shutterstock_272008109Here at Floor Coverings International of Vancouver, WA and Portland, OR, we realize that there is a vast variety of material and style options to choose from when you’re picking new flooring, and that sometimes that dazzling array of choices can be overwhelming. We’re here to help you learn as much as possible, so you can make the choice that’s best for your needs. As such, we’ve written this post to help you get a more in depth look at one of our eco-friendly flooring options: Sisal carpeting.

History of Sisal

Sisal is a great choice if you value sustainability because it is made from natural, renewable fibers that are sustainably harvested by hand. The Sisal plant (Agave Sisalina) is an Agave plant named for the Spanish port of Sisal in the Yucatan, Mexico, where it was originally believed to have come from. Sisal grows in semi-arid regions such as Africa and South America, and its fibers can grow up to three feet long, before being harvested and woven into rugs. In 1893 Sisal arrived in Tanzania, and in the 1960’s production there reached its peak before Brazil became the leader in Sisal production. Now Brazil is the largest Sisal exporter, producing 125,000 tons of it a year.

Advantages of Sisal

Sisal is an excellent carpeting material even beyond its eco-friendliness. It is one of the most durable natural fibers, stronger than other materials like jute or coir, so it is often used for things like mariner rope and baling twine. The auto industry has started using Sisal as a green replacement for things like asbestos and fiberglass, but it is also used in objects such as mattresses, paper, and dart boards. The molecular structure of Sisal confers certain advantages as well. Because it is so dense, it is naturally sound-absorbing, as well as resistant to fire and static. Since it is a natural material, Sisal is good for people with asthma or allergies. It can be dyed or woven into all sorts of patterns, so you don’t have to worry about it fitting with the rest of your décor. Sisal is a low maintenance carpet option, and can be woven with wool to create specialty carpets that are as soft as wool and as tough as Sisal.

Disadvantages of Sisal

Unfortunately Sisal isn’t perfect. The toughness that makes it such a durable material also means that it is not as soft as other, more plush carpet options. While Sisal is fine to walk on, it is often not ideal for bedrooms or playrooms since it can be uncomfortable to kneel or sit on. Sisal also tends to stain, as the liquid will make any dirt rise to the surface. Any spill on Sisal should be cleaned immediately. Sisal is fairly resistant to fading, but won’t be good in places with high humidity, as it is prone to mold and mildew, being a natural fiber. Keep in mind that Sisal can also get matted if placed in high-traffic areas.

Care of Sisal Carpeting

Sisal is a fairly low maintenance carpet option. Regular vacuuming should be enough to keep it in good shape. If you neglect to vacuum though, the dirt will get deep into the weave, where it will cause wear on the fibers by causing them to rub together. If there is a spill be sure to act quickly, blotting (not rubbing!) the mess and cleaning with soap and water or club soda, before using a hair dryer to dry everything. Be sure to inconspicuously spot test before using a cleaner, as dye will come out of natural fibers easier. We hope that this has been helpful in explaining just one of the many flooring options available from Floor Coverings International of Vancouver, WA and Portland, OR.


Photo: pittawut