A Guide To Natural Fibers: Sisal vs. Jute

jute rug

Looking to add that relaxing, outdoorsy touch to your home décor with an area rug made of natural fibers?  The number of choices available can be overwhelming. And if you don’t know what jute is, or even how to pronounce the word sisal (it’s SIGH-suhl, by the way), it can be enough to make you throw your hands up in despair.

Luckily, we’re here to help. We’ve put together a handy little guide to choosing the right natural fiber rug to fit your style, complete with descriptions of each type of fiber and instructions for their care. Enjoy part one today, and be sure to visit our blog again soon for the next installment!

Jute

The Jutes were a Germanic tribe that invaded England in the…oh, wait…sorry, wrong jute! Our jute is actually a plant grown in India and Bangladesh. The fibers are stripped from the plant’s stalk – not the leaves – and then spun. Once woven together, they create a coarse, strong material – the same material, in fact, that burlap is made from.

jute rug

Because jute fiber comes from the stalk, it is softer than sisal fiber, so some people prefer its texture – but being softer does also mean it is the less durable of the two. It does best in low to medium traffic areas, such as bedrooms, formal living and dining rooms, or maybe a home office.

Jute rugs can look a lot like wool, which explains the etymology of the name; jute comes from the ancient Sanskrit word juta, which means “twisted hair.” (We wonder if the Germanic Jutes liked to braid each other’s hair…) Its natural color is brown, but it can be dyed in different colors, as well.

Clean your jute rug by vacuuming it regularly on both sides, and spot cleaning spills immediately. Do not steam clean, as jute rugs are very absorbent.

Sisal   

Sisal is the stiff fiber stripped from the large, fleshy leaves of the Mexican agave plant – yep, the same agave your favorite tequila’s made of! It’s spun into a yarn-like material which can then be dyed or left its natural creamy white.

sisal rug

We’re not sure if it’s because of its close relationship with tequila or not, but sisal is one of the strongest plant fibers available, and as such, is ideal for high traffic areas like hallways and dens. Being so tough and durable, it’s not as soft as jute, but it does offer the added benefit of being so absorbent that it will actually pull humidity from the air on hot summer days, cooling any room it graces. If that’s not a cool party trick, we don’t know what is!

Sisal rugs should also be vacuumed regularly, and any spills should be addressed right away to prevent stains. Steam cleaning is a big no-no for sisal, as well.

Area rugs made of natural fibers can add a uniquely fresh look to any room, and there’s a perfect choice for every spot in your house. Be sure to check back soon for the next part of our guide to natural fibers, when we’ll be discussing seagrass and coir.