Leather Rugs: A Beginner’s Guide

Rozella Leather Stripes from Pecos Flatweave by NuLoom

Leather seems like an unusual choice for a rug material, but there are many attractive area rugs made from leather strips, recycled or upcycled leather, or cotton/leather combinations. Leather/jute, leather/polyester/wool and leather (suede)/viscose  are also common.

You will often see some leather rugs listed as “100% cowhide” instead of leather. Cowhide rugs are made of cowhide leather and vary in size and color combination. They give rooms a “Wild West” or Southwestern atmosphere and are made from a full, continuous animal skin. Sheepskin rugs are also sold under the leather category. Irregularly-shaped sheepskin area rugs may be white, steel blue, champagne, pink, black, beige or midnight blue. You can also find rectangular faux sheepskin rugs in pink, blue or grey honeycomb patterns.

Rugs made of leather strips or leather and cotton are appropriate for any design scheme. Leather rugs are soft, but they may be lumpy and not comfortable to stand on for a long time.  It all depends on the particular style of rug you choose, and how it was constructed.

What Do Leather Rugs Look Like?

STL401A from Studio Leather Woven by Safavieh

Leather rugs may look like a bunch of colorful confetti stuck together. These leather shag rugs are often available from Safavieh and other top area rug brands. (Chandra and St. Croix also sell leather and/or cowhide rugs.)

The rugs may be made of recycled scraps and have a bohemian look. They can be a statement piece for small rooms, but leather cowhide rugs are too problematic for any room with a high amount of foot traffic.

Avoid using leather area rugs in humid or damp climates. They are best-suited for low-traffic spaces like bedrooms, dens or offices, but some leather rugs are appropriate for moderately-traveled living rooms.

Colors and Pile Height

LSG511N from Leather Shag by Safavieh

Some leather rugs are crafted by artisans and may combine leather and cotton for a soft feel and natural ambiance. This material is durable and is an excellent option if you don’t have a lot of time to replace worn rugs. You’ll still need to use a rug pad underneath your leather rug to extend its lifespan. You’ll find most leather rugs come in neutral or earthy colors. Popular rug colors are grey, dark brown, beige or a combination of those colors. Handwoven, studio leather styles are patchwork quilt rugs made of bright colors. You can even use smaller studio leather rugs as wall art.

Solid color rugs can be dyed just about any color you could imagine, including tangerine, sky blue, dark blue, scarlet or silver.

Most leather rugs have a pile height of fewer than 0.25 inches, but 0.5 and 0.25-inch pile rugs are easy to find. Rugs with a thicker pile aren’t as popular. Leather rugs come in all shapes and sizes, including runners. This brick pattern suede/viscose runner from Calvin Klein would make a quirky runner for a home library or study.

Leather Rugs Give a Room Texture

Rozella Leather Stripes from Pecos Flatweave by NuLoom

Leather rugs add texture and visual interest to a room. Leather has ridges and can form a natural pattern over the years. It will look like part of the room without looking too bland or over-familiar. Unshaved leather softens your room while adding character. Solid brown, beige or black leather rugs are a masculine addition to any study or “man-cave”. They are equally at home with shelves of hardcover books or sports memorabilia. More colorful patchwork or confetti leather rugs add personality to a young adult’s bedroom or a couple’s den.

Leather rugs called Chindis are made from leather scraps and scraps of other materials, and may have multi-colored strips in a quirky, but not overwhelming design. Leather rugs may be flat woven or shag rugs. Some rugs are machine made, while others are hand-crafted or hand tufted.

Use leather area rugs to complement leather furniture in a den or living room. Be sure to place the rug where it will get low to moderate foot traffic, but close a leather sofa or chair to make it seem like a matched (or slightly mismatched) set.

Leather and Animal Hide Rugs Last a Long Time

DUK-1001 from Duke by Surya

A luxurious leather rug can last decades and be in demand as a vintage piece. Like fine leather clothing, a well-crafted leather rug stays stylish while other pieces fall victim to changing trends.

Aged leather is soft, but it’s rugged, too. Some types of leather rugs can take a moderate amount of foot traffic and come out looking brand new. Unlike inexpensive synthetic or delicate silk rugs, leather rugs can outlast years of friendly visits from pets. Dogs like to rest on leather rugs, and they can do so without harming the material.

Care and Cleaning


STL225H from Studio Leather .63 by Safavieh

If you purchase a high-quality rug, it won’t have a noticeable smell, or the smell will fade after a few days.

Vacuum often using a brush attachment and keep the rug away from direct sunlight. Remove loose ends with scissors.

You should have your leather rug professionally cleaned every year to 18 months.  Shake out area rugs between professional cleanings to get rid of dust and debris. This maintenance prevents leather from being scratched. Rotate your rug every few months to prevent wear and tear, and don’t place it under bulky furniture. Avoid using a beater or roller bar on the rug, as it will tear out the fringe.

Blot up any spills on cowhide rugs with a clean, natural cloth. Keep metal feet on furniture away from both leather and cowhide rugs to avoid punctures or other damage.

Real leather stains easily if treated with over the counter chemical cleaners. Spot clean with environmentally-friendly products. Avoid cleaning leather rugs on a carpet or wood floor. Clean the rug outdoors or on a metal or concrete surface so the dye won’t run and stain your living room floor or other indoor surfaces.

Don’t overuse foam sprays, and blot stains gently. Use a small amount of cleaner until the stain is gone, and dry residue with a clean white cloth.

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