The Best Methods for Cleaning Sisal Rugs

Black boots covered with mud and dirt on tan sisal rug

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

A modern way to enhance your home and infuse your space with the feel of nature, sisal rugs are extremely versatile and durable. They are constructed from the leaves of a cactus plant known as Agave Sisalana, which can be found in Central America, Africa, and Brazil. Its hard leaves are crushed, washed, and dried before being made into these rugs.

Available in both synthetic fibers, like nylon or wool, and natural fibers such as paper, seagrass, or coconut, the sisal rug is a great option for any room in your home. Unlike softer natural fiber jute rugs, sisal varieties are not as bare-foot friendly. They are, however, much more durable and this makes them well-suited for high-traffic areas like living rooms and hallways.

Though they may be versatile, that doesn't mean that sisal rugs can't get stained, especially if you happen to have little kids or pets. Here's how to clean and maintain your sisal rug.

Ditch the Water

What cleans just about anything--soap and water, right? When it comes to a sisal rug, however, you may want to skip some of your go-to cleaning options. Dirt doesn't easily attach to the harder fibers of a sisal rug--instead, it tends to rest on the weave. Unfortunately, its more natural fibers don't always do well when exposed to water.

An occasional light dampening can be applied via spray, clean mop, damp brush, or any other method that won't actually saturate the carpet. This can actually help strengthen the natural fiber and enhance its wearing qualities. It can help to remove minor bubbling or looseness as the carpet will slightly tighten up as it dries. Using a lot of water, however, should be avoided.

You'll also want to keep your sisal rug out of places that might be exposed to excess moisture, such as the front door.

Glass bottle spraying water on sisal rug closeup

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Skip the Scrubbing

When spot cleaning your sisal rug to remove any spills, firmly press and blot the stain using a clean, dry paper or cloth towel--do NOT rub the affected area. Be sure to work from the outside of the spill inward to help prevent it from spreading. If you try to furiously scrub the spill, you may actually work the liquid deeper into the fibers and end up with a permanent stain.

White cloth towel scrubbing and blotting sisal rug closeup

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Address Spills Immediately

As with most household spills, time is of the essence when cleaning your sisal rug. As soon as you've noticed a spill or stain on your rug, you'll want to spot clean it as soon as possible. If it happens to be a solid spill or a pet accident, scrape it up immediately with a dull knife or nail file before cleaning.

Dull knife scraping up dirt spills from mud covered boots on sisal rug

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Dry cleaning

Since the sisal rug and water generally don't mix, if you're looking to do a more complete clean of your rug, be sure to take it to the dry cleaner. It's never a good idea to attempt steam cleaning, shampooing, or any other method that might include water, as the fibers of a sisal rug cannot withstand any sort of saturation.

Mild soap and vinegar

You should, of course, always try the cleaning instructions that came with your rug, but if that hasn't worked, you can opt for a DIY solution of mild soap or even white vinegar.

After blotting up as much of the mess as possible with a paper towel or dry cloth, start with one part soap or vinegar to one part water and gently blot with your cleaning mixture. Just make sure not to overly-saturate the rug, and avoid spreading the stain. Then quickly dry the area with a hairdryer or fan.

Glass bowl with white vinegar being squeezed from white cloth on sisal rug

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Club soda

Stains like red wine and tomato sauce are among the worst of the bunch, but if you've dribbled some merlot on your brand new sisal rug, all may not be lost. Immediately grab a white cloth and dampen it with club soda, and then go ahead and start blotting. This will often be enough to neutralize the spill and eliminate any potential staining.

Removing Odors

Got a stinky rug on your hands? You can let some fresh air and sunshine work their magic for you. Drag that rug outdoors and let it sit out in direct sunlight for a day. This way, any odors that might have been locked into the fibers may be banished by the dry heat.

You can also try sprinkling baking soda on top of the rug. Let it sit for around an hour to absorb dirt, and then give the rug a good shake to remove the excess. After this you can vacuum the rug, preferably with the upholstery brush attachment. Baking soda is being known for being an excellent natural odor absorber.

Baking soda sprinkled on sisal rug to remove odors

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Sisal Rug Maintenance

If you've invested in a particularly large sisal rug, lugging it to the dry cleaners or dragging it outside might not be a viable option. So in that case, you'll want to ensure you take extra care to maintain and protect your rug in the first place.

Sisal rugs can be easily maintained with a thorough vacuuming once or twice a week. This will help keep your rug looking new and keep it clean and fresh.

Any visible or loose dirt should be suctioned up, but make sure to skip the beater bar, which can wear down fibers and age your rug faster. Also, try to vacuum the carpet from different directions, and always make several passes over the area.

Tan sisal rug with loose dirt being vacuumed with hose attachment closeup

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald