How to Protect Sisal Rugs When Wet

Sisal is a strong, tough natural fiber that can be woven into area rugs, carpet mats and handbags. It’s also used to make rope, twine, and string for marine and agricultural applications as well as in construction, handicrafts, and home furnishings. Like other natural fibers, such as jute and wool, it’s prone to staining and mildewing when exposed to too much moisture.

Because of this, it’s important to avoid placing a sisal rug in high traffic areas where spills are likely to occur, such as kitchen and dining rooms. It’s also not a good idea to place one in bathrooms or basements since they can be very humid there, which can cause the rug to wrinkle and delaminate. Sisal isn’t a great choice for exterior stair runners, either, because it tends to become slippery when wet.

The best way to prevent stains and other types of damage to sisal is to clean spots and spills immediately after they occur. Then, it’s recommended that you use a fabric protectant to minimize the risk of future mishaps. Pettyjohn’s recommends Fiber ProTector, which can be applied to the rug once a month to help prevent dye and fiber damage.

To get rid of pet stains or other liquids, first blot the affected area with a clean white paper towel to soak up as much of the spill as possible. Don’t rub, as this can grind the liquid deeper into the fibers of the sisal. If the stain is a bit more severe, or if you smell a lingering odor, mix a solution of one part vinegar to one part water and apply it to the stained area. Blot this with a clean, dry paper towel to prevent the solution from overly saturating the sisal and leaving a color or texture change.

Once the stain is removed, blot the rug again with warm water until it’s completely dry. It’s important to dry the sisal as soon as possible, especially if it has been exposed to moisture, because it can warp and even develop mildew or mold. Using the low heat setting on a hair dryer or a fan can speed up the drying process.

Since sisal and water do not mix, it’s never a good idea to try to steam clean a sisal or jute rug, or to shampoo them with any other method that involves water. In addition, it’s always a good idea to vacuum these rugs at least once a week, especially in high traffic areas, to remove dirt and grit that could act as an abrasive on the natural fibers of the rugs and cause them to wear down more quickly. Lastly, it’s never a bad idea to place a protective underlay over a sisal or jute floor covering to further protect and extend the life of the rug.