What is pile height and why is it important?

FAQs |

A Guide to Pile Height

Pile is a common term found when searching rug e-commerce sites, but what does rug pile mean? Rug pile refers to the visible tufts of yarn on a rug’s surface. In other words, the pile is the face of the rug. Rug pile can be cut or left in loops, thick or thin, soft or coarse. Here’s a breakdown of the different kinds of pile and what you need to know about each.


Rug pile comes in two varieties: cut and loop. Cut pile is the more common of the two styles and describes tufted rugs with clipped yarn loops. Cut-pile carpets are soft and dense, making them perfect for areas where bare feet are common, like the bedroom or living room. Rugs with loop pile, on the other hand, are woven or tufted and the yarn loops are left uncut. Since the loops are left intact with loop-pile rugs, they tend to be more durable, making them a good fit for high-traffic areas.


Pile heights vary but generally fall into three categories: low (less than ¼ inch, medium (¼ to ½ inch) and high (½ to ¾ inch). Piles longer than ¾ inch are sometimes available and labeled with a “plush” pile height. As a rule of thumb, the longer the pile gets, the softer the rug feels. With low-pile rugs, the fibers are more tightly woven and dense, which causes them to look and feel flat, sometimes even coarse. High-pile rugs have longer and looser threads for a soft, fluffy touch and elegant appearance. Traditional-style rugs, especially Oriental, Persian and Tibetan rugs, historically have low piles. However, modern adaptations of these styles increasingly have high piles to keep up with design trends and demands.

Care and Durability

While rugs with high pile are softer and more comfortable to the bare foot, low-pile rugs are easier to clean and more durable than their high-pile counterparts. Since the fibers and loops are shorter in low-pile rugs, dust and dirt can’t dig very deep into the rug and thus stay near the surface. With light, frequent vacuuming to capture the dust and dirt, the rug will remain in great shape. In contrast, high-pile rugs offer more room for dirt to really sink in and make itself at home. More intense vacuuming and possibly stain treatments will be needed to keep high-pile rugs in top condition.

Additionally, low-pile rugs wear more evenly than high-pile ones, which is why they are the best choice for high-traffic areas, like entryways and hallways. Carpet with low pile will also show less wear from furniture, whereas high-pile rugs are prone to showing impressions.

Cut or loop? Low or high? Which pile is better?

Both types and heights have their benefits and downfalls. Cut and high-pile rugs tend to be softer to the touch but are not as durable as loop- and low-pile rugs. Determine what traits you’re looking for in a rug, then pick the pile that best matches your needs.

Our customer service team is happy to answer your questions about pile height, durability or anything else rug related. Give us a call at 800.928.6671 or contact us online. Happy shopping!