Sisal & Seagrass Maintenance

How To Care For Your Sisal and Seagrass Carpet

Sisal and seagrass are relatively easy to maintain. The hard, natural vegetable fibers do not attract dust, and bacteria cannot penetrate the fibers. Sand and fine dirt do not damage sisal or seagrass carpets as they do conventional floor coverings; the soil filters through the weave, rather than sits on the surface. Both sisal and seagrass are tough, natural fibers which are less vulnerable to abrasion.

Fiber Characteristics

As with other yarns made of vegetable fibers, both sisal and seagrass have variations in size, shade, and tendency to return to their original color after exposure to sunlight. Slight weaving and shade irregularity are common characteristics. Shade differences between areas exposed/unexposed to sunlight may be apparent (underneath furniture, behind picture hangings, etc.). Fading due to direct exposure to sunlight is uniform, resembling the tones of unfinished wood.


Regular vacuuming with a strong brush-suction is all that is needed for daily care of sisal and seagrass carpets. The beater-type cleaner is not as effective due to the weave. The strong suction of the vacuum pulls out the fine dirt which has accumulated between the fibers and on the underlay. Although the need may not be visible, this frequent and regular vacuuming will increase carpet life by preventing soil build-up, and will help eliminate stains caused when spilled liquids dissolve soil accumulations.

If exposed to dryness or low humidity, a frequent, light and even application of water strengthens these natural vegetable fibers and enhances the wearing qualities.  Moisture can be applied by spraying, light sprinkling, clean mop, damp brush, or any device that would give a light and even application of clean water. This dampening can also help eliminate minor bubbling and looseness, as both carpets will tighten up slightly as they dry. Sisal carpets dry quickly. Under no conditions should the carpet be saturated, or undesirable dimensional changes could result, as well as possible staining from dyes in the underlay. Care should be taken that the carpets are vacuumed and clean before applying the moisture, since dirt in the matting might stain if dissolved.

Spot cleaning

Immediate attention to spills is the most important for spot removal from sisal and seagrass carpets, as it is with most floor covering. The spilled substance should be removed as soon as possible by blotting up with clean, un-dyed paper towels or cloths, or scraped up with a dull knife or nail file. Two methods are recommended for the following substances:

Method “A”

For beer, blood, butter, chocolate, coffee, cola, cream. general dirt, eggs, excreta, fruit, greasy food, ice cream, juice, lipstick, liquor, water-based paint, urine, vomit.
  1. Mop up the spill immediately with an un-dyed paper towel or clean un-dyed cloth.
  2. Brush or sponge the discolored area with small amounts of detergent or carpet shampoo and lukewarm water. The cleaner should have a neutral pH factor. Do not saturate. Blot up with un-dyed paper or cloth. Repeat.
  3. Dry the carpet quickly, as with a hair dryer.

Method “B”

For asphalt, colored chalk, cosmetics, fresh oil, oil-based paint, shoe polish, soot.
  1. Scrape up cautiously as much of the stain as possible, using a dull knife or nail file. Soot should be vacuumed up.
  2. Dampen a clean, un-dyed white cloth with a small amount of dry cleaning fluid. Tetra and petroleum solvents may be used. Blot up the stain. Check to see if solvent is dissolving the substance. Work towards the center of the stain and don’t use too much solvent to avoid spreading the stain. Repeat.
  3. Dry the carpet quickly, as with a hair dryer.

Water and water-based spills: Immediately blot with paper towels then cover with a thick layer of potato flour overnight. Vacuum the next day.

Greasy and oily spots have also been successfully removed from sisal and seagrass with aerosol can spot removers, such as K2R (available in most drug stores). Follow the directions on the container. These contain both a cleaning solvent and absorbing powder.

Beer and wine stains have also been removed with wood alcohol applied with a clean, un-dyed absorbent cloth. For oil-based paint, some use small amounts of turpentine.

With some stains, it may be necessary to experiment on a very small area with water, carpet cleaner, or solvent to determine what will dissolve the substance. With un-dyed, absorbent material remove as much of the loosened soil as possible. Repeat if necessary.

When the above recommended processes do not remove the soil, the services of a good professional cleaner (with a wide range of materials and processes available) is recommended. It is possible for stains such as oil to accumulate in the underlay, which could work through the carpet. In this circumstance, several cleanings may be necessary to remove the soil. If the underlay becomes wet, it should be dried immediately since dissolved dyes in the underlay can stain thecarpet.

Overall Cleaning

Both sisal and seagrass carpets are hygroscopic. That is, they absorb moisture and give off moisture, depending on the relative humidity in their immediate environment. Although humidity is good for natural fiber carpets, saturation of the fibers with water can cause undesirable dimensional change. (See above “Maintenance”.) Therefore, steam-cleaning, wet shampooing, or any other method that involves water saturation of the mattings is NOT recommended! For overall cleaning, spray-extraction method is recommended, using minimum moisture setting on the machine. Here the cleaning liquid is applied by pressure and removed by vacuuming in the same working cycle. Application should be continuous, keeping the application moving to prevent excess moisture in any spot. Note that complete moisture extraction is not possible. The moisture penetrates the fibers and the coarse structure causes the absorption of air. No water marks are visible with this method due to the even application of moisture. If the carpet has been glued down, it should be determined that the adhesive is not water soluble before applying moisture.

Curled rug corners

When sisal and seagrass are used as an area rug, traffic or shuffling of feet across a corner or edge could cause the edge to curl. It is easy to cure this by dampening the curled area, or placing a damp towel over the area and weighting it down evenly overnight. If severely curled it might be necessary to repeat this process.

Responsibility for cleaning and maintenance lies with those performing this work since the manner and conditions of cleaning or maintenance, and the cleaning materials used are beyond our control.

Sisal Maintenance (doc)