You may be asking yourself what in the world is a hearth rug? We'll tell you and explain exactly why you need one.
What is a Hearth Rug?
Hearth rugs are much different from the average, decorative throw rug many people use to accentuate their fireplaces. Stove and fireplace rugs are certified and tested to follow federal flammability regulations. This makes them uniquely designed to protect combustible surfaces from sparks, flames, embers, or coals that fall to the floor.
So yes, the fireplace rugs we are discussing today are much different than the rug you may have in front of your fireplace or wood stove right now!
Many people assume hearth rugs won't complement the aesthetic of their homes. This myth couldn't be further from the truth. There are endless options of hearth rugs. And, they come in a vast array of colors, styles, and designs and are made from a wide range of materials.
If you are unsure whether your current rug is fire-resistant, just continue reading. We will list seven common materials found in hearth rugs, group them into two large categories and rank them 1 through 7.
How Different Hearth Rugs Measure Up
Synthetic Hearth Rugs
Many chemically-enhanced or man-made textile materials contain some flammable properties. But, the synthetic materials used to make hearth rugs have safe levels of fire retardancy.
Synthetic hearth rugs are, for the most part, more affordable and versatile than hearth rugs made from natural fibers. Untreated fabrics are highly combustible. These include fabrics like cotton, linen, and silk, or those containing acetate or triacetate.
What materials are woven into your rug? Chances are that you don't know unless you look at the label, which makes this article all the more important. In this section, you'll learn the pros and cons of five (5) synthetic materials commonly found in hearth rugs. This information will help you decide which option is best for you.
Fiberglass: Ranks 1st
Pros: It holds the top spot for durability among all-natural and synthetic materials. Fiberglass rugs can withstand direct contact with hot embers and coals. This contact causes no damage to the rugs. They also come equipped with heavy-duty, slip-resistant vinyl lining. This gives them an extra layer of protection.
Cons: Fiberglass rugs are the most expensive option. Yet, they are also the least comfortable. These are thin, flat, and often solid or neutral-colored rugs. Most people like them for their practicality over design, look, or feel.
Nylon: Ranks 4th
Pros: The second strongest synthetic material, nylon, is composed of polymer fiber. Polymer amplifies its flame retardancy. Instead of igniting, nylon melts slowly in the areas of contact. This slow melting process protects the underlying surface materials from singeing. Rugs made from this material are suited for sealed fire appliances. You'll need to limit potential contact with "sacrificial" embers.
Cons: It is not flameproof like fiberglass and may frail if located in a high-traffic area. Rugs made from this fiber may need to be replaced more frequently. This could be pretty costly since nylon is the second most expensive synthetic fiber.
Polyester: Ranks 5th
Pros: It's made from lightweight polymer fibers. This makes it more pliable and easier to steam clean than other synthetic materials. Rugs made from this material are also more cost-effective.
Cons: With similar properties as nylon, polyester melts if it touches flames or embers. Polyester rugs are not recommended for open fireplaces where contact is more likely.
Olefin: Ranks 6th
Pros: Confused with polypropylene, this synthetic material consists of polypropylene and polyethylene fibers. Together, these fibers are durable, plush, and vibrantly colored. Olefin undergoes extra testing, referred to as the 1631 FF1-70 Surface Flammability Test. This makes it one of the most reliable, cost-effective synthetic choices.
Cons: Rugs made from this material melt in areas that come into contact with hot embers or coals. As such, they may need frequent replacement if placed near an open fire source.
Polypropylene: Ranks 7th
Pros: It is a stain, water, mildew, and scratch-resistant thermoplastic polymer fiber. It contains the same material used to make artificial grass, containers, labels, and packaging. So, it's perfect for both indoor and outdoor areas. It is a more affordable option than fiberglass, natural fibers such as wool or sisal, or nylon fibers. Many rugs made from this material capture the natural look of sisal rugs. But, these have greater versatility and functionality.
Cons: The chemical components of this material creates a rough, brittle surface. So it may matte easily in high-traffic areas. This material has a low melting point and is subject to heat damage if placed too close to unsealed fire units.
So, you've learned about the synthetic materials found in hearth rugs. But, what are the main differences between synthetic and organic options? Health or environmentally conscious people often cringe at the concept of man-made anything these days. Does it matter when it comes to a hearth rug in your home?
The answer to this question depends on your preferences and the intended use for your rug. If you're seeking durability and retardancy-efficiency, you could go either way. Rugs made from synthetic and non-synthetic materials will serve your basic protection needs. If you're seeking soft, voluminous renditions to pass along as family heirlooms, choose a natural option.
