Sisal carpets are a good choice for those looking at sustainable flooring options, both in the home and office or other commercial settings.
What is Sisal?
Sisal is a natural fibre extracted from the leaves of the Agave Sisalana, a succulent plant, which grows in dry, desert climates such as the plains of Mexico and other parts of the New World. Since sisal has grown in popularity for use in a variety of products, dedicated sisal farms have been established, especially in Africa and Brazil. Sisal is truly an eco-friendly option as not only is it a sustainable resource but it is also grown with minimal – if any – pesticides and herbicides, thus further reducing damage to the environment.
The fibres are from the leaves can be used in their coarse, raw state – which is more inflexible – or blended with other fibres, such as wool, to produce a softer material. Much of the raw, coarser fibres are used in the cordage industry, to make ropes and twine as sisal has in incredible durability and strength as well as the ability to stretch. In particular, its resistance to deterioration in seawater makes it ideal for use in ropes and twines for the marine industry. It is also widely used in agriculture and general industrial use. The finer, higher-grade fibre is spun into yarns and used in to provide an eco-friendly alternative to traditional carpets.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Sisal
Not only is sisal sustainable and 100% biodegradable, it carries many other advantages as well. It is extremely hard-wearing and strong – one of the toughest in the natural plant fibre flooring range – and is also anti-static, due to its natural fibres helping to control the humidity in the atmosphere. This is a great bonus for any office settings with computers and also means that the flooring is less likely to attract dirt.
Sisal also provides a natural sound insulation and are generally better for those prone to allergies and asthmatic reactions. As it is prized for its natural look, it does not usually incorporate any artificial colours or chemicals, which may then release toxic gases into your home environment. This also means that there is less worry of colours fading in the sunlight – the subtle colour changes only serve to make the sisal more attractive. On the other hand, unlike other natural fibres, sisal can actually be dyed if you wish and it is available in a wide range of colours and styles.
Like many other natural floor coverings, sisal is not especially comfortable to sit on – however, it is very pleasant to walk on and provides a natural “massage” for the soles of your feet. Another drawback is that sisal cannot be used outdoors, not is it recommended in areas that are frequently wet, such as kitchens and bathrooms. It is also not a cheap flooring option.
Sisal as Flooring
Sisal is a popular choice as flooring, especially for those who want an eco-friendly alternative. It is no only hard-wearing and colourfast but also only requires regular vacuuming to maintain its natural beauty. For those that find pure sisal too coarse, it can be blended with wool to create a floor covering that has the softness of wool but the durability of sisal.
While it can be installed wall-to-wall, it is probably not a good idea to install it in areas which are prone to high moisture, as the fibres can expand or shrink when wet. It may also not be the best choice for areas of very high traffic, such as main entrance-ways, as it has been known to mat in such circumstances. If you are installing sisal carpet, make sure you look for expert fitters who are experienced in dealing with natural fibre flooring.
In fact, many choose not to install it wall-to-wall but instead opt for sisal area rugs which are laid over tile or wood flooring. In this case, it is a good idea to include a layer of padding underneath the sisal rug, although make sure you look for those made with recycled materials to maintain the eco-friendly status.
Caring for Sisal
One of the great attractions of sisal is that it requires very little care. Just regular vacuuming will suffice and in fact, steam cleaning is not recommended as it is inadvisable to introduce any moisture to the fibres. Excessive moisture can damage the fibres and also lead to mould and mildew, especially if the sisal was processed wrongly during manufacturing. This can sometimes be a problem with natural products and the improper drying and storage can lead to the growth of black mould. However, with experienced suppliers, it should not be a general problem.
Sisal is generally stain-resistant; however, if you do happen to have a spill, rinse with some club soda, blot dry and then blast the are with hot air from a hairdryer or use a strong fan to dry the area. If you must tackle a stain, try to use dry cleaning powder or seek the manufacturer’s advice.
By choosing sisal carpets and rugs, you are not only opting for natural fibres which provide a healthier environment for you and your family – but you are also choosing a sustainable flooring option which promotes greater environmental responsibility.