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Sisal and Jute Rugs: What’s the difference?

Advantages of jute and sisal area rugs, and where to find the best and more affordable ones

Jute and sisal rugs - what's the difference? Ecofriendly carpets

Sisal and jute are natural fiber rugs that have been rapidly growing in popularity.  They look very similar, so many confuse them. While they have a similar appearance, the two differ when it comes to texture, feel, durability and softness.  They are natural and come in neutral shades, so they go with most color schemes and home decor styles.


sisal and jute area rugs - what's the differenceJute and sisal rugs are ecofriendly natural fibers so they are sustainable and biodegradable.  They are super durable and of course stylish – perfect for modern, farmhouse and minimalist decor.  Their cozy look and feel reminds me of a comfy wool sweater.


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What is sisal?

agave plants to be harvested for sisal area rugsSisal is a stiff fiber constructed from Mexican agave leaves (yes, the same source for tequila).  The leaves are spun into a yarn-like material.  Sisal is often used for rope and twine, so it’s very durable (but not that soft).  They are used for cat scratching posts.  The natural hue is a creamy white to wheat color which can then be dyed.


sisal rug patterns - basket weave, boucle, herringboneTypically most sisals are made in cream, wheat, beige and greige colors, but you will occasionally see some colors, too.  The most popular shades are light, natural and muted.  They are woven together into carpets and are typically bound by a cotton canvas fiber.  Sisal dyes a bit better than jute, so you tend to see a wider range of colors.


Sisal is one of the strongest natural fibers, so sisal rugs hold up well and can be used in high traffic areas such as entryways, steps and hallways.  Over time, from foot traffic, they soften a bit, but they are still rough under foot.


sisal rug with brown canvas borderSisal are rugs are coarse. So they are not the best choice if you plan on sitting on the floors or have young kids that may crawl around on them.  They are a bit rough for bare feet and knees, as well as pet paws.


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woven sisal area rug with diamond pattern and cotton borderThese carpets and rugs absorb moisture, so you should avoid using them in areas that tend to get wet such as kitchens and bathrooms.


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Never place these directly on top of hardwood floors (or other flooring surfaces) as they a coarse and can scratch the floors underneath (and yes, we’ve seen this happen to some customers).


best area rug pad for sisal and jute rugsMost come with an attached latex underlay, and that helps, but it’s not always enough, and over time and with foot traffic, the fibers can wear through.  So, I always think it’s better and safer to use an area rug pad.  In addition to protecting your precious hardwood floors, these area rug pads will help your sisal rugs last longer and fell a bit softer.


This is the area rug pad I recommend if you have hardwood floors.  This one is made from felt, so it’s a natural fiber.  You can read more about it here.


Sisal is most often grown in Mexico, Central America, South America and Eastern Africa.  You can learn more about the sisal harvesting and manufacturing in this video:

When it comes to selecting the best sisal rug you’ll want to consider the best texture and color for your area.  This will differ a bit based on room use and decor for the area.  Cream, sand and wheat colors are the most popular, but choose what goes best with your decor and taste preferences.


sisal rugs with patternsWhen choosing a color, consider where the rug will be placed.  If it’s in an entryway that may get dirtier, consider a darker color


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The most popular texture styles are herringbone, basket weave, tiger eye, bouclé.  The herringbone or zig zag pattern is the flattest and most even option.  Tiger eye is chunkier and more uneven.  it’s the thickest of the three. Bouclé is more of a weave pattern and it’s coarser.


This video from a decor is very helpful when you’re weighing your options on patterns:

How do you pronounce sisal?

This definitely seems to be a point of confusion, and I hear sisal mispronounced all the time – both by homeowners and decorators.  The “i” in sisal is a long “i.”  You can listen to it in below video.


What is jute?

what is a jute rug? Jute with herringbone patternJute is made from the stalks of Jute plants (Jute cochorus that are mainly grown in Bangladesh and India.  It’s a flowery plant that is tall and spindly.  This is the same fiber used to make burlap.

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They have a naturally light brown hue that can also be dyed into different colors.  The colors seem to be more earthy and muted so they look natural.


jute area rug - natural fiber this is softUnlike Sisal, Jute is actually soft and you can even put your bare feet on them. Since jute comes from the plant’s stalk rather than its leaves, it’s softer and more flexible. Jute area really have a cozy feel. They are more comfy for kids, adults and pets.


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Jute rugs work well in dining rooms, family rooms and bedrooms.  The chunky texture works especially on hardwood floors, especially darker hardwoods where the is a deeper contrast in color.  The natural variations of shades in the fibers means that once they are woven together, each rug is distinctively unique.


light cream chunky jute carpethat’s interesting about jute is that it has a perfectly imperfect texture.  It’s thicker, chunkier and way softer than sisal.  Because of this, it gives you a more relaxed and down to earth vibe.  They also work especially well in a beach house as well as rustic wood cabins.


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Jute is grown and harvested in a completely different part of the world than where Sisal is grown.  Once it’s ready for harvesting, the stalks are cut, bundled and soaked in water for a few weeks.  Check out this quick video to see how it’s done.


