Design Discussion : Wool Rugs in the Bathroom

Design Discussion : Wool Rugs in the Bathroom - roomfortuesday.comWell, I owe you guys a little update today. I thought I would have the powder bath reveal for you this morning and as it goes, I am FOUR sticky tiles short of finishing the project. Four!! Ugh. According to Amazon, they’ll be here this coming weekend, then I can finally finish up, and share it with you early next week (Monday, if all goes as planned… fingers crossed). I’m sorry, friends! I didn’t mean to get you excited for the big reveal today, only to run out of material. Ha! I hate when that happens. Next time I’ll just surprise you. I’m hoping this Design Discussion post is a worthy replacement though, as this topic comes up ALL the time… rugs in a bathroom. Are we for it? Are we against it? I think you guys can guess which way I lean, but I receive lots of messages asking WHY IN THE WORLD would I install a wool rug in a wet bathroom. Click through to find out, read all about my personal opinion, and cast your own vote. Let’s chat rugs in the bathroom (or high moisture areas)!

Design Discussion : Wool Rugs in the Bathroom - roomfortuesday.comI’ll start by saying, I’ve been using vintage wool rugs in bathrooms since forever… well, ever since we’ve been homeowners, at least. In our first house, pictured above, I found a bold red rug that lived in our bath for years. It kind of started my obsession with styling these beauties in the bath.

Design Discussion : Wool Rugs in the Bathroom - roomfortuesday.comI should also note that most of the questions and concerns I receive are specifically about WOOL rugs in a bathroom setting (because that’s what you’ll see my bathrooms 90% of the time). Here’s the full story: I grew up raising sheep for 18 years of my life on the farm, which was absolutely lovely and wonderful… by default, I also know a LOT about wool. From sheering my sheep, hand carting wool, spinning, touring textile manufacturing plants as a designer, and taking countless textile & fabric courses in college, wool is a very cool and magical material I’ve always been passionate about. By knowing more about the material itself, you can better understand why I like using it in a high moisture area.

Design Discussion : Wool Rugs in the Bathroom - roomfortuesday.comNot only is wool one of my personal favorite materials, but it’s the best of the best (the premium material) when it comes to area rugs. I’ve lived with wool rugs in our bathrooms for a long time now and have never had a single issue (no mold, mildew, or smell).

Wool is naturally a moisture-wicking material. It will actually remain dry to the touch and wicks moisture OUT through small fibers. Wool also allows better air flow in comparison to many other natural materials, which is why it can handle moisture well. This makes it ideal for both the bathroom and kitchen (basically anywhere near a sink or damp area). As a material, it is less sensitive to temperature and humidity changes too!

Design Discussion : Wool Rugs in the Bathroom - roomfortuesday.comWool is also super durable and great for high traffic areas. That’s why vintage wool rugs still look amazing and are in great condition after all these years. These days, I don’t really like putting a wool rug in front of a shower or bath… mostly because I prefer stepping onto a bath mat instead (that I can wash often), and it just feels better under my feet… BUT you will find a wool rug positioned in front of the bathroom vanity and kitchen sink 100% of the time in our house (as long as space allows). That’s how much I love a beautiful wool rug- especially in a high moisture area.

Design Discussion : Wool Rugs in the Bathroom - roomfortuesday.comSo what about other materials for a rug in the bathroom? I’m still PRO bathroom rug. Other natural materials are great for spaces with moisture as well… think of a flat weave cotton rug- it’s especially convenient because it’s washable and not as heavy. There are many types of rugs that are applicable for a bath setting. You just have to know what type of rug to choose for your bath to prevent mold, mildew, and smell. It might not even be a valid concern depending on your ventilation, size of the space, and floor material (tile, etc). If your bathroom is properly vented with an exhaust, moisture shouldn’t be an issue at all.

Design Discussion : Wool Rugs in the Bathroom - roomfortuesday.comTo wrap things up… I think installing a rug in a bathroom may sound scary to some people, but I’m here to tell you to give it a try! They’re beautiful, functional, and make baths feel more cozy & inviting. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I can confidently say- I’m 100% drinking that tea. It’s definitely a go-to for me, as a designer and a homeowner who appreciates the aesthetic & function.

Design Discussion : Wool Rugs in the Bathroom - roomfortuesday.comSo now it’s your turn to weigh in and vote… are you a fan of having a rug in the bathroom? Do you love the look and the soft feel underfoot or does it totally gross you out? There are no wrong answers here! That’s the beauty of creating a home YOU love- everything is your personal preference and making your house a home should be done with you and your family in mind (regardless of outside opinions).

