Outdoor Rugs Construction and Care

One of the best ways to add color and a bit of indoor comfort to your porch, patio or deck is with a great outdoor rug. Rugs come in a variety of designs and thicknesses so, not only do they look amazing, but they can also keep your feet away from a hot wood surface or rough cement.

They’re a quick, easy way to elevate your favorite outdoor space and, when maintained properly, a good outdoor rug can last for years.

Materials Matter

A good outdoor rug is constructed of durable materials – typically synthetic fibers – that will last a long time because they hold up well against all types of weather, and they resist stains, mildew and fading.

Polypropylene is the most commonly used material for outdoor rugs because it is soft, lasts a long time, resists stains, won’t mold, doesn’t fade and is easy to clean. It repels water – or, more accurately, it cannot absorb liquid – making it ideal as an outdoor material that can be used in just about any area. Polypropylene is flammable, so it should be kept away from fire pits, fireplaces, grills and outdoor heaters.

Polyester has many of the same great traits as polypropylene: It is soft, lasts a long time, is easy to clean, repels water and resists fading. Polyester also takes colors especially well, resulting in superior details and brighter hues. While it does resist stains, oil-based spills are more difficult to clean off of polyester, so you may want to avoid using a 100% polyester rug in areas where food is frequently served. Place all-polyester rugs in lower traffic areas to avoid pilling, matting or taking on a small static charge.

Synthetic materials are also used together in various combinations to draw on the benefits of each fiber type, resulting in even more colorful designs, more resilient fibers and softer textures.

Maintaining an Outdoor Rug

With proper maintenance and seasonal storage, a good outdoor rug can last about 20 years. If left outside year-round and without proper maintenance, your outdoor rug will need replacing every two or three years.

We strongly recommend using an outdoor rug pad with every outdoor rug as it serves multiple useful purposes. First, it adds cushion to the rug, making it more comfortable to walk on. Second, it helps protect both your outdoor surface and your rug. The often-scratchy underside of a rug can wear down a surface over time while, at the same time, a rough surface can wear down the rug. Third, a rug pad makes a rug safer by preventing it from bunching, skidding or slipping. Finally, it allows water to drain away from the rug so the rug can dry faster and prevent mildew from forming.

For day-to-day maintenance, blot spills as soon as possible with a clean, dry cloth. Don’t rub too hard as that can push the spill further into the fibers and make cleaning more difficult. For larger spills, use a garden hose to thoroughly rinse the rug and allow it to dry in the sun. Be sure to use rug protectors under heavy furniture to prevent bunching and marking.

For weekly maintenance, sweep away dirt and debris either with a nylon-bristle broom (for flatweave rugs) or with a vacuum (for rugs with a pile). You can also shake out the rug if it is small enough to handle or use a leaf blower to remove larger debris. Synthetic fibers cannot actually mold, but the dirt on them can, so you want to remove as much as possible on a regular basis: We recommend at least once a week, but more often is ideal. It’s a good idea to clean prior to a lot of use in order to prevent dirt from being pushed deeper into the rug.

About once a month you should give your rug a more thorough cleaning. Mix either unscented dish soap or vinegar in a bucket of water, and scrub the rug using a large nylon brush. Be sure to clean both sides – the top/front and the bottom/back – of the rug. Then, place the rug on a sloped surface and rinse it with a hose until it runs clear. (You can also use a mild bleach mixture to kill built-up mildew but it can remove color and is not environmentally friendly). Dry the rug in direct sunlight either over a railing or laid flat. Flip it over to make certain both sides completely dry.

About once every two or three years, we recommend that you have your rug professionally cleaned. This will help the rug look new by removing all the stubborn and built-up dirt that a thorough home cleaning could not.

outdoor rugs by pool

Storing an Outdoor Rug

Although an outdoor rug can withstand the weather, it’s best to store it in a dry place when it won’t be in use for an extended period of time, such as a snowy winter season. This helps extend the life of the rug, reduce the number of times you have to clean it, prevent mildew from building up and prevent possible fading.

First, thoroughly clean and dry the rug. Then, roll it up – never fold it – with the bottom/back facing out. Next, cover it with a plastic tarp or large plastic bags and make sure it is secure with a cord to both prevent it from unrolling and to prevent water and pests from getting in. Finally, pick a place to store it, preferably indoors – such as a dry shed, garage or basement – propped up, as vertically as possible against a wall.