What’s the difference between sisal and jute rugs?

jute area rugs - softer for your feetWhile both sisal and jute are natural and organic products and they look somewhat similar, they are truly different in terms of softness, texture, durability and price.  Sisal is made from dried agave leaves, typically grown in arid climates such as Mexico, central and South America and eastern Africa.  Sisal tends to be rather coarse and highly durable.


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Jute,, on the other hand, is grown in another part of world – Bangladesh and India and grows well in monsoon climates.  Jute is made from the plants’ stalks and is soft.  Jute rugs soft, chunky and comfy.


You would use jute in areas where you would often walk barefoot of with socks or play and sit around in such as family rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms.  And, you would typically use sisal in heavy traffic areas such as entryways, halls and steps where durability is important and comfort is not an issue.


My favorite sisal and jute area rugs (and jute sisal blends)

Here are some of top choices for jute and sisal area rugs. If you want more info on any of these (e.g. size, price, etc.), just click on the pictures.  So also can buy them online if you have an interest.


Where to buy sisal and jute rugs online

Best places to buy sisal and jute rugsHere are the best places to shop for jute and sisal area rugs. When you shop online, you have a much wider range of textures and styles as well as color.  And, you have many more styles available.


Best area rug pad for jute and sisal rugs

best area rug pad for sisal and jute rugsMost sisal and jute rugs already come with an attached latex underlay, and that helps.  But often, it’s not always enough.  Over time and with continued foot traffic, the fibers can wear through and scratch your hardwood floors.


So, I always think it’s better and safer to use an area rug pad.  In addition to protecting your precious hardwood floors, these area rug pads will help your jute and sisal area rugs last longer and fell a bit softer.  In addition, area rug pad will provide a bit more insulation and absorb sound more.


This is the area rug pad I recommend if you have hardwood floors.  This one is made from felt, so it’s a natural fiber.  You can read more about it here.


Frequently asked questions for sisal and jute rugs

Is sisal soft?

No. In fact, it’s rather coarse.  It’s a very durable fiber, so it’s great for high traffic areas such as entryways, steps and hallways – places where you typically would wear shoes.  It’s not a great option for places you may want to go barefoot (or with just socks) or where little kids may crawl or play on the floor.  it can also work work for more formal areas like living rooms.


Is jute soft?

Yes, jute is a soft a comfortable rug.  You can easily put your bare feet on jute area rugs as well as sit and crawl on them. They are much better for pets than sisal which can be abrasive on their cute paws.

jute and sisal rugs

sisal rugs


How to clean and maintain jute and sisal area rugs

Regularly vacuum sisal and jute rugs at least once a week.  Be sure to remove dirt and grit which can act as an abrasive and wear your rugs down.  When you vacuum, be sure to remove the beater bar. Blot spills right away as these fibers can quickly absorb water and become misshapen.


You may also want to consider apply Intec (which is a stain inhibitor) or something similar and causes liquids to bead up rather than be absorbed into the fibers.


What are the advantages of jutes and sisals compared to synthetic carpets.

Most people prefer jute and sisal over synthetic carpets just based on their looks and ecofriendly nature.  However, you’ll be happy to know that these natural fiber carpets are also much more durable and are usually less expensive as well.


Both sisal and jute are low maintenance as they don’t absorb dirt.  Often a good shake of the carpet is enough to remove the dirt.


Is sisal carpet expensive?

Surprisingly, sisal carpets and rugs are a great value and significantly less expensive than other natural fiber rugs, such as wool or wool blends.  Jute rugs also tend to be less expensive.  And, this may surprise you, but many sisal, jute and sisal jute rugs are less expensive than nylon carpets.


Which is less expensive – jute or sisal?

Generally, all things being equal, jute is usually less expensive than sisal.  But, sisal is more durable and lasts longer.  Jute tends to be more practical if you like to take your shoes off while you’re hom.


Sisal carpets and sisal area rugs.

Sisal can be used for either carpeting or area rugs, and we have certainly installed them both ways.  Because sisal is so durable, it’s a great option to use for carpet runners as well (along with a seamed border so it won’t unravel).


One small watch out for sisal carpeting is that it doesn’t seam well (due to construction of the fibers). Sisal is typically manufactured in 13’2″ rolls (4 meters), and if room is wider than this on both dimensions, you would not want to use this for carpeting.


In these cases, you can either construct and customize a large area rug (up to a bit over 13’2″ wide….when you include a wider border), or choose an alternative fiber (e.g. wool) that is easier to seam and won’t unravel over time.

gray sisal jute area rug

sisal rugs

Are sisal rugs waterproof?  How about jute rugs?

No, neither sisal nor jute are waterproof. They do tend to absorb moisture (which is fine), so over time, their shape may slightly differ.  Because they aren’t waterproof, avoid putting them in areas prone to water such as kitchens and bathrooms (as well as outdoor areas).  If you’re looking for an natural fiber entry mat for outside, try seagrass.



