Why You Need a Rug Pad for Your Area Rug

throw rug on a hardwood floor

The Spruce / Candace Madonna

You found just the right area rug, and you have the perfect spot at home to put it. The salesperson asks you about purchasing a pad for underneath the area rug. Do you need one, or is the salesperson just trying to “upsell” you with add-ons?

The answer is: yes, you need a pad under your area rug! No matter what type of floor covering your area rug will be laid over, a rug pad is essential for several reasons.

What Is a Rug Pad For?

Think of a rug pad as protection you can't afford to go without. It protects you, your rug, and your floor. Some of its benefits include:

  • Keeping your rug from slipping underneath you or curling up, and other significant trip hazards
  • Extends your rug's life by minimizing bunching up or edges from unfurling
  • Safeguards your floor from needless scratches or the indentation from heavy furniture
  • Adds another layer of cushion and extra softness with every footfall
  • Reduces noise
  • Insulates room from a cold subfloor

Prevent Slipping

A rug pad helps to keep the area rug lying flat and in one place. Rug pads vary; some are designed specifically for use over hard surface flooring, while others are best for laying on top of wall-to-wall carpet.


A good rug pad grips the area rug to prevent it from sliding around. Even rugs anchored by furniture can shift, causing them to buckle, bunch up, and increase falling risk.

Prolong Wear

Like the cushion under a wall-to-wall carpet, a good rug pad helps protect the area rug from wear and tear by absorbing the majority of the impact from foot traffic. The pad is designed to compress and bounce back (even a firm pad will do this slightly), taking the strain off the rug fibers. Without a pad underneath to act as a shock absorber, the area rug fibers will be crushed, and the rug will show signs of wear much sooner than it would with a proper pad.

Protect the Floor Underneath

It doesn't matter what type of floor you have underneath your area rug; it still needs protection. An area rug's backing can be rough and could cause scratches on hardwood, laminate, and other types of surfaces. Other things that could pose a risk to the underlying floor include color transfer from the rug, a small rock or other sharp object being caught underneath the rug, and abrasive wear on the surface of the underlying floor caused by the area rug shifting with foot traffic.

A rug pad provides a protective barrier between the area rug and the floor underneath. Even if you're putting your area rug on top of wall-to-wall broadloom carpet, you still need a rug pad.

What Type of Rug Pad Is Best for My Floor?

As you can imagine, many materials are used for rug pad construction, from natural fibers like jute and horsehair to synthetic materials like grippy PVC and memory foam. The best types of rug pads are made of felt, rubber, or a combination of both. Felt is best for its cushioning properties, while rubber grabs the area rug and the floor, keeping the two in place. To determine the rug pad that would work best for your needs, your area rug's style or pile height should be your guide. Low-profile rugs should have a thin, barely-there pad. Area rugs with shag or heft can accommodate a thicker pad. You don't want to go too thick—you don't want the rug pad to add too much height that it becomes a trip hazard.

Memory foam is cushiony and a perfect choice for crawling and toddling babies in a nursery. A felt-rubber pad is usually a safe bet for hardwood floors. Never use these rug pads outdoors. If you're looking for a rug pad for the outdoors, go with PVC. Polyvinyl chloride is a synthetic, plastic material that can stand up to rain and the elements; however, it off-gasses volatile organic compounds (VOCs), so keep its use outside. Felt doesn't hold up to water well, so if you need an indoor rug pad where water splashes often (bathroom, kitchen, or pool area), it's best to go with a rug pad made of all-rubber construction.


Avoid getting a colorful rug pad since it can stain and discolor floors. Also, steer clear of any rugs that use adhesives; glues can harm the floor’s finish.

Rug pads have a tough job, and as such, you can expect to change it out as it wears down over time. The lifespan of a rug pad is about three or four years. So, it doesn't make sense to invest in a pricey type since you'll need to replace it in about the same amount of time as a cheaper one.

How to Use a Rug Pad?

Rug pads come with finished edges, and others are trimmable. If you get a trimmable variety, buy one that is slightly larger than the rug you have so you can customize it perfectly for your room and area rug. You must completely hide the rug pad under your rug. When you're ready to place it down, the rug pad should be about 1 to 2 inches smaller than your rug at all edges, or in the case of rounds or ovals, all around. When trimming the rug pad to your specifications, use a felt-tip marker to make hash marks where to cut, and use sharp, heavy-duty scissors for the cutting.

If the rug pad is being used under a doormat or in a bathroom near any swinging doors, it's a dealbreaker if your rug and pad block or bunch up when a door swings open. Before you cut or customize a rug pad, always test the loft of the rug and pad together and make sure it can clear the door opening and closing.

As you can expect, households with pets and children are prone to more accidents, spills, and potty training mishaps. When a spill occurs on your rug, clean it up as soon as possible. Felt pads may need extra blotting and spot treatment, but rubber memory foam pads are water-resistant and can be wiped clean with a paper towel. 

Routine cleaning frequency depends on how much foot traffic the rug receives. You can vacuum solid material pads like felt and memory foam rug pads; consider doing it every 1 to 2 years. You can also shake out any non-solid pads. Also, clean the floor beneath the rug and pad at least once a year, as you would usually clean the floor's surface.