Natural Hearth Rugs
It's difficult to see the molecular differences between synthetic and natural hearth rugs. But, it's also difficult to deny the vibrancy, warmth, and elegance natural fibers can add to the home.
Natural rugs come in a variety of exquisite designs, colors, patterns, and textures. Often made from wool, sisal, hemp, seagrass, and jute, they have natural fire extinguishing abilities. They also produce less smoke and toxins when coming into contact with hot debris from the hearth. This makes them safer for those suffering from allergies, asthma, or other respiratory issues. The next section will discuss the pros and cons of the top two natural fibers found in hearth rugs.
Wool: Ranks 2nd
Pros: It ranks second only to fiberglass in fire-retardancy. Plus, wool hearth rugs are among the most popular in the industry. Often hand-tufted for long-term sustainability, these rugs are hydrophobic. This means that they are water-resistant and easy to clean and maintain. Wool rugs trap allergens as opposed to releasing them in the air. They maintain their shape over time. They do not matte when placed in high-traffic areas of your home like some of the synthetic materials. Wool fibers char rather than burning or melting when coming into contact with hot debris.
Cons: These rugs are among the most expensive in comparison to synthetic options. If singed by hot cinders, they will need light brushing to remove darkened areas.
Sisal: Ranks 3rd
Pros: Natural weaving patterns created by this plant fiber help it limit wear-and-tear caused in high-traffic areas. These are areas like hallways, entryways, or stairs. It is resistant to moderate heat. And, it complements a range of interior designs.
Cons: The coarseness of the fiber requires protective underlying material. The underlay will help prevent slipping or damage to smooth flooring surfaces. This material is not suitable for areas susceptible to heavy moisture.
At this point, you've probably know the material composition of your existing rug. Or, at least, you've chosen a preferred material. What about the other features like size, shape, colors, and brands? Keep reading to find the answers to these commonly asked questions.
How To Select the Best Shape and Size Fireplace Rug
Due to their main function as fire-prevention aides, hearth rugs come in three main shapes. These include half-round or half circle, square, and rectangle. Other variations of these shapes may be available, too.
The shape you select depends on the location and dimensions of your fire appliance. It also depends on the look you're going for in your room. You'll likely desire a rug shape and size that is comparable to these features.
Stand-alone units that sit away from the wall may need a circle-shaped hearth rug. Or, you can get two half-round rugs. Either option should cover the flooring around the wood stove and between the stove and wall.
Your rug-size selection should also take into account the size of the unit. So, consider the number of wood or gas logs it can hold. The larger the unit is, the larger your rug should be. The goal is to cover exposed flooring or other combustible material.
What is the Expected Lifespan of a Hearth Rug?
Like any piece of furniture or appliance, the lifespan of your rug depends on how well you take care of it. Remember to follow the care and maintenance instructions provided by your manufacturer. Doing this should maximize the lifespan of your product.
Most synthetic rugs have a lifespan of between 3-5 years. We recommend getting professional cleaning performed once a year along with weekly vacuuming. This will reduce the build-up of allergens and contaminants. For spills or other stains, many synthetic rugs can be sponge-washed or steam-cleaned.
In contrast, natural fiber rugs have various lifespans. They can last anywhere from 5-50 years depending on three primary factors. These include the natural, self-sustaining agents of the rug, its location, and its exposure to wear-and-tear.
Self-sustaining agents like hydrophobia, coarseness, stain-resistance, and sensitivities assist with the maintenance process. The cleaning tips provided below could save you some time and energy.
Recommendations for Care and Maintenance
Based on the material, some hearth rugs can handle different degrees of cleaning. For olefin, wool, and polyester rugs, we recommend vacuuming them with an upright vacuum cleaner. The agitator should be set to a "thick pile" setting. Due to potential damage, we do not recommend washing or using a heavy steam extractor on these rugs. Spot cleaning with a steam extractor hand-tool attachment is permitted. You can even gently scrub with a bristle-brush for wool fibers singed or charred by coals or cinders.
You can wipe down nylon, polypropylene, and fiberglass rugs with a damp cloth as needed. But, you should not wash or vacuum these materials. They are susceptible to fringing.
Sisal rugs are extremely vulnerable to moisture, heavy dirt, and grime. This makes them more difficult to clean, maintain, and sustain. You can take these rugs outdoors and lightly sweep them. Or, you can beat them against the wall to remove accumulated debris. But, do not steam or wash sisal rugs. Doing so will ruin them.
How To Extend the Safety of Your Hearth Rug
You should also secure your fireplace or stove with the necessary safeguards. Things such as iron railing, gates, or screens work well. This is the best way to ensure the longevity of your hearth rug. Don't rely upon the rug for safety but rather view it as a "tool." It can serve as your first or last line of defense to protect against falling errant coals or embers.
