Are outdoor rugs a good idea? Everything you need to know before buying one

Outdoor rugs might look pretty, but are they actually a practical addition to your garden? We asked the experts

Blue pergola with bench and yellow rug
(Image credit: John Lewis & Partners)

Are outdoor rugs a good idea? Many of us after spending a warm weekend choosing lounging on an outdoor sofa over the living room will be wondering this exact thing. There are plenty of outdoor rug ideas to help create that luxe outdoor living room look. But is investing in a rug for the outdoors really a good, or practical idea?

‘In the past three years outdoor rugs have become something of a must-have garden accessory and the popularity shows no signs of waning,’ says Daniel Prendergast, design expert at The Rug Seller. ‘As such there is more choice in colours, pattern, size and shape than ever. We’ve seen trends mirror that of interiors – best-selling geometrics have started to make way for bright pops of colour and florals, whereas textured and sustainable materials are also growing in popularity.’ 

Are outdoor rugs a good idea?

‘The beauty of an outdoor rug is that you can go bigger and bolder with your design choice, than perhaps you might do inside the home, or you can use them to extend the patterns and colours from inside to out,’ continues Daniel. 

‘Don’t be afraid to play with colour and pattern – the light and openness of the space will be able to withstand more colour than you may usually be comfortable with. Mediterranean-inspired blue and whites can make a real design impact, whereas florals, pops of red and sunshine yellow are all extremely popular.’

outdoor table under a pergola on a rug

(Image credit: Future PLC / Carolyn Barber)

But trends aside, are outdoor rugs a good idea? Well, they are also a speedy way of giving a tired patio a new lease of life, especially if your garden’s crazy paving is a little too ‘crazy’. They can also help you create an informal seating area, say for an outdoor cinema gathering with friends, or a space where little ones can sit and play more comfortably.

But what do you need to know before buying an outdoor rug? We asked the experts for their tips…

Outdoor cinema set up in garden

(Image credit: Future PLC / Carolyn Barber)

What is the point of an outdoor rug?

‘An outdoor rug is a fabulous way to add some style and a homely feel to outdoor spaces,’ says Tasha Green, founder of Weaver Green, who clearly believes an outdoor rug is a good idea. ‘There are so many ways you can use an outdoor rug; you can make your balcony or patio feel like an extension of your indoor living area, create a relaxed seating zone, or lay one on the grass to lie on or enjoy a picnic.'

Grey outdoor rug with grey chair

(Image credit: Future PLC / Dominic Blackmore)

‘Outdoor rugs are used for both style and function,’ says Victoria Broomfield, buyer at John Lewis. ‘They provide comfort underfoot and add a finishing touch to an outdoor look, tying in a chosen colour or pattern and creating cohesion between an indoor and outdoor scheme.’ 

‘Using an outdoor rug in an indoor setting can help to bridge the gap between the inside and outside. Use them to create a free-flowing design scheme that will extend your living space considerably. Because they are durable and easy to clean, they are ideal for high-traffic areas and can also add a homely finishing touch to a conservatory or sunroom. An outdoor rug or runner placed near your patio doors will also help to stop dirt from being walked into your house,’ says Daniel.

Metal bistro set on outdoor rug

(Image credit: Weaver Green)

Are there any disadvantages?

‘Outdoor rugs tend to get more wear and tear due to the nature of their positioning, however, the materials they are made from are hard wearing to withstand the elements,’ says Victoria. ‘The only disadvantage is if you don’t choose a rug made for outdoor use. It could fade, get water-logged and dirty very easily,’ adds Tasha.

‘I tend to roll my outdoor rugs up when not in use,’ says garden landscape architect Victoria Wade, ‘but they are so handy to soften hard landscaping, especially if you have little ones crawling or needing a place to sit in the sun.’

Outdoor rugs are easy to clean – just hose and leave to dry in the sun, preferably flat. Any mould or mildew spots can be gently scrubbed with a mild detergent (try a test patch first).

If you need a bigger rug to cover your patio ideas, think about layering your rugs to cover a bigger area, a trick that works just as well inside as out.

Corner sofa with coffee table

(Image credit: John Lewis & Partners)

What is the best material for an outdoor rug?