Best vacuum for sisal and jute rugs and carpets

Because sisal and jute fibers are harder than most synthetic fibers, dirt isn’t able to penetrate or cling to them. Instead, the dirt rests loosely on the weave and can be easily removed with a vacuum. Regular and frequent vacuuming is all you need to clean them.  Frequent and regular vacuuming will increase carpet life by preventing soil build-up.  Dirt and grit can become abrasive and cause damage to the fibers.


But, you want a strong suction-only vacuum.  If you don’t have a suction-only vacuum, make sure to turn off any beater bar settings when cleaning your rug. The friction from the brushing of the beater bar can erode and damage the natural fibers and its not effective due to the weave. And, the beater bar may also flatten your rug and cause it to look worn.


The strong suction of the vacuum pulls out the fine dirt which has accumulated between the fibers and on the underlay.  For the best results, especially patterned sisal rugs, vacuum from different directions and cover each area multiple times. This will allow the vacuum to reach the dirt from all angles for a better cleaning.


Finally, be careful when vacuuming rugs with bindings. Don’t let the vacuum sit on top of the binding or get the suction too close to the corners. This could loosen and damage the binding, which will in turn loosen the rug’s weave and cause it to fray more quickly.


How do you treat stains and pet accidents on sisal and jute?

You want to take care of stains and spills immediately. This is true with almost all carpets and flooring, but it’s especially true among these natural woven carpets as they absorb liquids quickly.  Blot the area as soon as possible with clean, un-dyed paper towels or cloths, or scraped up with a dull knife or nail file.


If you need to (pending on the type of spill or accident), brush or sponge the discolor area with small amounts of detergent or carpet shampoo and lukewarm water.  (Note: any cleaner should have a neutral pH factor.  Do not saturate or soak.  Blot with un-dyed paper or cloth.  Repeat as necessary.  You want to allow the water or moisture to sit, so dry the area quickly, ideally with a hair dryer.


What is seagrass and how is it different than sisal?

seagrass area rug woven with cotton borderSeagrass is grown in salt water marshes, so it’s very non-porous and water resistant.  It has a light sheen that starts out with a light green tinge that fades into Khaki.  It’s usually backed with latex and bound with a cotton canvas.  This helps it stay put and reduces scratches on the flooring.


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Seagrasses are flowering plants which grow in marine environments. There are 60 species of seagrass that grow entirely under water. They evolved from terrestrial plants which migrated back into the ocean about 75-100 million years ago.


Despite their name, seagrasses are not grasses at all, as they do flower. Like land plants, seagrass produce oxygen. Because they use the sunlight for photosynthesis, they are limited by water depth and to places that have clear(ish) water.  Many are grown along Florida’s coastline (especially in the Keys) and along the Gulf of Mexico. They tend to do better in more sheltered areas.


Advantages of seagrass:

  • Stain resistant and more durable
  • Feels better on your feet than sisal
  • Great choice for kitchens and bathrooms (can hold up to the water and moisture
  • Fast growing and sustainable


Disadvantages of seagrass rugs

  • Doesn’t take dye well, so color selection is rather limited


Hemp area rugs

Hemp has been used in textiles for thousands of years.  Like seagrass, hemp is naturally durable (but softer).  Hemp is naturally a coppery brown, similar to what you can see in the second picture below.


Hemp can also be dyed and woven into intricate patterns, as you can see below (click on any of the pictures to see up close and more details).

You can find (and buy) hemp area rugs here.


Final thoughts on sisal and jute rugs

Jute and sisal are great options for area rugs, both because they are natural fibers that are renewable and because they are super stylish.  They are great options when you want some neutral decor and don’t want your area rug to over power the room.  Thankfully, they are also very practical and easy to maintain.


If you’re looking for a softer carpet for bedrooms, playrooms, or family space, I’d recommend jute. If you need a more durable rug for heavy traffic areas such as entries and steps, sisal is usually the better choice.


Related area rug articles:


Sisal and Jute Rugs: What’s the difference?

Sisal and Jute Rugs: What's the difference?
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Sisal and Jute Rugs: What's the difference?
Advantages of jute and sisal area rugs, and where to find the best and more affordable natural fiber rugs. Differences among sisal and jute.
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The Flooring Girl
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6 thoughts on “Sisal and Jute Rugs: What’s the difference?”

  1. I really love the idea of the soft feel of jute, but would prefer more color options that you get with sisal rugs. Are there any other alternatives?

  2. Love the patterns you display for both sisal and jute carpets, but they are almost all in the warm tone range. I’m guessing this is due to their natural fibers. Can you find selections that have a cooler palette?

  3. In the article – which is absolutely fantastic – you mention the fact that without proper padding sisal carpets can scratch wood surfaces. What about ceramic tile or tumbled marble? Let’s say you want to put a sisal area rug in your kitchen which is tiled. Could this be problematic for the tile?

    1. Margo – Thanks, so much. I would not expect sisal to be much of an issue for ceramic and porcelain tiles, but it may be for marbles which are softer and how things more. Nonetheless, I would still use a carpet pad on all stone as it makes the carpet softer and helps it last longer.

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