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Your Guide to Natural Carpets

Natural carpets are becoming incredibly popular among the design-conscious. Their sheen, texture, eco-credentials and pricing are attracting many homeowners bored with more traditional woollen or synthetic carpets.

There are four major types of natural carpeting to consider, each with their own benefits and drawbacks: sisal, seagrass, jute and coir – all produced from sustainable plants. But before deciding which one suits best, it’s worth considering whether natural carpeting is the right choice in the first place.

Guide to natural carpets

Laying it down

There’s a common misconception that natural carpets are more durable. This isn’t strictly true: they are susceptible to the same problems as more traditional counterparts and need just as much care.

Natural carpets don’t react well to high moisture, which causes them to shrink or mould. Don’t consider laying them in bathrooms or kitchens. If you really want a new carpet in these high moisture rooms, 100% wool is the only way to go.

natural carpet

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As they are more absorbent than normal wool carpets, stains are a problem with natural fibres. Be prepared to have carpet-specific cleaners hidden not far away. That said, you can treat your carpet to prevent staining: for example, Intec protective spray is an extremely durable polymer coating that is applied before delivery. Thankfully, it doesn’t change the colour, texture or flame retardency but it is a specialist process that should be left to professionals. A coating will set you back just under £5 per square metre.

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If you have pets, some of the coarser weaves may not be a sensible choice. Claws can easily dig into larger weaves and pull them up, leaving you with a frayed floor. Fur can integrate into the weave so that you’re stuck with horrible clumps of hair that are impossible to pull out. Moisture from wet paws and fur can also seep into the material, but most damaging to natural fibres is dog and cat urine, which even specialist coating won’t resist.

Sisal

Sisal is the most popular natural carpet material, but it is more expensive than the other options. It’s popular for its rustic looks, but homeowners should remember that it has a very ‘rustic’ feel too: the material is coarse. Young children and those unfamiliar with sisal may find it a rough, uninviting texture.

natural carpet materials

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That said, the coarseness can be great for gripping, making it a suitable material for stairs. It’s also quite durable too, so that it’s perfect for well-trodden areas such as halls. And unlike the other natural fibres, sisal can be dyed in a variety of muted and more pronounced colours and weaved in different patterns. Ultimately, it offers the best all-round diversity and is most people’s go-to choice.

As with all natural carpets, sisal needs to be delivered and laid out on the floor 48 hours before it is fitted. This will give it time to acclimatise so that it won’t shrink or buckle as soon as it’s on the floor.

Seagrass

Seagrass is the most raw, hardest and ‘natural’ of the natural carpets you can choose. It looks the most traditional due to its purposefully ‘flawed’ weave. Seagrass is grown on the banks of rivers in tropical Vietnam and China and it’s fully harvested, dried and spun by hand. Thankfully, this handmade quality doesn’t drive up prices: it’s about half the price of sisal and more naturally moisture-resistant.

seagrass carpet

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Seagrass has a natural, shiny hue that reflects light to brighten up a room. This is good news, because seagrass cannot be dyed, so it’s go natural, or go home. While it is the hardest of the four natural fibres, it’s also the smoothest. Whatever you do, don’t lay seagrass on stairs – it’s hard, waxy fibres don’t like being bent and they are far too slippery.

Jute

Intricate jute is the most elegant of the four, but it’s also the least durable. It’s not a good natural carpet for high traffic areas such as hallways and living rooms. It’s far better to leave jute for studies and bedrooms, where the delicate, silken feel and look are more suited.

jute carpet

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As the softest and smoothest of all the natural carpets, jute is often compared to tweed. Available in some very tight weaves, the material comes in differing shades of light brown. Farmed from the Genus Corchorus plants in India, its eco-credentials are a cut above the others.

Coir

Finally, there’s coir, the cheapest, coarsest choice. Made from the fibre of coconut husks, coir has all the organic, exotic qualities that homeowners want from a natural carpet. It’s reasonable price tag means that it vies with sisal as the most popular fibre out there.

coir carpet

While coir is highly durable, it is not invincible. Those choosing it over normal, woollen carpet should know that high traffic areas can, in reality, become worn patches. The material doesn’t like being moved either; if you have to pull up your coir carpet for any reason, don’t expect it to fit back down without an issue.

There are a few more things to consider: coir stains very easily. Treating it before it is fitted is an absolute must. It is also the coarsest natural carpet of them all. While this gives it a high level of grip good for stairs, it is very rough and children falling over might get the occasional carpet burn. But don’t let all this put you off – coir’s texture is its very selling point and as an economical, durable carpet, it is the perfect choice for many.

If you need help laying a new natural carpet then post a job on Rated People in our Flooring Specialist category to receive quotes from recommended tradesmen in your area.

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12 Comments

  1. Interesting but my main reason for thinking of natural carpet is that moths have colonised my woollen ones. Where do moths stand on sisal and seagrass?

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