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Natural Fibers At Work: An Ecologically Sound Solution

Posted by Ellen Strickland on

Natural fiber floor covering includes fibers such as sisal, coir, seagrass, rush, abaca, hemp, raffia, cotton, and jute. Some of these have become quite popular in recent times, making a transition from eccentric to mainstream. But they have been in use for centuries as flooring material. They are not only from natural materials but sustainable and affordable resources as well. As area rugs and mats they provide neutral tones, texture, and a practical simplicity to a renovation project.

Seagrass is one of the smoothest of the available fibers and considered the most stain resistant. Consequently it will not take dye and is available only in neutral colors with accents of other fibers in dyed colors. Jute, on the other hand, is softer and can be dyed with many natural pigments, but cannot withstand a high degree of wear. Sisal, which has been traditionally used in the production of rope and twine and comes from the leaves of the agave plant, rates between the other two for durability and is dyed in a variety of shades and patterns.

Natural fiber coverings are not as resilient as synthetic fiber carpet, but using an underlay improves their performance. Because they are from plant fiber, natural floor coverings are susceptible to mold or rot when used in extremely damp or humid areas such as bathrooms or kitchens. Flat weave mats of raffia, banana fiber or abaca are now designed to withstand more traffic, and some mats, such as seagrass are considered anti-static. Bright sunshine will cause some fading over time. For regular maintenance it is best to vacuum or brush the natural floor coverings, not wash or shampoo them. In all, they are an ecologically sound solution for complementing many looks and styles.

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