A Practical Guide to Natural Fiber Rugs

Although the most practical solution for homes with kids, pets and allergies is go without any floor covering, the right rug can enhance and beautify any home–especially natural fiber rugs.

Here are some ideas on choosing the right one for your home!

Finding the right rug for your home can be tough.

Not only are there so many styles and options to choose from: oriental, vintage, wool, nylon, or those made with natural fibers….

They also need to be durable–especially if you’ve got a household full of kids (3 boys), enjoy entertaining (1-2x monthly) and own a dog (Havanese 3 years old).

In addition, many of us prefer rugs that are allergy proof not to mention, easy to clean and maintain. 

But finding one that fulfills all those requirements isn’t so easy because life happens.

In my case… look at what happened to my jute rug recently…

WARNING: If you’ve never seen dog vomit on carpet, viewer discretion is advised ):

That’s baking soda on top of the mess by the way. Although they say “a picture’s worth a thousand words”, words can’t describe how offensive this was–yuck, yuck and triple yuck!

This incident not only made me want to:

#1. Vomit

#2.  Live without rugs


#3. Get rid of my dog

Thank goodness I didn’t have to do any of those things, because the mess got cleaned up almost as if it never happened.

Can you believe this is the same family room rug AFTER the clean up???

Amazing, right? (I’ll explain how I was able to clean that up later in this post…)

Although the whole incident made me long for those heated Korean ondol floors, I still couldn’t let go of my attachment to natural fiber rugs.

Image from Studio McGee

Besides looking fabulous, natural fiber rugs have all sorts of advantages over other types of rugs (or even bare floors) that makes them ideal for homes with young kids, allergies and even dogs.

The Many Benefits of Natural Fiber Rugs

Going Natural Makes Everything Else Stand Out

Although vintage or oriental rugs have had their share of popularity over the years, natural fiber rugs are making a comeback due to their versatility and easy style.

Take a look at how this giant jute rug balances out the variety of upholstered furniture pieces in this room.

Image from Studio McGee

Although the overall style of this room is Southern ranch–with its caramel leather sofa (check out the cow hide ottomans!) and denim couch along with the wooden beams going across the ceiling– the jute rug adds a nice relief to the look , making it seem almost modern coastal.

Here’s another example of how a natural fiber rug can make an otherwise muted looking master bedroom look like a relaxing beach front oasis:

How soothing is that?

This sisal rug adds just the right amount of casual vibe to an otherwise, refined space.

In fact, the monochromatic nature of most natural fiber rugs, makes it THE most ideal rug for virtually every type of space, style or design.

Natural Fiber Rugs Are A Healthier Choice for Homes

Not only do natural fiber rugs look great in pretty much every room in the house, they’re also better for your health.

The ever popular Olefin rugs these days are made with polypropylene–yes, a byproduct of petroleum.

Although they’re much more stain resistant, and cheaper than most natural fiber rugs, they also give off VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) that may cause problems like headaches, allergies, dizziness or nausea.

I remember the time I lifted one of those cheap nylon rugs off of my kid’s playroom floor and saw a thick cloud of dust kick up. That made my dog vomit incident pale in comparison.

Apparently, the latex they use on the bottom of these type of rugs can decompose over time. Which in turn, not only attracts mold but allow whatever other toxins to escape into the air.

In my opinion, this is a far more serious health hazard than dog vomit (i.e. Cancer anyone?).

This is why I recommend that if you get a polypropylene rug, get one that’s for indoor/outdoors and keep them outside– away from all enclosed areas.

Which Natural Fiber Rug Is Right For You?

The key to choosing the right natural area rugs for your home is in matching up the right type of rug with the right space throughout your home.

Here’s a break down of each natural fiber rug and which areas I’d recommend them for and why.

Sea Grass and Sisal:

Good For: high traffic areas like stairways, entry, hallway etc.

