When to Choose Synthetic Rugs Over Wool

When to Choose Synthetic Rugs Over Wool

Synthetic rugs vs wool rugs is a debate every rug buyer faces. This information comparing the two can help you make your choice.



If you’re reading this, you’ve reached a classic dilemma nearly every rug buyer encounters during their consideration process: Synthetic rugs vs wool rugs.

Unfortunately, we can’t give you the answer one way or another. Which rug is right for you will ultimately depend on where you want to put it and what qualities you need it to have. What we can do, however, is give you all the information you’ll need to come to the right decision yourself. 

Synthetic Rugs vs. Wool Rugs: Side by Side

First, let’s conduct an in-depth, side-by-side comparison of wool vs synthetic rugs. This will give you an understanding of the pros and cons of each material, and when you may want to consider using one over the other.

wool rug


Wool: Sisal’s organic wool rugs are naturally created from 100% pure and sustainably sourced sheep’s fleece from New Zealand. Natural wool is very soft, and it’s also known for its high durability and crush resistance

Synthetic: Sisal’s synthetic rugs are made of either polypropylene or polysilk. Both synthetic fibers are soft and highly stain and mold-resistant, making them well-suited for indoor/outdoor use. Synthetic fibers are also very easy to clean.


Wool: Wool is the softest organic fiber rugs are woven from. Compared to synthetic rugs, wool will look relatively more plush and feel noticeably softer underfoot.

Synthetic: While not quite as naturally soft as wool, synthetic fibers are designed to look and feel like their natural counterparts; polypropylene mimics the feel and softness of sisal, while polysilk does the same for wool. Even if softness is a significant consideration when choosing between wool and synthetic materials, a polysilk rug will likely satisfy your needs.


Wool: While natural wool is known for its durability and crush resistance, it’s also more vulnerable to staining, tearing, and fading than synthetic fibers. As long as wool rugs are carefully cared for and kept clean and dry, they last a long time - but they may not be the right choice for parts of your home where they might frequently get wet or dirty.

Synthetic: Synthetic fibers are designed to be extremely durable and will generally withstand wear and tear more capably than organic wool fibers. It’s important to note that synthetic fibers scratch more easily and visibly than wool rugs, however, so they may show abrasion if you move furniture over them or a pet scratches their surfaces.

vacuuming a rug


Dirt resistance

Wool: Unfortunately, the elaborate interconnected weaving of wool fibers gives dirt and dust an easy place to accumulate inside wool rugs. Wool rugs will absorb and retain far more dirt and dust they come into contact than their synthetic equivalents. To keep your wool rug clean as long as possible, you should avoid walking on your wool rug with shoes or dirty feet. You can also take it outside and beat it to shake dust out of it. 

Synthetic: Compared to wool rugs, synthetic rugs are considerably more dirt and dust resistant. Their weaving is tighter, giving dirt less room to accumulate, and its moisture-wicking properties make it easy to clean off any dirt and dust that gets left behind on their surfaces. This makes synthetic rugs far preferable for use in spaces where they’ll come into regular contact with dirt or mud.

Mold resistance

Wool: Wool is very vulnerable to mold growth if it’s exposed to moisture. Wool fibers will absorb water and other liquids left on their surface over time, providing the perfect dark, moist, and warm conditions for mold to thrive in. Avoid leaving wool rugs in moist or humid parts of your home, and clean any spills on or near the rug as soon as possible.

Synthetic: Synthetic fibers are nonporous, so they will not absorb moisture even if you accidentally leave spills on their surface. This makes synthetic rugs highly mold-resistant. You can even leave Sisal’s synthetic rugs outside without worrying about them absorbing moisture and fostering mold.

puppy and soiled area rug

Stain resistance

Wool: Wool can be a surprisingly stain-resistant fiber, providing you notice and clean off any moisture that gets on it quickly. This is because organic wool contains a natural substance called lanolin that can repel moisture. Lanolin forces spills to bead up on the surface of wool for a while before sinking in. If you can find spills and blot (don’t wipe or press) them away quickly, they won’t stain the rug. Unfortunately, however, if moisture is allowed to stay on a wool rug for an extended period, it will sink into the fibers and leave a stain.

