Natural fiber rugs can be a life saver for many of us who want a stylish floor cover option but have pets, children,
dirty hard working men, and are not careful enough with the flooring to throw down a vintage silk rug from Turkey.
I shamefully admit that on top of our never-ending remodel there are often multiple personal and client projects laying around waiting to be finished. Our house does not look anything like many of the Instagram & blogger homes I follow, which is easy to get bummed about. But I do what I can with our current layout and disorder. To me, it’s most important for family & friends to feel happy and relaxed when bringing their kids & pets over without worrying that the white slipcover and rugs might get ruined. If you’re anything like us, your house is constantly in some state of chaos that only gets a thorough clean when company is coming over (shhh, don’t tell). It’s nice to have rugs that hide the mess of daily life as much as possible.
Side Note: Many natural fiber rugs can stain and fray over time, so if deep cleaning and longevity is of concern the best fiber is 100% wool in a tight weave.
So today I thought I’d write all about the natural fiber rugs that grace our home and why I LOVE them! They are often grouped together because of similarities in appearance but each one has different characteristics, textures, and durability. There is a lot of information and opinions on the internet debating these types of rugs so I thought I’d share my experience to help you decide which type best suits your lifestyle.
Fiber Content & Qualities
- Durability: This style of natural fiber rug is actually made from a grass so it’s going to be the most durable for high traffic areas that attract spills, wet feet, dog slobber, etc. The seagrass fiber is grown in water so it repeals liquids and will dry back to the original coloring (unlike some others we will discuss).
- Texture: Seagrass durability means that it may be a bit too rough for some people to walk on everyday (although it does soften with use). The best way to find out is to go and test it out- walk all over it, sit down on it, lay down on it, whatever you might do at home in the area its being placed!
Softer Option: If seagrass is just too rough, sisal can work in a high traffic area. However, be prepared for it to only last a few years before needing to be replaced.
- Odor: The smell of seagrass is noticeable when the rug is first laid out but will dissipate within a week of airing out. If the surface gets wet the smell will return but goes away as it dries. For those who have strong reactions to hay fever this rug is NOT an optimal choice for a high traffic area.
- Color: The color of seagrass is a light to medium green shade. It can sometimes be purchased in a lighter color which has gone through an extensive bleaching process–however, this weakens the fibers so it’s best to enjoy the natural element that it brings to the room!
I love seagrass rugs in the dining room, kitchen, entryway, bathrooms, and staircase runners. The durability means it can handle the heavy foot traffic, furniture movement, spills, and still look like new for years to come!
- Durability: Made from the agave plant, sisal is durable enough to handle high-to-medium traffic without weakening. Be advised that sisal will wear over time with heavy foot traffic or abuse and may start to fray slightly. It can be clipped back or add to the charm depending on your preference. Sisal can stain when liquids are allowed to soak into the fiber. Depending on the spill, it is possible to treat the rug and maintain the original color without much trace left behind.
- Texture: The process of stripping the leaves, washing, drying, and spinning into yarn means that sisal is softer in texture than seagrass and is often preferred by those looking for a rug to use in main living areas.
- Odor: There are some people who find the smell of sisal to be similar to hay, but like its counterpart, it dissipates quickly and is gone within a few days of airing out. Depending on the weave of the rug and if it’s dyed or not can all factor into the smell of a new rug.
- Color: Sisal is naturally a creamy white fiber once its spun into the yarn like substance that is used for rugs. It does accept the dye process well so it can be found in many different colors to compliment home decor.
We have a natural/gray weave sisal rug installed as the stair runner and the durability has been good with a small amount of fraying. The edge binding has held up wonderfully and it’s perfectly soft under foot. The main reason I selected it was the latex backing which prevents dirt and debris from working through the fibers and scratching our bamboo stairs. I plan to purchase the same exact rug (found below) for our entryway (when the current one wears out) because the lighter coloring works wonders in the dark space.
Sisal Stain Runner (Much more gray than the photograph captures)
- Durability: This is the least durable of all the natural fiber rugs so it’s best used for light traffic areas such as bedside, formal dining/living, home office, etc. This rug can still last for many years and due to the extreme affordability its often found in higher traffic areas (such as our living room). Jute will easily stain with the slightest spill which can be extremely difficult to remove. Jute is also easy to fray, which means that cleaning can be difficult and lead to large areas unraveling. They are easily trimmed away or tucked back in, as the natural look of the rug is casual, it all works with the style.
Note: Jute rugs don’t come with latex backing which means that all the dirt and dust will fall through to the floor below. You will also notice when placing them on a solid floor that the first few months there are piles of dust under the rug when you move it. This will lesson with time and your rug settles down and releases all the natural fiber material. I wouldn’t recommend placing these types of rugs on carpet since the dirt and debris can work down into the carpet padding and shorten the lifespan of the carpet. I suggest a different fiber with a latex backing or use a solid rug pad.
Example of Latex Backing on Sisal Rug
- Texture: The softness of this fiber is what makes it so popular for a natural fiber rug. To lay down on it can feel a bit nubby depending on the weave but it’s very soft and gets even softer with age, making it a favorite for those with small children or sensitive feet.
