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Bath Mats vs. Bath Rugs: Here’s What You Should Know

Bath rug with clay towels along bathtub.
Written By
Parachute Team
Photographs By
Jessica Schramm for Parachute
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Bathrooms are our private wellness sanctuaries. If styled correctly, they can be a source of calm and relief after a long day at work — a true oasis of self-care. But successful bathroom design is all about mixing functionality with style. So if you’re wondering where you stand on the bath mat vs. bath rug debate, first consider both their function and their form.

Most people use bath mats to prevent post-bath or shower puddles. The mats absorb water before it drips onto the floor. By contrast, bath rugs are an interior design choice, adding to the look and vibe of your bathroom. The roles of mats and rugs can sometimes overlap, depending on their size and material they’re made of.

Read on for a handy breakdown of the differences between a bath mat and a bath rug. We’ll also share some helpful tips to help you choose the best option for your bathroom.

What is a Bath Mat?

Tile-covered bathroom floors can get extremely slippery when wet, and that can lead to injuries. This is where bath mats come in handy. The purpose of a bath mat is to provide an anti-slip surface to step on after you’ve taken a bath or shower. Bathroom mats also soak up excess water or splashes, keeping floors clean, dry and mildew-free.

Bathroom mats are a necessity because they make your space more hygienic. Mildew, bacteria, and mold can easily accumulate where floors are often wet. If you have hardwood floors, a good-quality bathroom mat can also protect them from water damage.

The standard bath mat size is 20x30 inches. The small size and usually rectangular shape helps them fit nicely in front of a shower stall or tub. This can be a disadvantage if your bathroom is more spacious, or if you’d like to cover a larger area with a single bath mat.

What is the Best Material for a Bath Mat?

Bath mats come in many different fabrics. Some are even made from bamboo wood or teak. The most popular choice is cotton, for its moisture-wicking and hypoallergenic qualities. Cotton fibers are naturally strong and soft. That makes for sturdy bath mats that feel extra cozy and fluffy underfoot.

Speaking of softness, another popular option is microfiber. It’s not only incredibly plush, but is super warm and dries quickly. Certain microfiber bath mats have a memory foam construction that provides additional cushioning and support.

Solid bath mats made from bamboo or teak are a sustainable option that will instantly transform your bathroom into a spa-like space. Solid mats of teak and bamboo are often treated with anti-mold and anti-mildew varnish. With that treatment, they require virtually no maintenance and can last for years.

What is a Bath Rug?

Bath rugs are a great way to add character and style to any bathroom. They help tie the décor together by defining the space and creating a focal point. And while bath rugs have more of an aesthetic function, they can also serve a practical role depending on their fabric type.

One advantage of bath rugs is that they come in so many shapes and sizes. Choosing one that matches the dimensions of your bathroom floor should be an easy task. Rugs also come in a variety of styles and colors, so you can put on your designer hat and get creative.

Unfortunately, not many bath rugs have an anti-slip backing, so you’ll probably have to buy one separately. They’re also relatively thin, so many people use them in addition to a bath mat.

What is the Best Material for a Bath Rug?

Cotton rugs have excellent absorbent qualities, as do microfiber bath rugs. But if you’re worried about mold and mildew, go with wool. This natural fabric has superior moisture-wicking qualities and allows for better airflow. The resulting quick-dry feature makes wool an excellent choice for bathrooms or other spaces with high humidity.

Synthetic fabrics such as nylon are popular too, because they’re naturally stain-resistant. Nylon bath rugs are also durable and resistant to wear and tear. That makes them a great long-term investment.

Bath Mat vs. Bath Rug: Which One is Better?

There are so many differences between bath mats and bath rugs. When choosing the best option for your bathroom, start with your preferences and needs.

We use bath mats to absorb water in small spaces, so they tend to have a compact footprint, but a thick and textured feel. Keep in mind that bath mats are not really styling tools. When it’s time to make a statement, a bath mat may not do the trick.

Bath rugs, on the other hand, come in a multitude of sizes and shapes. They create plenty of room for creativity in your bathroom décor. 

Unfortunately, their strength is also their weakness. Since they’re mainly decorative, they’re thinner than bath mats, often with flat pile construction that’s not as absorbent. Also, it’s key to inspect them often for signs of mildew, stains or water damage. Finally, before placing a rug on your bathroom floor, make sure its color will not bleed when it gets wet.

How to Care for Bath Mats and Bath Rugs?

Another important factor in the bath mat vs. bath rug question is ease of maintenance. Cotton bath mats are incredibly easy to clean. Most are machine washable in cold or cool water using mild laundry detergent.

Get a full set of washing instructions in our guide, How to Wash, Dry, & Care for Bath Mats & Rugs

Can You Dry a Bath Mat?

You can dry a bath mat in the dryer. Set your dryer’s heat to the lowest setting and your bath mat should come out looking like new.

For hygienic purposes, it’s best to wash a bath mat at least once a week. If the bathroom sees a lot of traffic, you can adjust the timing.

Can You Dry a Bath Rug?

Certain cotton bath rugs may be machine washable, but always read their care instructions first. If the rug is made from cotton, then you can tumble it dry on low. But for best results, lay it flat to dry instead. Depending on the fabric, bath mats may require dry cleaning. That’s primarily the case with bath rugs made from synthetic fibers.

Where to Shop for Good Quality Bath Rugs and Bath Mats

Give your bathroom a fresh makeover with rugs and mats from Parachute. For the ultimate spa-like look, opt for the Classic Tub Mat, available in six beautiful shades. It will protect your bathroom floors, while its plush construction keeps your feet warm and cozy.

For a stylish Mediterranean-inspired update, consider the Speckled Bath Rug. It sports a chic terrazzo pattern that will add pops of delicate color to your bathroom.

Another highlight is the boho Hand Knit Rug. It comes in two beautiful nature-inspired shades, and features playful tassels on two sides.

Parachute’s mats and rugs are Oeko-Tex Standard 100-certified. They’re made from the softest long-staple Turkish cotton and are machine washable. For a certified organic bath mat, you need to get your hands on the Organic Cotton Tub Mat.

For more home decor inspo in the bathroom and around the house, read on:

56 Bathroom Interior Design Tips

Sustainable & Organic Bathroom Essentials 

How to Turn Your Bathroom Into a Luxury Spa

Best Towel Materials, Sizes, & More

Guide to the Coziest Loungewear & Robes

What Is Organic Cotton? Sustainable Cotton Fabric Guide 

Best Organic Robes: What to Look For

Best Organic Clothing: What to Look For

Best Organic Towels: What to Look For

35 Eco Friendly Products for Your Home

Waffle Weave Essentials: Best Honeycomb Bath and Bedroom Products

What is a Hooded Baby Towel? How Many Does a Newborn Need?

How to Wash and Properly Care for Towels

How to Wash, Dry and Care for Organic Cotton Sheets, Towels and Clothes

Decor Ideas For Around the House