Have some sisal rugs, or interested in purchasing any, but don’t know how to clean them? You’re in luck, as we’re going to tell you all about this sturdy material and why it’s a great choice for your floor. As anything though, it has its flaws, so keep reading to find out…
What is sisal, what is it used for, and how is it made?
To most people, sisal is what all the non-woollen natural rugs and carpets are made of, but that’s not the truth. In reality, sisal refers to plant woven fibres extracted from a certain plant that grows in Asia, Africa, Central and South America. The pointy leaves are normally what ropes are made of, but they’re present in bags, clothes, shoes, rugs and even paper.
Of course, there is synthetic sisal as well, but it’s not what comes to mind when you think of sisal. Natural sisal is the real deal (awful pun, I know), and you can tell them apart by simply placing your bare foot on the rug in question. Synthetic sisal is much softer compared to natural woven sisal, which is coarse and seemingly unbending. We mean it – this material is almost timeless when compared to other naturals, as it’s very durable and can serve you a long time with proper care.
Another feature of sisal is that it’s inherently resistant to dust and abrasion. That’s because the fibres, while stiff, allow for sand and other small dirt to pass through, instead of holding it within where it could cause wear and tear. Sisal is also anti-static, and dust that falls on it just sits there as opposed to clinging to the fibres.
In terms of the other natural fibres commonly lumped in this umbrella term, there’s three more of them. We will not be discussing wool, as most people know wool and sisal’s only thing in common is that they’re both natural. Furthermore, wool is more commonly present in fitted carpets rather than rugs. Anyway, the other types of natural materials used to make rugs are:
In this article, we’ll focus primarily on sisal itself, as we have a different dedicated blog entry on the subject of cleaning them all. However, we mentioned the rest, so let’s briefly go over each of them, shall we?
Seagrass is a very self-explanatory name, as the plants it’s made of live under sea water. It tends to be produced in East Asia, as that’s where you’ll find the biggest seagrass colonies. Seagrass rugs are very soft and very sturdy, and are inherently resistant to water and stains. This is also a downside if you wanted your rug in a particular colour, as seagrass is resistant to dye as well.
Coir is the fibre you can commonly find in rugs, doormats, brushes and even mattresses. It is also known as coconut fibre, as it’s extracted from the shell of the palm-grown fruit. More correctly, it’s taken from the area between the outer and inner husks of the coconut. Coir makes an affordable rug that resists water and mould, and can be pure or blended with sisal.
Jute fabric hails from Central Asia, and is found not just in rugs, but in bags and door mats, too. It is a soft and tender material which is naturally fire-proof, due to being woven with fire retardant oils. On another note, it is fantastic at noise insulation and inherently anti-static. Its downside is that by far, it is the most delicate rug material, and not suited to high traffic areas like stairs or hallways.
Now that you know what is (and isn’t) sisal, let’s get to the real reason you clicked this article:
How to clean a sisal rug?
In terms of regular maintenance, you’ll find sisal rugs need the smallest amount compared to silk, wool or even some synthetics. All you really need to do is the usual hoovering once a week, on either side and underneath where it normally lies. However, if your hoover has a beater brush, we suggest setting it to the highest possible vertical altitude, or removing it altogether for your sisal rug’s safety.
Alternatively, if you do not enjoy hoovering as much as you do beating, you can hang up the rug on a clothesline and give it a few dozen whacks. This will knock almost all the dust and dirt out, so long as you do it on both sides. You’ll still need to hoover the fallen dust away, but at least you get to take some stress out on your rug, right? In all seriousness, however sturdy sisal may be, it’s a rug at the end of the day – try not to overdo the beating part.
Natural sisals tend to shed, which is completely normal, and all the evidence of this is some extra fine dust appearing under it. Another thing natural sisal fibres are prone to do is sprout, which is also normal, since it’s a plant weave after all. Don’t worry about the sprouts, as you can clip them with scissors without damaging the fibres. We don’t advise hoovering the rug before you remove the sprouts, especially if your vacuum cleaner is heavy-duty.
A good thing to do with all your sisal rugs is take them out in the sunlight at least once a week. This does wonders to disinfect the rug from any germs or bacteria, and even mould spores (if it got wet and didn’t dry proper). Don’t forget however that sisal is a natural fibre, and as such fades in the sun faster than synthetics do. Therefore, it is important to not put your darker rugs in a place with abundant sunlight.
