retardant.
  • Rather than burning, wool chars and forms a self­-extinguishing layer that keeps the fire from spreading.
  • Wool has been used in the gear of firefighters and in airplanes for its resiliency.
  • You will never have to worry about your wool rug, causing a fire in your home.
Polypropylene Rug: A big question always asked is, are polypropylene braided rugs safe for babies? Because petroleum is the base material, synthetic rugs tend to burn and melt.
  • Fixtures and appliances prone to overheating (lamps, scented wax burners, etc.), smoking cigarettes, and other fire hazards are not safe to place around a synthetic rug.
  • If the rug were to heat up and melt, it might damage the hardwood or carpet underneath; especially if the carpet is made from polypropylene, which is the most common material for wall-to-wall home carpeting.
  • If a fire starts, the only way to put out a synthetic rug fire is with a home fire extinguisher or with a call to the fire company.

The 100% polypropylene rug above heated up and ruined these beautiful solid oak hardwood floors. If you think back to the days of playing with Barbie and Ken, there was a reason your mom never let you curl or straighten your beloved dolls' hair!

Are there any environmental impacts?

Wool: Depending on the breed, sheep are sheared one or two times a year, making wool a renewable resource.

  • Wool is natural, and it is safe for the environment and sheep.
  • Wool is hypo-allergenic, and every year the wool grows back.
  • The sheep are not harmed in the process, unlike leather and sheepskin rugs.
Simple as that! Sheep are NOT hurt in the process. In fact, they like being sheared! They love the fresh feeling of a haircut or a nice shave. Just like us! Synthetic: Synthetic rugs release toxic volatile organic compounds (VOC's) into the air when the materials are being produced in the factory and inside of your home as well.
  • During manufacturing, the same materials that are used on the synthetic rug to prevent staining and moth holes, such as naphthalene, are known to cause dyspnea, epistaxis, and conjunctival irritation.
  • These chemicals, including Styrene and 4-phynocyclohexane, are found in PVC piping and are the culprit for the “new carpet smell.”

If you decide to go with an untreated synthetic rug, be aware that because synthetic fibers do not “breath,” they are prone to mold, mildew, fire, and moth holes.

The glue used to bond the synthetic pile with the plastic backing may contain latex. If you have anyone in your home with allergies or sensitivities, the potential for mold and mildew as well as the latex component is something for you to consider Synthetic Rugs Contain VOC's. Should I be Concerned?

It depends. VOC's can be especially harmful to young children, pregnant women, and the elderly because their immune systems are vulnerable. The fact that VOC's are in synthetic rugs is something for you and your family to think about.

Which is Best?

It is ultimately up to you! The debate between wool rugs and polypropylene rugs truly depends on one’s individual needs, concerns, and tastes. No matter your preference, feel free to reach out to us and ask us anything you may be wondering about wool rugs and polypropylene rugs. We will definitely provide you the best services.
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