Natural Area Rugs
Wall to wall carpet and area rugs are known for potentially hazardous effects not only on the environment, but on human health. The toxic fumes coming from carpets have been known in the past to cause ‘sick building syndrome’. In the 1980’s, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) installed new carpet in one of their buildings and dozens of employees began experiencing side effects. It was suspected that fumes from the latex backing or the adhesive of the new carpet was the cause.
Thus, the initiative for a more environmentally friendly and healthy carpet was launched. Over the years, huge strides have been made in making carpets, rugs and their adhesives much safer for us, and the planet.
Natural fiber rugs stepped up to the plate for flooring choices and began offering new and stylish looks to meet consumer demand for more eco-friendly flooring.
Most Sisal rugs are created in African regions, where extracts from the agave plant are used to create the long fibers that comprise the durability, quality and strength of Sisal rugs. Sisal is known for its soil resistance, and a little known benefit is that it doesn’t build up static electricity. Sisal shouldn’t be used in bathrooms, as it can spot from water, but when used in other rooms, can actually regulate humidity to a certain degree by absorbing some of the moisture in the air and releasing in on drier days.
Although Sisal rugs can be a little rough on the feet, it’s often combined with wool for a richer textured, yet softer, rug choice. Cleaning can be difficult, as too much water or liquid can damage the fibers, so spot cleaning is necessary.
Seagrass is similar to hemp, harvested from naturally growing grasses that are constantly fed water, and can be harvested multiple times per year. They are found normally only in natural colors, as they are moisture resistant and don’t hold dye well. They tend to cost less than sisal rugs and have subtle color variations that hide dirt and stains well.
Like Sisal, they cannot be cleaned with moisture and require vacuuming and a good shake for cleaning. One notable benefit of seagrass, it contains natural tannins that repel dust mites – a real advantage for allergy sufferers.
Jute is the softest of the natural floor covering materials. Grown in China, India and Pakistan, the stalks of the jute plant make yarn for weaving into jute flooring. But with the soft texture comes decreased durability, so it’s best not to use in high traffic areas. Jute can also fade or darken in direct sunlight, and moisture degrades the fiber. It’s better saved for bedrooms, particularly as accent rugs.
With eco-friendly home products in high demand, expect to see natural area and accent rugs protecting our floors, and our environment.