And that about wraps up our tips on how to generally care for your sisal woven rugs. But what should you do if stains occur? It’s tricky, so keep reading to figure out:
How do you spot clean a sisal rug?
Let’s derail the current train of thoughts – before you try spot cleaning your sisal rug, you ought to know something very important. Sisal, synthetic or natural, cannot be cleaned with water-based methods at all. You see, the material very easily stains from water, due to the fibres being weak to moisture. And what is susceptible to water stains is also prone to other problems such as mould growth. It is therefore ill advised to place these rugs in areas where moisture is more likely to accumulate, such as the entrance.
In terms of professional cleaning, it’s restricted as well. Steam cleaning and similar methods go right out the window when you have a spillage on your sisal rug. With that said, we aren’t saying the rugs aren’t meant to be wet at all, as you can still (albeit carefully) spot clean a spillage with soapy water. In this case, use a minimal amount, and once you’re done, immediately place the rug in a well aired and heated area. In some corners of the internet, they advise using a hair dryer, but we’re skeptical. It’s not a good idea to apply direct heat on fabric materials, especially natural fibres.
If you’ve read our article on tough stains, you know that stains should be cleaned as soon as you see them. The longer you let a stain sit, the lower the chances of getting it out – and this is especially true for sisal. Before you do anything, please check if your rug has a specific cleaning label, and follow the instructions on it. If there are none, check the website you bought it from to see if the manufacturer has any information on how it should be cleaned.
When a stain happens, grab a dry cloth or paper towel, and make sure it’s colour fast. You don’t want the colour bleeding, as those stains are almost impossible to restore. What you do want is to get rid of the moisture as soon as possible, then leave the rug to air out in sunlight. Remember to blot instead of scrub, and work your way from the edges to the centre – not the other way around.
Although you can take care of most stains without water, you will need to use it on a few particular ones. Examples include food, grease, drinks, shoe marks, bodily fluids and makeup.
In this scenario, prepare a spray bottle filled with lukewarm water and either dish soap or white vinegar. Blot the spillage before you attempt to treat it with the home remedy solution. Lightly spray the stain, let it sit for about 30 seconds, then blot again and let the rug air dry in the sun. If you don’t have ample daylight, you can use a hair dryer, but as mentioned before, do not overdo it.
Can sisal rugs be dry cleaned?
Technically, yes – but we’re saying technically, as it’s quite tricky to actually use dry cleaning products on sisal rugs. Remember when we told you the material doesn’t hold onto dust and fine particles? Well, this also affects powder-based dry cleaning products (which is most dry cleaning products in general). However, just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s impossible, right?
Begin as usual – blot the spills with a dry colour fast cloth or paper towel. If there are any chunks (food spillage, etc.), scoop them up with a spoon (no knives please!) before you start blotting. Then, apply either salt or baking soda to the stain, letting it soak up what it can for a few minutes. Once enough time passes, just hoover it out and let the rug air dry.
A professional dry cleaning product appropriate for sisal rugs is Prochem Fiberdri. If you contact a dry cleaning specialist, odds are this is what they will use on your rug, together with a specialised machine to rub it deeper inside. The powder is completely safe for natural fibres, and only needs to be hoovered out of the rug after it has achieved its work. No water is required to apply or remove this eco-friendly powder!
Is sisal suitable for extraction cleaning?
If you use hot water extraction (commonly referred to as steam cleaning), the answer would be a firm no, as it’s a water-based method. Sisal and water mix just about as much as blood and water do, remember? However, if you use an extraction machine to spray in pure cleaning solution, and then remove it using the same machine, it’s possible. In fact, this is how professionals spot clean sisal rugs from any spillages or marks.
When choosing products for this, you can’t go wrong with ones that are certified wool safe. As wool is also a natural material, the products are definitely safe for other naturals too. Just remember that contact time for all cleaning solutions needs to be less than the instruction label says, due to stains possibly forming on the sisal rug.
In conclusion, we hope this article was of great assistance to all sisal owners. The material is luxury and timeless with proper care, so we hope our advice helps you enjoy yours for many years to come!