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If you missed any previous Design Discussion posts, check them out below…

Design Discussion : Wool Rugs in the Bathroom - roomfortuesday.comAgain, I am SO sorry if I got your hopes up about the powder bath today. I cannot believe I ran out of material. I’m pretty sure the older I get, the worse my math skills become. Ha! I swear I measured and added correctly, but the lack of sticky tile says otherwise. I hope you’ll check back next week once it’s totally finished? I also wanted to check in and see how everyone is hanging in there. Cabin fever set in this week for Emmett & I, as we were supposed to be on a couple trips we had planned, but we’re doing our part to stay home. We’re just trying to enjoy spring at home, get things done around the house, and make the most of this time together.

Have more to say on the rug in the bathroom topic? Let’s chat about it in the comment section below! I’ll also drop some of my recent favorite wool rug finds below…

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  1. Four sticky tiles short of a floor! Snort. Who hasn’t felt that way recently? Hehehe. I’ll be here whenever you reveal the powder room. Ah, wool rugs, how I love thee. In the past few years I’ve definitely become a collector. (You may deserve some “credit” for this.) I absolutely have one in my bathroom and love it in there. I don’t worry about moisture at all; I am extra careful with my face oil though! One point I rarely see mentioned when folks talk about vintage rugs is the difference between a pile and a flatweave. I have and adore both. I do imagine that my kilims will show wear faster than the pile ones, but the geometric patterns and colors are irresistible! My bathroom runner has two women figures on it!😍 Someday I dream of scoring a Chinese Art Deco stunner; given the size I could afford, it will probably be for my bathroom! Count me on Team Wool Rug…everywhere! (Maybe I’ll indulge in a little rug distraction before “distance learning.”) Happy Tuesday!💖

    1. I know, right?! Argh. Thank you though! I am SO close. I knew you’d share my love for wool rugs :) Such a great point about the pile… I also love both. I find flatweaves are easier to clean, but pile is more comfy underfoot. I also have both. Your bathroom runner sounds INCREDIBLE!! I’m also into the Chinese deco patterns these days. How is distance learning going? I hope you and your students are hanging in there!! Happy Tuesday, Peggi.

  2. Not to worry about the bathroom reveal as always your makeovers are always worth the wait 😉
    Sorry Sarah I’m not on team wool rugs for a bathroom and I can’t be convinced. Don’t get me wrong I love a wool rug but not in the bathroom, kitchen or dining. I love a rug in a living or family room but not in areas where food is prepared or eaten and definitely not in any of our bathrooms. I find the cost of professional cleaning of rugs Incredibly expensive. I also have severe allergies to dust and find wool rugs hold too much dirt and allergens. They are beautiful there is no denying it but its definitely not for me. Great discussion topic! I’m interested to know how the voting goes and if I’m the only weirdo in the group 😅

    1. Thank you, Colleen! Hey- everyone likes what they like, and I have zero qualms with your ‘no rug’ preference! You’re right… rugs do trap dust and dirt and if you have bad allergies, I totally understand why you would want to keep your home minimal for health reasons. Sometimes it’s just not a good fit! Not weird at all :) Have a great day! xo

  3. Slightly off topic question…
    But HOW ON EARTH did you keep the grout in the white hex bathroom clean?!
    Thank you.

    1. Haha! It really wasn’t bad, Lily! I just used a little cleaning spray and our steam mop back in the day. This was our very first home! That was the one and only bathroom in the house, so it definitely worked hard for us and got a lot of use.

  4. I absolutely love wool rugs, and we have many around our house. The durability is fantastic, as you said. I actually love the *idea* of a wool rug in front of the bathroom vanity, and don’t have any moisture concerns. BUT, I would be concerned about products getting into the rug and making it dirty, or oily, or sticky, or otherwise in need of a frequent professional cleaning – which would obviously add to the cost of ownership (and just another to-do-list item, to be honest). Have you had any issues with that? We have a flat-weave cotton bath mat by the shower, which gets tossed in the wash with the towels, but currently don’t have anything in front of the vanity. Definitely less magazine-worthy, but I feel like it keeps the bathroom cleaner? I know you’re a fellow cleaning enthusiast, so I’d love your thoughts!