Also, make sure you secure your hearth rug near the fire unit. You want to reduce potential sliding on polished or slick surfaces. This also helps prevent unwanted slips and falls.
Make sure your hearth rug has a slip-resistant backing. If it doesn't come with an underlay, most manufacturers sell them for a reasonable price. Please click here to get this safety feature today. We even have images to help you see examples of what the slip-resistant product looks like.
When Is It Time to Replace Your Hearth Rug?
Congratulations, you've taken the next steps to protect your family and home. Now, you likely want to know some visual cues to look for when it's time to replace. No worries. Here are four easy ways to determine when it's time to buy another hearth rug.
What Are Some Top Brands?
Most consumers desire the finer things in life. This is especially true when it comes to their safety and the protection of their assets. No matter the industry, there will always be top-runners. Those who are well known for and specialize in quality.
If you're curious to know a handful of the top hearth rug suppliers, please check out the list below. The names are listed alphabetically with a mini-description of their known design qualities.
Bungalow Rose: Globally inspired designs with an eclectic, bohemian taste of luxury
Goods of the Woods: Country-rustic style inspired by nature and oriental patterns
Guardian: Simple and clean for modern and traditional style preferences
Laurel Foundry Modern Farmhouse: Modern-organic flair with a blend of rustic elements
Minuteman: Orientally focused style for modern or traditional aesthetic
Orian: Abstract and artistically elegant with a variety of patterns, designs, and colors
Peking Handicraft: Theme and seasonally-inspired artistry with bold pictures and colors
The Holiday Aisle: Picturesque, Christmas-themed designs ideal for the holiday season
Uniflame: Simple, hand-made wool rugs with Earth-toned colors and a bordered edge
Woodfield: Sleek and cozy wool rugs with bordered edges or oriental design
How Your Rug Will Be Shipped
Your hearth rug will ship via ground parcel service. It should be rolled and contained in a plastic sleeve within a cardboard shipping carton. This prevents the rugs from picking up any unwanted odors while in inventory. Once the rug is removed from the carton and shipping sleeve, allow a few days for the rug to lay flat. You can assist in the process by weighing it down.
You're Officially in the Know
We hope you've found this article helpful and informative. Remember, hearth rugs are essential fireplace accessories. They protect your flooring, your home, and your loved ones. Make sure you have all the fireplace or wood stove accessories you need today. Don't forget to purchase your slip-resistant underlays.
If a hot ember falls on a hearth rug, there is a possibility of the ember burning through the rug and then damaging the carpet.† These rugs are not 100 percent fireproof, so this is always a possibility, unfortunately.† To get a better idea of the best type of hearth rug for your application, you can see our buyer's guide here.†
Submitted by:Tyler M. - NFI Master Hearth Professional on August 1, 2022
What are the differences between fiberglass and wool for a fire resistant rug?
Both will be fire retardant. If an ember lands upon a rug comprised of anything other than wool, it will essentially melt the fibers causing a hard black spot on the rug, but the rug will not burn. The wool rugs will also not burn, but when wool fibers come into contact with an ember, they will not leave a black spot or mark. The fibers will simply turn to ash, but there will be a spot left in the tuft of the rug where the fibers will be shorter than the rest.
Are there hearth rugs that are heat resistant or fire retardant?
The rugs are fire retardant. If an ember lands upon a rug comprised of anything other than wool, it will essentially melt the fibers causing a hard black spot on the rug, but the rug will not burn. The wool rugs will also not burn, but when wool fibers come into contact with an ember, they will not leave a black spot or mark. The fibers will simply turn to ash, but there will be a spot left in the tuft of the rug where the fibers will be shorter than the rest.
If your installation is calling for something heat resistant, you may be in need of a Hearth or Stove Board.
By the disclaimer, "fire retardant" this rug will comply to fire standards that dictate the rugs fibers will not smolder for more than 3 inches in any direction where contact with a burning coal or log is made. As such, it is a definite that the rug will be damaged if a hot enough coal or log is dropped upon the rug, but the rug is designed to prevent damage to the surface beneath it.
Submitted by:Collin C. - NFI Master Hearth Professional on November 8, 2013
What happens to these hearth rugs when an ember pops out onto them? Are they fire proof, resistant, or just retardant?
The results will vary, based on the exact material of rug that is used. Olefin is by far the most resistant to embers, but all the rugs are labeled as fire "resistant". The rugs are designed to smolder, rather than burn through completely.
Submitted by:Collin C. - NFI Master Hearth Professional on October 17, 2013