- Odor: I have never found jute rugs to have much of an odor unless they arrive wet. If this happens there is the odor of wet hay which will go away as it dries just like the others. However, something important to note is that when jute gets wet it most often dries a darker color than the remainder of the rug. We have a runner which arrived with a wet area and has forever had circles of darkness throughout it that won’t go away anytime soon.
- Color: Jute is naturally a light to medium brown with flecks of darker coloring throughout. It easily accepts the bleaching or drying process so can be found in both bleached jute and many other colors. Note that the product used to dye the rug may run if the rug gets wet so be careful of the flooring located under the rug. I wouldn’t place a navy jute rug onto cream carpet, etc.
These types of rugs are my favorite to use in bedrooms, home offices, hallways, and even living rooms with the understanding that they aren’t the most durable. We have a bleached jute rug in our living room, the jute rug found below in our dining room, and a woven jute runner in our hallway. They have all been in place for a few years with no major issues other than recent staining on the bleached jute rug (I won’t buy this color again). If you’re after the softest natural fiber rug and don’t mind replacing it in the future, this is the way to go!
Hemp: They are often known as Mountain Grass Rugs
- Durability: Hemp fiber is extremely durable and is harvested and woven by machines into a rug. Its natural appearance and similar characteristics to seagrass make it a very good choice for high traffic areas that need the ability to reject moisture and stand up to heavy foot traffic.
- Texture: Hemp or mountain grass rugs have a rougher texture and feel most like seagrass rugs.
- Odor: Hemp rugs do not have the same strong smell that most seagrass rugs will have upon arrival, but can smell like grass for a day or two after unpacking.
- Color: Most will have the natural coloring of the plant since they are not easily dyed or bleached so they will remain naturally colored and are best for spaces which could use some grounding of a natural darker colored rug.
Cleaning & Stains
This Apartment Therapy article served as a stain experiment of sorts on these types of rugs from different retailers. It’s a good read if you’re thinking about buying a rug from one of the popular home good stores.
Cleaning natural fiber rugs require a lighter hand that most other types of rugs due to the weave of the plant and ability to cause shedding if not done properly. Depending on the material of the rug you can be more or less aggressive.
The best method is to clean up all major spills immediately and make sure that liquids don’t remain on the rug to soak in. In case this does happen, you can treat most natural fiber rugs with some Folex and use a cloth to blot out the stain and let it dry. Be sure to prop the rug up to allow airflow underneath so the fibers don’t remain wet for too long which can cause staining of its own kind. If the rug purchased is a natural color the stain will most likely fade away into the fibers of the rug and not be noticeable.
The woven jute rug we had in our kitchen worked like a charm and I have yet to find any lingering stains since it has been moved into our dining room. There was even a horrific spaghetti sauce spill on it the first year it was in the kitchen, which came out perfectly with folex, wet cloth, and clean white cloth. The same can be said for the jute in our hallway, entry, and the sisal on the stairs- they clean up like a charm and I haven’t had any issues with staining.
To give you an idea of durability; we have had our jute rugs for about 2-3 years with only minor shedding or areas that needed to be clipped. The sisal runner on the stairs is just now starting to show slight signs of wear after about a year of heavy use but it’s not noticeable to anyone except myself and could only be called slight fraying of the fibers. The small seagrass rug we have in the kitchen (which will soon be replaced with a larger one) has held up perfectly and still looks as new as the day I purchased it with the only wear showing on the cotton binding on the sides with a few dots of staining.
We just recently had two major stains take place on our bleached jute rug in the living room but I’m surprised they lasted as long as they did without them. I learned the hard way that baking soda and hydrogen peroxide will not remove stains from a bleached jute rug and will instead discolor it and the baking soda will soak into the fibers becoming impossible to remove…so learn from my mistakes and just blot 😉
Mixing & Matching
Layering a Turkish ornamental rug or animal skin rug over the natural fiber is one of my favorite looks, so the stain just gives me the excuse to buy one right?! It also goes back to my original though that I’d rather our house be comfortable and easy to live in than make sure that everything is clean and stain proof. When layering rugs its best to place a flat weave over the natural fiber rug so that you don’t trip over the difference in height.
Mixing natural fiber rugs is easily done since most have natural properties and match can work with any style from modern to casual. Depending on the floor plan it may be wise to match the pile height of the rug if the rooms are open to one another so that tripping isn’t an issue and it is more especially pleasing.
Jute can be purchased anywhere from a chunky high pile to braided flat weave so it’s common to mix this fiber with the more durable seagrass when placed in the same space but very different traffic patterns; such as the entryway (lower pile) which leads into the living space (higher pile rug).
Another consideration is the coloring of the natural fiber rugs if they are going to be seen from the same vantage point. Seagrass has a naturally green tinge and may not work if placed in close proximity to a gray woven sisal and so on. If purchasing multiple natural fiber rugs for an open floor plan it’s best to try out swatches or go into a physical store location to purchase all at once.
What would my blog post be if I didn’t share some of my obsessive shopping habits?
They both offer great quality and brands at an extremely affordable price. They offer all different fibers and styles of rug, the sales are AMAZING, and you can often find the exact same rug at both places and do some price comparison before purchase. I tend to wait for RugUSA 80% off sale that happens once or twice a year and search for Overstock’s sale items no matter when I’m searching.
Do you have a favorite source for rugs that I don’t know about?? Please share!