Best Rug Choices for a Dining Room



Q: What’s the best, low-maintenance area rug to put under a dining table? I’d like something that I could clean myself if there’s a spill, or that wouldn’t cost a fortune to clean if I had to send it out. I’d also like it to wear well, considering chairs will be pulled in and out. And can you offer advice on what colors best hide stains? — D.N., Rye

A: “A nice wool is the best choice for a number of reasons,” says Anthony Scherb of Kanter’s Carpet Service in White Plains (www.kanterscarpet.com), who goes on to list some of them: “Wool is warmer in winter, cooler in summer; it never feels clammy; and it’s a totally renewable product.” That’s a great point.  It’s also non-allergenic, non-flammable, anti-static, and a natural stain resister. “The fallacy about wool is that you can’t keep it clean,” Scherb says. “But wool is washable with soap and water, like your clothing. You can blot up spills, as long as you do them right away.”

Avoid silk, which is easily stained, or sisals — hemp, jute, seagrass — which can be nice to look at but don’t feel good underfoot, Scherb observes, and are also hard-to-clean crumb traps.

If you’re on a tight budget, you could go for a high-quality nylon rug, he adds. Most are manufactured with built-in stain blockers, which are designed to make spills puddle, so they’re easy to clean up. Prices are all over the map, but “a good-grade nylon can run $70 to $80 a yard, whereas wool is about $100,” Scherb says, just to give a very rough idea.

As for wear: “Wool is very durable. Appearance retention — that’s what it’s all about,” says Scherb. “You can ‘ugly’ a carpet out, but you don’t usually wear it out. It can get matted, soiled, or not be vacuumed enough, and then you can wear it down. But wool keeps its good appearance much longer than synthetics; there’s no question.”

Whether you decide on wool or a man-made fiber, the trick to avoiding stains is cleaning up the inevitable spills quickly. Scrape up anything solid, then blot the spill using a clean, white towel or absorbent cloth. Follow by blotting with a damp towel, and again with a dry one. Don’t over-wet the rug, and don’t rub the spot or you’ll “chafe up the fibers,” Scherb says. Some people swear by club soda as a cleaning agent, and you can use a mild detergent or a white vinegar solution on stubborn stains, but cool water will usually do the trick.

Professionally cleaning a wool rug may cost more than cleaning one of man-made fibers, Scherb says. “You’d only wash the face of a nylon carpet, and some Orientals are washed on both the face and the back. But it’s not a big-deal difference.”

The best color to hide stains depends on what you’re likely to spill, but a multi-color rug in darker tones would disguise more than a light one, or a solid color. Finally, select a rug that’s big enough that the legs of pulled-out chairs will still be on it — at least 30 inches beyond the table. And remember to take into account any leaves you may add for special occasions.