Are Bathroom Rugs Sanitary?

a cat sits on bathroom rug with a roll of toilet paper

The question “Are Bathroom Rugs Sanitary?” can take us to some disgusting places rather quickly.

Bathroom rugs that dry more quickly are more sanitary because mold and mildew flourish in damp, warm environments. To keep bathroom rugs clean, wash them in hot water every two weeks. Wood bath mats are alternatives that don’t absorb water and keep the bathroom sanitary.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can’t have a luxurious and nicely-textured bathroom rug to match your decor, and that you’ll have to opt for a plain rubber bath mat. This is not the case.

Getting a bathroom rug that you can keep sanitary is the trick. In general, a lighter weight material that dries quickly will be easiest to care for. 

However, there are two super easy-to-care-for alternatives: a wood bath mat and a diatomaceous earth bath mat. I discuss these options in more detail below.



Bathroom Rugs vs Bath Mats


3 bathroom rugs


A bathroom rug is generally made of a fluffier more luxurious material than a bath mat. While a bathroom rug can add a spark of decor to the bathroom, a bath mat is more utilitarian; it is often made of a flat piece of rubber or terry cloth.

Many people use the terms interchangeably. 

While it doesn’t really matter what you call it, what does matter is whether it’s clean. Not just for appearance sake but for health reasons, too.


Bathroom Rugs and Bathroom Mold


feet on bathroom rug



Mold and mildew just love bathrooms. Why? Because they breed in warm, moist environments. If you don’t have the right type of rug in your bathroom, or you don’t clean it the right way and often enough, you are definitely hosting a mold and mildew convention right under your feet.

You can do a lot to prevent mold and mildew from growing in your bathroom, beginning with ventilation. Turn on bathroom exhaust fans and open doors and windows. Next, fix any leaky faucets or pipes.

And then pick a bathroom rug (or bath mat) and towels that are antibacterial and dry quickly. An extremely fast-drying bath rug or mat will not be hospitable to mildew or mold.

An important note: Mildew and mold can be smelly and gross. But worse, they can pose a health risk. Plus, they can grow unchecked in floorboards and behind walls.

No thanks!

For much more about how you can proactively prevent bathroom mold—and exactly what to do if you’ve already got a problem—read Bathroom Mold: A Battle Plan to Destroy It on Bathtubber.com.


Tips to Keep Bathroom Rugs Clean


white bathroom rug in large bathroom with freestanding tub



Well, the biggest problem with a bathroom rug is that it can harbor mold and mildew, and also fungus.  Yes, fungus. The solution is to wash your rug frequently following the manufacturer’s instructions. More on this in a bit. But there are other challenges to keeping a bathroom rug sanitary:


Non-Skid Backings Don’t Work in the Laundry


Some rugs have a thin rubber coating painted on the back, and others have a thick piece of plastic attached. Either way, this can make throwing the rug into the washer and dryer problematic, as the coating cannot withstand heat; it will peel and deteriorate. But you don’t want an unsanitary bathroom rug, so what should you do?

The solution is to wipe the backing with an antibacterial wipe once a week. This will kill anything thinking of growing there.

Another solution is to get a bathroom rug that won’t slide because of the weight. I say this from experience. My current bathroom rug is fantastic, super cheap, and just heavy enough that it won’t slide at all even though there’s no backing on it. 

However, if you are a senior or have kids, you’ll need to be extra careful. In that case, I’d go with a bath mat or bathroom rug with a thick latex backing. 


Absorbency vs Drying Time


Listen carefully: a super absorbent bathroom rug or bath mat doesn’t mean it’s going to be more sanitary. It just means it will absorb a lot of water. And this isn’t necessarily good. 

If a lot of water gets absorbed into your bathroom rug or bath mat, it’s going to take longer to dry. The last thing you want is a bathroom rug that is constantly damp. Yuck!

You want each bather to step out of the bath or shower onto a perfectly dry (and cozy!) bathroom rug or bath mat. So look for a quick-drying mat instead of an extra-absorbent one.  

Plus, don’t make the mistake of thinking you can judge a bathroom rug just by looking at it. When my husband brought ours home, I thought it would take forever to dry because of the height of the pile. But nope! It dries in a flash. 

A bathroom rug or bath mat that dries quickly is more sanitary. That’s the bottom line.




Do you want a bathroom rug that you can hang on the towel rack between uses? Or will it be on your bathroom floor all the time?

A bath mat or bathroom rug that is always on the floor will get dirtier more quickly, and so it’s extra important that you can throw it into the wash regularly. If you hang the mat or rug in between use, it will dry out more quickly and will be less susceptible to mold and mildew.

