Five Options for Natural-Fiber Carpets

Wool, Seagrass, Jute, Sisal, and Coir

Samples of color of a carpet
pbombaert / Getty Images

One of the major themes in flooring design today is the use of natural materials. Flooring is one of the primary elements of any living space, and for a home with a natural look and atmosphere, plastic fibers in colors created by chemical dyes just won't do. While most carpeting is made up at least partially of synthetic fibers, consumers who prefer entirely natural materials do have a few choices when it comes to carpeting. These carpets are prized for their rich textures and authentic natural weave and the fact that they are made from eco-friendly renewable resources.

Here are five choices for carpets made from fully natural fibers.

  • 01 of 05

    Wool

    Wool Carpet
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    Wool is the most common natural fiber flooring material, used in both carpets and area rugs. This material is strong and resistant to stains, pilling, and fire. Wool also has a natural lanolin coating that causes small amounts of water to bead up on the surface. Wool is a wonderful choice as an insulating floor because its fibers trap air, giving it both soundproofing and thermal insulating properties. All these virtues combine in a product that has a soft, cushiony feel, making wool carpeting a premium flooring material. Unfortunately, you will pay for that premium—wool carpets are generally much more expensive than their synthetic counterparts.

    Despite the fact that small spills will be deflected by the individual fibers, wool still needs to be installed in a relatively dry area and should not be immersed in water, or mildew may form. In some cases, wool can be blended with hemp fibers to create a carpet that is resistant to the growth of mold and mildew.

  • 02 of 05

    Seagrass

    picture seagrass carpets

    Bigstockphoto

    Seagrass is a smooth anti-static carpet that is made from all-natural plant fibers that are grown in a manner similar to the way rice is grown. As the name hints, seagrass is planted in paddy fields that are flooded with seawater each year during the growing season.

    The tough fibers of this material are nearly impermeable, which means that seagrass is resistant to stains, dirt, and discoloration. But this also means that seagrass can't be dyed or otherwise colored by the manufacturer; it is available only in its natural hue. In some cases, colored weft strings are woven through the fibers of the carpet to create contrasting effects.

    One major drawback to seagrass carpeting is that it is susceptible to damage from moisture. In moist environments, it is subject to the growth of mold and mildew. To prevent problems, spills should be wiped up immediately. This is not a good flooring choice for wet kitchens or bathrooms.

    Because the fibers are so smooth—and possibly slippery—seagrass carpeting installed on stairs should be laid with the grain facing parallel to the step treads.

  • 03 of 05

    Coir

    natural coir carpeting

    Bigstockphoto

    An inexpensive natural carpet material, coir is manufactured from the husks of coconuts. It is a coarse material that has a naturally rustic look that is prized in cottage- and log cabin-style settings. It can also be woven into more sophisticated patterns, such as diamond, basketweave, and herringbone.

    Generally used in the manufacture of sacks and doormats, coir has an abrasive texture that makes it unsuitable for areas such as bedrooms or children’s rooms, where you want a soft, comfortable floor underfoot. It can, however, be used in high-traffic areas, such as hallways and living rooms.

    While it is naturally durable, coir is susceptible to staining. It also needs to be kept dry and should not be installed in wet environments. The loose weave of its fibers makes it unsafe for use on stairs.

  • 04 of 05

    Jute

    a picture of jute carpeting

    Mrs.KLF

    Jute is a fabric woven from fibers of plants from the Corchorus genus, which grows in subtropical regions of Asia. (Burlap is also produced from plants within the same genus.) The plant is soaked in water, and then its stalks are stripped to make the individual fibers. It is most commonly used in the making of rope and as a carpet backing material.

    Jute is one of the softest and most inexpensive natural fiber carpet flooring choices available. It is especially soft, since it is made from the plant stalks rather than the leaves. Unfortunately, its soft surface means that it is not very durable, and it can suffer from wear and tear quite easily. It is most appropriate when used in low-traffic environments, such as bedrooms.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Sisal

    sisal carpeting pic

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    Sisal is a soft yet durable natural fiber carpet derived from the Agave sisalana plant species. It is relatively easy to dye, making it very versatile for flooring design. It can stand up to high-traffic areas without being coarse or uncomfortable underfoot, and it wears well, making it good for high-traffic areas. But it can become slippery with use, so sisal is a poor choice for stairs.

    Available in a wide variety of colors and patterns, sisal carpet can be used in almost any room of the house, although it must be used with caution around moisture, which can damage the fibers. The fact that sisal can be so easily dyed also means that it can be easily stained; it requires treatment to make it resistant to dirt and spills. Sisal is also relatively expensive, typically costing more than coir but less than wool.