    1. Great question, Julie! I haven’t had any issues with products dropping onto the rugs in front of the bathroom vanities (makeup, soap, oil, etc). I feel like I’m usually leaning toward the mirror (over the sink) when applying products, so personally I haven’t had any issues with that, but if your household is prone to that… you can easily clean them yourself! I typically only have them professional cleaned when I first buy them (if they’re thrifted)… then throughout the lifetime of the rug, I take care of it myself. I’ve done everything from hosing them down with soap & water (my friend Sherry posted a tutorial recently) to more often- using my Bissell to easily and quickly clean them (see that here). I’ve found that wool is SO durable, you can easily work out stains. Although none of my bathroom rugs have had stain issues, I’ve cleaned up PLENTY of dog vomit (gross, I know) and other icky things on our larger area rugs throughout the home in living spaces. They’re more resilient than you’d expect. Plus… the variation, texture, patina, and pattern in the vintage ones does a good job at disguising any imperfections. Hope this helps :)

      1. Ha! Funnily (or embarrassingly?), I’ve never thought I could fully clean them myself. We even have a carpet cleaner. We obviously spot-clean our wool rugs as needed and keep them as clean as possible through vacuuming, so they’ve never developed any funky odors that require a full cleanse. I guess I had always mentally bucketed them as needing a professional to fully clean them. So, yes, super helpful! (Also, all of my wool rugs will be getting cleaned TODAY, as I now feel slightly gross for never having done that.) Thank you! :)

        1. They’re really durable, and can handle a pretty harsh cleaning! I feel like lots of people assume they need to be cleaned professionally, so not embarrassing at all. Happy cleaning, Julie :)

  5. Geez Sarah- sheep farmer, is there anything you can’t do? I’m constantly amazed at your skills and knowledge base.

    100% Team wool rug! Bathrooms can be cold and sterile with all the hard surfaces and there is no substitute for the warmth and character that these rugs add. I obviously wouldn’t want one anywhere near a toilet but other than that I say go for it. As a side note, for those worried about cleaning John & Sherry at YHL recently did a tutorial on cleaning a vintage wool rug.

    1. Haha! Thanks Melissa! I loved growing up on a farm, and hope maybe Emmett and I can have enough property and the type of home to allow for animals again someday. It was really wonderful. I’m with you… all of the hard, cold surfaces can make a bathroom seem very sterile and uninviting. Thanks so much for letting me know about Sherry’s vintage wool rug cleaning tutorial! I typically use my Bissell (I talk about it in this post).

  6. A very interesting article! Perhaps you could address another bathroom issue….artwork! How do you keep it from being ruined from the shower steam? This keeps me from adding artwork to my bathroom walls but I love how it looks in designer photos.

    1. Thanks Linda! I have never had an issue with artwork being ruined, and I’ve had it in every single one of my baths. As long as you have proper ventilation and an exhaust that is to code, it shouldn’t be an issue. I think that’s another design myth- it would take a LOT of moisture and a non vented bathroom to ruin art- especially if it’s framed. Hope this helps!

    2. Linda, I have no ventilation except for a window in my small master bath, but a beautiful calendar page in a frame has been fine for 2 years. I used the kind of frame that sandwiches the art in between 2 pieces of glass, so that might help. If you are hesitant, I highly recommend using inexpensive art to try out the room conditions. I hope this is helpful.

      1. Such a great suggestion, Jennifer! You’re proof that art can exist beautifully in all sorts of bathrooms :) thanks for sharing!

  7. Oh yay!!! I was hoping this would be the next design discussion! I have one wool rug! It’s not beautiful, but it’s functional as heck…eventually it will be replaced but for now it graces our entry nicely! We have low pile flat woven cotton rugs in the master bath; they’re gorgeous and give a cozy warmth to an otherwise cold space; and they can easily be washed. I’m pro bathroom rug of any kind. Most bathroom floors tend to be slightly slippery when wet, and I just can’t get behind keeping the floor devoid of a soft landing spot! With our master bath refresh I plan on getting a Ruggable runner (now I’ll be on the hunt for a wool one) that will live in front of the vanity. I’m super excited. Also just a note; I have a vintage portrait of Marilyn Monroe that I scored at an antique shop years ago. I reframed it when we moved to offer more protection, and she lives on the bath ledge in my master. She is beautifully intact, no signs of damage from moisture or anything else. I have several large framed prints of Marilyn that live on the walls in the bathroom and water closet, and they are all perfect. Add that art to your bathrooms ladies & gents! I promise it will be fine. Like Sarah said, as long as it is framed and the room is vented, it will not see damage. Guess what??!!! It is GLORIOUS today!! The clouds are gone, the flowers and grass and hills are beautifully green from the rain…and the sun is shining so bright!!!! Today we are tackling one container area of the patio (planting the snake plants🤗), disassembling one section for repair and new mortar, and hopefully throwing some primer on my new drawer boxes and door fronts! Progress will be made!! Have a great day friends!!