Polypropylene is an affordable choice, being stain-resistant and relatively low maintenance, while being affordable and offering lots of patterned choices. Likewise, polyester offers similar benefits. Nylon is one of the more expensive synthetic rug choices, but it does cope with high traffic well, although can stain more easily than polypropylene. Olefin has the benefits of the above, while also being softer underfoot.

‘We make all our rugs from recycled plastic bottles, which means they are water-resistant, UV stable, stain-resistant and resistant to moths and bugs,’ says Tasha. ‘They look and feel like soft wool yet are made from 100% recycled plastic. That means you can leave our rugs outside all summer long.’

Looking for something natural? Jute is a good choice for an outdoor rug, although it doesn’t like very humid climates. Try on a covered porch or terrace. Sisal is the most durable of natural rug fibres, although can be a bit harsh barefoot. Just remember that natural fibres, unlike synthetic options, aren’t fans of prolonged exposure to moisture and aren’t mould and mildew resistant. 

If you're looking for an easy-to-look-after outdoor rug Ruggable has a huge range of different patterns and materials, but with the added perk that they are washable for easy cleaning.

Outdoor sofa on rug

(Image credit: Future PLC / David Brittain)

How big should an outdoor rug be?

‘Size all depends on your outdoor space. Runners are a great option for smaller spaces, while if you want to make a real statement in a larger garden, then opt for an extra-large rug,’ says Victoria Broomfield. ‘Choose an outdoor rug as big as money and space allow,’ adds Tasha. ‘Most of our rugs go all the way up to 300cm x 250cm, while runners go up to 800cm x 70cm.’

‘Don’t forget a rug doesn’t just have to be a rectangle,’ says Daniel. ‘Round and irregular shaped rugs are hugely popular this year and will add interest and a new dimension to an outdoor space. They work especially well in small garden ideas and patios – helping to zone a seating area without taking up too much space.’

outdoor sofa on wood decking

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Can you have an outdoor rug near a fire pit or BBQ?

No, just as you wouldn’t place a rug too close to your indoor fire source, the same applies to outside. Think about sparks flying from a firepit and make sure your rug is clear of this. Rugs near a BBQ can get splattered with grease, which can be tricky to clean. 

‘It is not recommended to put our outdoor rugs next to a firepit or BBQ as they are made from recycled plastic,’ says Tasha.

If you like the idea of an outdoor rug but are worried about being too close to a fire pit, then why not create the look with paving slabs? Or you could even paint your own rug design onto slabs.

Blue outdoor fireplace with grey patio

(Image credit: Future PLC / Claire Lloyd Davies)

Can outdoor rugs be left outside?

Depending on the material they are made from you might want to bring them undercover during extreme periods of wet weather, especially if a natural fibre. If you are looking to leave your rug outside year-round, then choose a material that’s water- and stain-resistant. 

Make sure you clean the patio or deck under the rug occasionally, just as you lift an indoor rug to hoover underneath.

Decked seating area with cushions

(Image credit: Future PLC / David Giles)

Do outdoor rugs get mouldy?

‘Our rugs are mould-resistant because they are made of plastic bottles. They are machine washable if they do get a little grubby here and there,’ says Tasha. ‘It would depend on how long they are left outside but if cared for correctly then no this should not happen,’ says Victoria Broomfield. 

Blue pergola with bench and yellow rug

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Overwhelmingly the advice is yes, outdoor rugs are a good idea! Just make sure you think carefully about the material you choose and where you put it to make sure you get the most for your money.

Jennifer Morgan

Jennifer Morgan is an award-winning editor, writer and stylist, with over 25 years’ experience writing, styling and editing home interest magazines. Jennifer was the deputy editor of Ideal Home from 2008-2010, before launching Ideal Home’s sister title, Style at Home in 2010. Jennifer went on to launch several craft magazines and websites, before going freelance in 2016, with a client list that includes John Lewis, Dunlem and Nordic House. Today, she writes for Ideal Home, Real Homes, Waitrose, Woman & Home, Sainsbury’s Magazine and Homes & Gardens. But it was during lockdown that Jennifer realised her dream of publishing her own magazine – Simply Scandi.