When you only have one bath mat or bathroom rug, you probably want to choose one that you can throw into the dryer. However, if you have two, then it’s not a concern, as you can switch between them while doing the wash.


Visible Dirt


If you have unexpected company, a visibly dirty bathroom rug can be the source of mortification. Maybe you’re entertaining friends in your backyard when someone suddenly needs to use the bathroom for a quick minute.

Instead of dying of embarrassment because you forgot to wash your grungy bathroom rug, maybe you should consider a reversible bathroom rug. These exist!

In a hot second, before allowing your guest to use the bathroom, you can simply flip your bathroom rug over.


Visible Dirt


If this sounds enticing, I suggest you try the extra pretty and reversible Laura Ashley Crochet Cotton Bath Rug available on Amazon.


Bathroom Rug Materials


red wool bathroom rug in large white bathroom


Now let’s talk about some of the most common materials for a bathroom rug. 




This material is soft and cozy, and quick to dry. Great for adding a layer of decorative texture to your overall look while preventing mold and mildew.




Cotton is quick-to-dry. If you’re looking for a rug to hang over the towel rack between uses, this could be a good material choice. 




My polyester bathroom rug dries really fast and it is heavy enough to stay in its place without any rubber backing. I can easily throw it in the washer and dryer each week. I love it!




Wool is a natural fiber and very moisture-wicking, yet will feel dry to the touch. It can withstand humidity without breeding mold. Some people like to put a vintage wool mat at the foot of the bathroom vanity.



Other Bath Mats for a Sanitary Bathroom


There are two alternatives to a traditional bathroom rug that you might want to consider.


Wood Bath Mat


Try a bath mat made of bamboo or teak. These woods are naturally mildew and mold resistant. They won’t absorb water and don’t require much maintenance. You can simply give it a wipe with an antibacterial wipe once in a while. (And to retain the beauty of the wood, you can rub it with teak oil once a year.)

While a wood bath mat feels different under the feet, it also brings a different type of vibe into the bathroom. Using natural products like wood and stone can create a spa-like feeling. (Read more about how to use natural products in 12 Elements of a Spa Bathroom on Bathtubber.com.)


Wood Bath Mat

I recommend the Bare Decor Giza Shower Mat. It’s teak, extremely durable, clean, and low-maintenance. Plus, it’s so pretty! Check it out here on Amazon.


Diatomaceous Earth Bath Mat


Diatomaceous Earth is a new material being used for bath mats. It’s 100% natural, eco-friendly. It’s also antibacterial and repels mold and mildew. The material is made from naturally siliceous rocky soil.

And guess what? Not only does it dry extremely quickly, but also you’ll never need to throw it in the wash.


Diatomaceous Earth Bath Mat

Try the UNIKON Diamaceous Earth Bath Mat from Amazon.com

Pick this mat if you want something super practical and easy to care for. While extremely low-maintenance, it goes with a Zen, minimalist bathroom decor.  



How Often to Wash a Bathroom Rug


In general, you’ll want to wash your bathroom rug once every two weeks on a warm or hot setting. 

However, if your bathroom rarely gets traffic and the rug rarely gets wet, then you can go for longer stretches between washings.

On the other hand, if this is the bathroom where you bathe your toddlers, then you’re going to have to move up to once a week washings. It’s a function of humidity that can grow mold and traffic. Got it?



How to Wash a Bathroom Rug


father and son do laundry


Read the manufacturer’s washing instructions on the label. If you can’t read the instructions because you threw the label away a long time ago and you have a cotton, chenille, polyester, or nylon rug, follow these steps:

  1. Shake out any dirt, hair and debris, by taking your bathroom rug outside and giving it a good shake.
  2. Throw your bathroom rug into the washing machine. If it’s brand new, wash it on its own to prevent the color from bleeding onto clothes. (It shouldn’t bleed, but better safe than sorry.)
  3. Add gentle laundry detergent. If your bathroom rug does not have a plastic backing, then add ¼ cup white vinegar as a disinfectant.
  4. Use warm or hot water in the washing machine. (Warm if you’re worried about the backing. Otherwise, hot to better kill any bacteria.) 
  5. Select the gentle setting.
  6. Tumble dry on the lowest setting or hang to dry. Drying your bath mat outside in the sun will also disinfect it.


So Are Bathroom Rugs Sanitary?


A bathroom rug is sanitary as long as it is cleaned according to the manufacturer’s instructions at least once a month. If a bathroom rug is in a high-traffic bathroom that is often humid, it needs to be washed more frequently to keep it sanitary. 


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