How to Buy a Wool Rug

How to Buy a Wool Rug

Keep these distinguishing features in mind when you’re considering buying a wool rug to make sure you get the type of rug that works best for your needs.



Buying the perfect wool rug may take a bit more research than you’d think. After all, not all wool rugs are created equal - literally. Then there’s the fact that, while wool rugs are beautiful and durable, they may not always be the right choice for your needs. 

These are the major considerations to keep in mind when you’re checking out your next wool rug. Knowing all of this will help you decide whether a wool rug is right for you and what kind will work best for your living space.

What to know about wool fibers

Wool is a natural fiber, which gives it several advantages over synthetics. Natural fibers are naturally non-toxic and even antimicrobial, which means you won’t need to clean them as frequently. They’re also considerably more wear-resistant - wool fibers have more resistance than any other type of fiber. Despite this resistance, wool also feels softer than most other rug materials.

Using natural fibers does have a few trade-offs you should be aware of, however. For one, wool rugs do absorb moisture. This makes them a bad fit for humid parts of your home, such as your bathroom or basement. You should also try not to place wool rugs anywhere you’re likely to spill onto them. Wool rugs are easily spot-cleaned, but if you leave any spills alone for too long they’ll stain.

Finally, you should only use wool rugs in temperature and humidity-controlled areas with moderate to heavy foot traffic. Wool is a natural food for pest insects like moths. If they have a chance to snack on your rug in your basement or outdoor area, they’ll take it. Though some sunlight is acceptable, you should also try to keep wool rugs out of direct sunlight for long periods, as this can cause their color to fade.

Skeins and balls of beige yarn for hand knitting on white wooden table. Different types of yarn: woolen, boucle, acrylic, merino, camel, melange and blended.Skeins and balls of beige yarn for hand knitting on white wooden table. Different types of yarn: woolen, boucle, acrylic, merino, camel, melange and blended.

Wool vs. wool blend

Blended wool rugs are usually made of 80% natural wool and 20% synthetic fiber, such as polyester or nylon. These blends are created explicitly to counteract some of the drawbacks of wool. 

For example, wool blend rugs can be even more durable than pure wool, since the synthetic fibers can be used to enhance wool’s natural durability. They’re cheaper and easier to clean and tend to be more stain and light-resistant. Most wool blend rugs are less moisture absorbent than their pure counterparts, which means you may be able to put them in places where pure wool is a bad idea.

Despite these advantages, however, pure wool rugs continue to be very popular. Compared to blended rugs, they feel plusher and softer underfoot, and they’re made of all-natural, sustainable, and eco-friendly fibers. For example, Sisal Rugs sources most of the wool we use from New Zealand, where it is sustainably harvested from sheep to keep them from overheating in the summer.


loom creation close-up. Loop weaving and Wool carpet. loom creation close-up. Loop weaving and Wool carpet.

Handcrafting vs. machine manufacturing

There are two varieties of truly handcrafted wool rugs: they are either hand-knotted or hand-woven. Any other references to the handcrafting of a rug - such as calling it “handcrafted,” “handmade,” or “hand-tufted” in marketing materials - may not legitimately refer to these techniques.  

Truly handmade wool rugs will nearly always be more expensive than their manufactured counterparts, but if you’re looking for the highest possible quality, the price is worth it. Both hand-knotted and hand-woven rugs last longer, look better, and resist wear and tear more effectively than machine-manufactured rugs. 

Whether you should choose a hand-knotted or hand-woven rug, meanwhile, depends on your personal needs and preferences. Here’s what you should know about each style.


The wide range of the hand made carpets, traditional knotted Uzbek silk rugs in the small bazaar, Bukhara, Uzbekistan, Central AsiaThe wide range of the hand made carpets, traditional knotted Uzbek silk rugs in the small bazaar, Bukhara, Uzbekistan, Central Asia


Hand-knotted rugs are usually considered the highest-quality wool rugs available, which means they’re also the most expensive. Highly skilled traditional rugmakers create these rugs using a traditional technique that’s thousands of years old, which involves manually tying thousands or even millions of individual knots around a base rug foundation. 

When considering a hand-knotted rug, ask about the number of knots per square inch. Generally, the more knots a hand-knotted rug contains per square inch, the higher its quality. Not only will denser concentrations of knots create a more pleasing and elaborate design and texture, but the tighter the knots, the more durable the rug. 

Not all wool rugs can be hand-knotted, of course. Hand-knotted rugs have a distinctive textured and tied-together look. Hand-knotted rugs are also distinct in that, while they have the same, symmetrical design on the front and back, one side is plush while the other is hard. This makes hand-knotted rugs the wrong choice for some applications, such as if you want a rug you can regularly flip over.

Hand-knotted rugs are more expensive to maintain than most other rugs because they must be cleaned very carefully. Their knots will also occasionally snag on flooring, furniture, or feet, which means they aren’t always the right choice for areas with high foot traffic or pets.


Geometric hand woven wool rug.Geometric hand woven wool rug.


Handwoven rugs, sometimes also called “flatweaves,” are also meticulously handcrafted. The process differs from hand-knotting, however, in that handweavers don’t tie knots into the rug’s foundation. Instead, they hang the wool threads on a loom and weave the strands over and under each other repeatedly, like the process of basket weaving. 

Though handweaving takes less time than hand-knotting and handwoven rugs are generally less expensive, that doesn’t mean they’re lower quality. Generally, handwoven rugs have less elaborate texturing and patterning than hand-knotted rugs, but both rugs can be made of the highest-quality wool available.

Handwoven rugs also have a few practical advantages over hand-knotted rugs. For example, handwoven rugs are reversible, so you can flip yours over to help preserve it longer. These rugs are also flatter than hand-knotted rugs, which means they are more likely to hold up under foot traffic. 

Keep cozy with the right wool rug

If you’re looking for a stylish, durable, comfortable rug made from a naturally-renewable resource, wool is a great option. Keep the points we’ve mentioned in mind and you’re sure to get the right rug for your space.

Find your perfect wool rug on our full wool rug page.

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