Safavieh Natural Sea Grass runner

Sea Grass Rugs:

Because of their tough texture as well as their weave, sea grass rugs work well in any area of your home that gets a lot of foot traffic.

Not only are they tough on dirt, dust, and grime, they won’t fade as quickly as many other types of natural rugs like jute.  The only caveat to this is that sea grass is not very good at repelling water (kind of ironic, don’t you think?).

They can also feel pretty rough on your bare feet.

This is why I use them only in small doses throughout the house.

Use a small rug to create zones

Not only do their neutral colors coordinate well with all types of furniture, their texture and natural color provide the right amount visual separation from space to space without making it seem too choppy or overdone.

Sisal Rugs:

Color bound natural sisal rug from Pottery Barn

Another great option besides sea grass for high traffic areas are sisal rugs.

The fiber for sisal rugs comes from the Agave plant and has a much tighter weave than the sea grass rugs.  Therefore they feel much softer underfoot than sea grass.

This was why I chose them to use as runners for my stairway.

DIY sisal runners

My crafty husband even sewed up a matching entry rug with the remnant.

Our dog eagerly awaiting newcomers.

Besides the fact that they lay flat and therefore make great entry rugs, sisal rugs hide most dust and dirt that gets trekked in from outside.

Unfortunately, when it comes to repelling water stains, sisal rugs don’t do so well.

See what a bit of water did to the sisal rug in my living room.

Small but very noticeable stains that won’t go away, no matter what I’ve tried.

This is why I’d suggest you think twice before using sisal in your living room or dining room where there’s more of a chance for spills.

Also, be sure to get a matching rug pad to use underneath as it’s not very resilient and won’t spring back up like wool or even sea grass.

Cotton/Chenile Rugs:

Good for:  low traffic areas: like a nursery, a bedroom, or sun room

If you prefer a rug that’s more plush than sea grass or sisal, but fear the dreaded rug shed that most wool rugs are notorious for, a tightly woven cotton rug may be a good choice for you.

I had something like this in my living room which I loved.

Jute Chenille Herringbone Rug from West Elm

Although this wasn’t as durable as my sisal or sea grass rug, it was so much softer not to mention more insulating–a good thing if you do a lot of sitting on the floor.

But, I will say, cotton rugs stain much faster than a Jute rug or a wool rug.

This is definitely something to consider, if you’re looking for a rug that will last you longer than a couple of years.

Jute Rugs

Good for: living areas, low to medium traffic areas

I think my favorite type of natural fiber rug, by far, has been the rugs made from a blend of both jute and wool.

The one that I showed you earlier, with that awful stain, was from Pottery Barn. And boy, I tell you, this one sure can take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’.

Chunky wool & jute rug from Pottery Barn

This rug has not only survived 6 Nerf war battles and counting, and two redecorating adventures, it sucks up dust and food crumbs like nothing else can.

Before, when I had a wool rug in this room, I was constantly picking up little pieces of paper, or stray food crumbs off the carpet. But, with this one, I can see nothing… Nothing that is, until it all gets sucked out with our powerful Dyson vacuum cleaner.

The tightly woven fibers, trap in all the dust until we’re ready to get it out.

On the flip side, however, these wool and jute rugs shed more than the smooth sisal rugs (i.e. don’t wear black clothing when sitting on it). But, what’s a little lint when you have a rug that’s good for kids, allergies and even dogs?

Maintaining Your Natural Fiber Rugs

Vacuum Regularly

As I’d mentioned before, both sea grass and sisal rugs are highly absorbent. So keep them away from all water sources, including mops.

Other than that, the upkeep on these rugs are pretty minimal.

Just vacuum them regularly–Once a week is the minimum. Twice a week is optimal–especially if you have young children.

Also, I recommend that you invest in a strong suctioning vacuum cleaner like the Dyson. It’s an investment, but once you use one, you’ll never go back to any other.

Rotate the Rug Once a Month

Another way to keep your rug looking fresh is to rotate them every month or so.