Synthetic: Synthetic polypropylene and polysilk fibers actively repel moisture, making them highly stain resistant. Even if liquids accumulate on synthetic rugs for an extended period of time, they will not sink and saturate the fibers to create a stain. If you leave a liquid alone long enough on a synthetic rug, however, dark liquids such as wine or coffee may partially discolor the fibers. Oil can also stain synthetic rugs quickly.

Ease of cleaning

Wool: Wool rugs are not machine washable. You should also avoid steam cleaning and using wet shampoo. You should only ever attempt to spot clean your wool rug yourself. If your rug requires a more thorough cleaning, consider taking it to a professional rug cleaning service.

More depth information on cleaning Sisal’s wool rugs.

Synthetic: Compared to wool rugs, synthetic rugs are significantly easier to clean. Unlike wool, you can safely subject both polypropylene and polysilk to soap and water without worrying about the materials absorbing too much of the moisture. When your synthetic rugs are dirty, you can take them outside and hose them off on both sides and scrub it with mild soap.

More information on cleaning both polypropylene and polysilk rugs.

Fade resistance

Wool: Natural wool is not fade resistant. If they are left in direct sunlight for extended periods of time, the dyes used to color wool rugs will begin to fade. The fibers themselves may also become brittle under repeated, sustained sun exposure.

Synthetic: Synthetic rugs are much more resistant to fading than their organic counterparts. You can leave both polypropylene and polysilk rugs in direct sunlight for extended periods of time without worrying about either losing its color. Polysilk and polypropylene are both UV-stabilized especially to protect them from fading in the sun. 

baby spilling a cup of juice on the floor

Care and maintenance

Wool: Caring for wool rugs is more preventative than anything else. You should keep them out of humidity and direct sunlight, ensure they don’t come into contact with dirt or liquids, and occasionally air them out and beat them to remove dust accumulation.

Synthetic: Compared to wool rugs, synthetic rugs are easier to maintain. Synthetic fibers hold up to wear and tear, spills and moisture accumulation, and dirt and dust much better than wool fibers can, and synthetic rugs are also far easier to clean. As long as you can keep synthetic rugs from being scratched or stained by oily substances, maintaining them should be quick and easy.


Wool: Sustainably harvesting natural wool fibers and intricately weaving them into a high-quality rug is a time and labor-intensive process. This process, along with the high quality of the wool itself, makes wool rugs a more expensive investment than rugs woven from other organic or synthetic fibers. 

Synthetic: Synthetic fibers are far easier to produce and weave into rugs than organic wool, making most synthetic rugs less expensive than equivalent wool rugs of comparable sizes and styles.

upscale apartment with a mix of hard and carpeted floors

When to Use Wool Rugs vs Synthetic 

We recommend wool rugs for:

  • Dry areas out of direct sunlight
  • Areas where softness and plushness are paramount such as living rooms or bedrooms
  • Areas where they won’t come into contact with shoes, pets, or dirty feet
  • Areas where aesthetic considerations outweigh durability considerations

Ultimately, wool rugs are best suited for spaces like living rooms and bedrooms, where they will not sustain heavy, quick-moving foot traffic, they’ll be out of direct sunlight, and you won’t have to worry about spilling liquids on them. You shouldn’t leave a wool rug in a basement, an entryway, a garage, an indoor/outdoor area, or any other space where they’ll come into contact with moisture.

outside patio with an area rug and outdoor furniture

When to use synthetic rugs vs wool

We recommend synthetic rugs for:

  • Humid areas
  • Indoor/outdoor areas
  • Areas where they’ll come into contact with direct sunlight
  • Areas where spills are a major concern
  • Areas where they’ll come into contact with dirt, mud, and dust regularly

These properties make synthetic rugs better suited for basements, attics, high-traffic hallways, garages, porches, decks, entryways, dining rooms, and kitchens than their organic counterparts. If you’re at all worried about the kind of wear and tear a rug may sustain where you put it down, a synthetic rug is probably your better choice.

Whichever type of rug you settle on, Sisal Rugs Direct has the best option for you. Start shopping for our wool rugs, or check out our large selection of synthetic rugs.

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