Natural fibre carpets are quite popular for homeowners, and are currently trendy for flats and maisonettes. They are comfortable, can endure a lot of usage, and offer a retro style for your home. Unlike most synthetic carpets, the natural woven ones are pleasant for walking barefoot and even laying down on.
Be aware that, while prominent in houses, most office buildings opt for synthetic carpets instead. Apart from wool, most natural materials produce a very delicate carpet or area rug. In turn, this leads to more expensive and more frequent carpet cleaning.
Naturals are quite set aside from artificially made carpets, which are usually low pile and not as soft. However, synthetic fibres also fade slower when exposed to sunlight. They are also more durable to higher temperature, and can be cleaned with steam machines. As you can observe, both types of carpet have their own merits, which we will further lay out below.
Synthetic carpets are:
+ more affordable
+ durable to certain weather conditions
+ moisture resistant (may vary among some types)
- not as comfortable
- not as eco-friendly
Natural carpets are:
+ more comfortable
- more expensive to purchase and maintain
- less resistant to colour fading due to sunlight exposure
+ more aesthetically pleasing
Now that you have a vague idea of the differences between the naturals and artificials, it is time to elaborate what natural fibres exist. There are five most common types of natural woven carpets, each with their unique history and specifics. Keep reading to understand more about them, and how they came to pass as your textile flooring.
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What types of natural flooring materials exist?
What is sisal carpet and where did it come from?
The first type of natural woven carpet we will discuss is sisal, a plant woven material. The flowering plant it is made of is Mexican in origin, and has since spread to other continents. Fibres made of sisal are stiff, which is reflected in the visual appearance of the carpet. It can withstand a lot, but walking on it barefoot is not the most comfortable experience.
Sisal flooring will be very pleasant to look at, and the material is durable to most conditions. Being easy to dye is a double edged sword, as sisal is also easily stained. The major downside of this specific carpet type is that it cannot be wet cleaned. As dry carpet cleaning is not the cheapest, sisal is not the budget choice in carpet fibres.
What is jute, and how is it used to create carpets?
The second kind of natural fibred carpet is jute, more commonly used in rugs rather than carpets. It was and still is mass produced in India and Bangladesh, and used to make bags, mats and flooring. The coarse elements are used in those, whereas the finer parts can be woven to create faux silk.
While the words are synonymous today, jute previously referred to the plant, whereas the fabric was hessian. Jute carpets and rugs have the core features of being anti static and potent sound insulators. The natural oils they are woven together with are also fire retardant to a great extent. However, jute carpets are very delicate, and are best fitted in low traffic rooms.
How can seagrass be turned into carpet flooring?
Number three on our list of carpet and rug fibre types is seagrass, another plant woven carpet. Seagrass carpets are made out of the plants that live under seawater, as the name suggests. It is commonly extracted in East and South-East Asian countries.
Seagrass can be used to make very soft, yet durable carpet fibres. Its environment makes the material extremely water resistant, and stain resistant by extension. This also means that it is very hard to dye, which will restrict your options in terms of colour.
What is coir, and how does it become carpet flooring?
Furthermore, we are up to number four, which is the fabric known as coir. It is a material which is gathered off the shell of coconuts, and used to make a variety of items. First found in Island Southeast Asia, the coconut has spread to other islands and Asian countries since, and so has the material. Coir comes in two colours, brown and white, depending on the coconut maturity when it was harvested.
When used to create carpeting, commonly coir is blended together with sisal. However, the material is sturdy enough on its own, and able to withstand sunlight and heat. It is also affordable compared to the other natural fibres, and resists moisture and mould.
How good are woollen carpets compared to other natural fibres?
The fifth and final type of natural carpet is woollen, by far the most popular type. Woollen carpet fibres are the jack of all trades among the naturals, being generally good in every category. Wool has been used to make flooring for thousands of years, and it is still used today. It is the most popular type of alternative flooring for living rooms and high traffic areas.
Wool carpet is usually split into two types, known professionally as pure wool and mixed wool. Pure wool is durable and elastic, and comes in a variety of colours. Mixed wool can be dyed into another colour, and may have other properties based on the other material. If you choose wool, prepare to regularly spray it against moths and other bugs.
For sisal, coir, seagrass or hessian carpet, water-based cleaning methods are ill advised. You may clean wool with water, but care must be taken to avoid high temperatures. The simple reason is that wool shrinks when treated with water above certain degrees. What follows is some useful dos and don'ts on how to clean your floor coverings.
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How to clean natural carpet fibres, and how not to clean them?
The basics of having a clean natural carpet are the same as the basics for clean synthetic carpet. Hoover the fibres at least twice a week, so as to remove dust mites and dirt from them. Blot every spillage as soon as it happens, using white paper or cloth towels. If you let spills settle, they become almost impossible to remove from the carpet.
For spillages that also have firm particles, or chunks, a spoon will help you take them out. Please do not use a knife (yes, even a butter knife), as you may damage the delicate plant fibres. Otherwise, just scoop them up with paper towels, and blot the liquid normally. Take care to never scrub your carpet or rug, as this may ingrain the dirt deeper into the fibres.
Wet shampoo products and other highly liquid detergents are not advisory for use on natural fibres. Sisal, for example, may outright tear or split when exposed to moisture and left to dry. Always open windows and use heating or humidity absorbers when you spill something on natural carpets.
As none of the naturals, bar wool, are suitable for water-based cleaning methods, the solution is dry cleaning. Read more about this environmentally friendly low moisture cleaning method below:
What is carpet dry cleaning?
Dry cleaning is a carpet cleaning method which involves a minimal amount of moisture. It is often performed with powder or granule cleaning detergents, and can involve a rotating disc machine. The basis of dry cleaning is that the moisture level does not exceed 10%, leaving the carpet dry after the cleaning.
A brief summary of how carpet dry cleaning is performed:
- the carpet is hoovered with a powerful vacuum cleaner
- the dry cleaning compounds are sprinkled on the surface
- a contra rotating brush machine rubs them into the fibres
- the chemicals are hoovered out, and the cleaning concludes
If you have any questions on how to clean your carpets, always ask the manufacturer first. Certain manufacturers and certain carpets have different cleaning requirements which must be adhered to. For free advice and additional information, you can always contact ProLux professionals.