There’s always going to be an area of the rug that gets the most wear and tear. By rotating the rug every month or so, you’ll distribute the wear and tear more evenly and it will seem less noticeable.

Remove Spots and Stains Quickly

So, finally… let me spill the dirt on how I cleaned up the dog mess earlier…

I first used plain baking soda to soak up the mess as best I could and to deodorize it. Then I used a steam vac (you can rent one) to deep clean all the gunk out of the fibers.

Again, viewer discretion is advised.


Luckily for us, the baking soda soaked up most of the stain before it leaked through to the other side. All we were left with, instead, was a dark water stain which eventually dried.

Once it dried, I used Folex, my magic carpet and stain remover to remove any residual stains.

This is the best $15 I ever spent on any cleaning solution, hands down.

This cleaner has saved me from every stain imaginable–coffee, chocolate, red wine, lipstick–you name it, I was able to remove it. This works great even on microfiber upholstery.

Just be sure to test an obscure spot and use as directed.

Sources for Natural Fiber Rugs

I’ve mentioned two places where I’ve been able to find some great rugs, Pottery Barn and West Elm. However, there are others I’ve used and recommend. Here are four in order of preference:

  1. Rugs USA: I’ve purchased several rugs from them in the past few years and have always been happy with my purchase. I’ve only had to return a rug once due to damage-that was not fun. I highly recommend that you read through all the customer reviews before purchasing. I’ve found the reviews here to be about 95% accurate. As for their prices, they’ve always got a sale running. My recommendation is to wait until their sale is at 50% off.
  2. Overstock: This is where I got the sisal runners for my stairs. Their standard delivery charge is terrific, as well as their customer service. Also, they have some of the best prices–especially when they go on sale.
  3. Wayfair: The prices for natural fiber rugs on this website are not as competitive as what you’d find in the other two sites I’ve mentioned. However, they do have sales periodically, and their quality is comparable to anywhere else. The only reason why I’d purchase from them is if the other two sites don’t carry a specific size or color I need.
  4. Ballard Designs: This place is a bit more expensive than all the other three sites I’ve mentioned, but they have higher quality rugs. They also have pretty good sales every now and then, too. I purchased a latex backed sisal runner from them which I was very happy with. One perk is that they’ll mail you a free swatch sample of the product before hand so you can see it before you purchase.

A Natural Fiber Rug Keeps Your Home Cozy and Happy

So there it is, my friends. Your guide to the best and the worst (if there is one) of natural fiber rugs.

Obviously, there’s no perfect rug out there, just as there is no perfect home or family.

Reality is, rugs get messy, just as life can get messy sometimes: Especially if you’re raising kids, dogs or entertain often.

Don’t let the messiness of real life (like the image I showed you of my yucky carpet incident) turn you off from getting a rug for your home. 

At the same time, don’t let those picture perfect images I showed you afterwards discourage you either. Remember that real life never looks that pristine most of the time.

Kids will make messes, guests will spill wine and dogs will vomit. 

The only thing we can do as homeowners is to do the best we can, and deal with the challenges as they come.

So go ahead and get a natural fiber rug if you’ve been holding off  on getting a rug because you have kids, dogs or allergies.

Take it from someone who has all three that a home without a rug, is a home without any comforts. Get one, and be happy, whatever life throws your way!

If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy:

5 Ways to Create Timeless Design In Your Home

3 Rules of Home Decorating That Everyone Should Follow

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  1. Terrific guide on area rugs. We just moved cross country this past summer and our new house has hardwood floors throughout the bottom floor. We had to purchase some area rugs to prevent our furniture from scratching up the floor. I really like the natural fiber rugs with neutral tones. Our current set of rugs is pretty cheap and I’ll probably end up replacing them in the next couple of years. I do think rotating them will give them a longer lifespan.

    1. Glad that this helped you, Sarah. I wish you the best of luck in your new home!

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