    1. Yay, Lauren!! Love hearing that… enjoy your beautiful weather and time outside today :) That sounds so fun. It’s chilly here, but sunny- so I can’t complain. I’m with you on the rugs AND the art… I’m a fan of both. I hope you have a happy Tuesday! xo

  8. I always love your rug picks. I’m curious what you do to clean the wool rugs you use in bathroom. Inquiring minds want to know.

  9. This is a timely post for me, as I’ve beens scouting rug options for the master bathroom of our new construction house. If it were just me, I’d absolutely put a wool rug in the master bathroom, but I’m not sure I can get my husband on board with it. Flatweave cotton might be our best compromise – we’ve had one in my daughter’s bathroom for years without any problems. I just need to get over there to measure. They’re staining the hardwood today, so I’ll have to keep (impatiently) waiting.

    1. That’s SO exciting, Kristin! This part of the process is always my favorite… enjoy it :) xo

  10. My feet are totally team-rug. They endure freezing cold bathroom floors from shower to sink. Some soft and gorgeous vintage (or vintage like) wool versions underfoot would be divine, surely. Alas, their owners have yet to make such purchases a priority. That may well change as of today. Hello McGee & Co backorder??? Thanks so much for this beautiful and cozy post, ma’am. Cheers, Ardith

    1. Mine too, Ardith! I hope you’re having a good week so far! I’ve lost track of the days :) We’re having lots of rain and some snow flurries here, so I’m back in “cozy mode”. xox

  11. Just when I think you can’t surprise me, you do! Sheep farmer…you are very well rounded/experienced young lady!
    I have never thought of putting a wool rug in the bath until you did. Cleaning one and getting it wet would have been my main concern. I have only put ones that can be washed. With all the tile in our bathroom, a wool rug in the center would really warm it up. I love your choices.
    Speaking of wool. I am waiting for a wool comforter to come back in stock for our bed. I understand that they are cooler than down, cotton, etc. Thanks for the lesson on wool.
    Hope your Tuesday was good!

    1. Haha! I can thank my parents for that. We had a farm with lots of animals and it was fun being the 4-H kid. I’ll add that to things I don’t list on my interior resume… sheep farmer, pig showman champion, barrel racer, hahaha! I’m full of surprises. In all seriousness, wool is such a wonderful, durable material! I’m also waiting for the wool comforters to come back in stock…. I had SO many people recommend that instead of down since Emmett sleeps hot. I didn’t even realize that was a thing. I hope you’re having a good week Danna :) xo

  12. We just finished the world’s tiniest powder room, and I have been on the hunt for a tiny wool rug (because even the standard 2×3’ is too big). Any recommendations for places to look?

    1. Hi Jama! Etsy has a TON of vintage rugs smaller than 2×3′. Try searching for “mini oushak rug” or “small wool rug”. A lot are around 1’6″ x 2’3″, but they of course vary. Also, some new rug companies offer larger rug swatches (18×18″), if you’re after something new – it just might be more limited in selection. I hope that helps! :)

        1. Amazing!! Thanks so much for sharing Julie :)

    2. Etsy! Search for a vintage “prayer mat” or “mat” instead of “rug”… they’re the exact same thing- just tiny. Lots of the Etsy vendors also have a special section for extra small rugs! I’ve had good luck with that. Hope this helps, Jama!

  13. Hi Sarah, we just installed marble heated floors in our bathroom. I have two wool rugs to use in there, but I wondered if the colors might bleed onto the floor. Also, do you use or recommend a rug pad? Thank you!

    1. Hi Amelia! Your bathroom sounds beautiful already! So… adding medium to large size rugs to a heated floor is typically not recommended by heated floor manufacturers. I usually like to keep it small 2’x3′ in front of the vanity or a mat in front of the shower. I still recommend a rug pad though- even for the small ones! You can find my favorite and more advice in this post:
      Hope it’s helpful :) xo

      1. Thank you for the advice Sarah. You are an inspiration and you have a lovely home.

  14. Naina Kalra says:

    You are an outstanding writer. I always had this misconception that placing a woolen rug would not be a good idea, but you have experience and it does sound amazing. Thank you for writing.

  15. Anne-Marie says:

    How are you making the rugs slip resistant? I Just googled wool rug in bathroom as I’m washing and drying a sheepskin and was so happy to find this post and your site.
    I have two very young boys and I’m worried about them running/toddling in and slipping in the master bathroom but want a wool rug for it’s moisture repelling and aesthetic qualities.