Everything You Need to Know About Outdoor Rugs

Accessories are excellent and stylish furniture is fabulous, but for a well-decorated outdoor space—one with style to spare—a rug is the ultimate game-changer. Lugging grandma's prized heirloom out to the patio isn't a great idea, however. That's where outdoor rugs come in. Durable, lightweight, and all-purpose, they're the workhorses of the design world. Whether you choose a runner or a few brightly patterned area rugs, these additions are a quick, easy way to upgrade your balcony, terrace, or deck. To learn more about these high-function gems, we spoke with Edward Pantikian, regional sales manager at Safavieh, who filled us in on how outdoor rugs are made, how to care for them, and how to pick one that will transform your space into a sanctuary.

How does an outdoor rug differ from an indoor one?

What really makes an outdoor rug is the fiber content: They're usually 100 percent synthetic, made from materials like polypropylene or polyester. Polypropylene mimics wool, and polyester mimics silk. As a fiber, polyester is more expensive, so if a machine-made rug has polyester in its content, that typically means it's a higher-end rug.

Is it okay to leave an outdoor rug outside all year long?

You certainly can leave it outside in all four seasons, even in the snow. But you cover your outdoor furniture, so why not apply the same level of care to your rugs? If you can, it's best to take them indoors in the off-season.

How long do outdoor rugs last?

At minimum, they're good for four or five years. If you take really good care of them, they can last up to eight years. But since they're affordable and available in trendy designs, people may be inclined to change them out whenever their style changes. When you're only spending $120 on a rug, you may be more open to replacing it.

How do we know when it's time to replace our outdoor rug?

It's really about whether you see signs of wear or tear. Machine-made rugs in general aren't repairable, but the good thing about synthetic fibers is that they don't fade the same way natural ones do. Synthetics are dyed in liquid form and then extruded in threads, so color-wise, they're like a carrot: When you cut a carrot in half, it's orange throughout. Natural fibers typically come in colors like brown or black, which are then dyed. So they're more like a red potato: If you cut through one, it's red on the outside but white inside. This means that the color on natural fibers will fade from sunlight, oxidation, and wear.

Can you tell us how to clean outdoor rugs?

They're very easy to care for—if they get dirty, you can just sweep them or rinse them off with a hose. Because most outdoor rugs are flatweave, they tend to not hang onto dirt and soil.

It's becoming popular to use outdoor rugs inside. Which spaces in the home would especially benefit from an outdoor rug?

Since they're easy to care for and clean, they're good for high-traffic areas like entryways or hallways. This means they're perfect for people with pets, and durable enough for kids' playrooms. Some outdoor rugs mimic the look of handmade indoor rugs so well that even experts can't initially tell the difference between them. That also makes them a fantastic fit for indoor spaces.