Need advice on sisal/ jute-type rugs

salem1772November 30, 2012

First time post on this forum. Got tremendous help from Bathroom forum and am counting on y'all to continue that great Garden Web tradition!

I have always admired neutral sisal-type rugs, but have never owned one. Anyone having experience with these, please chime in! I need a new den rug and wonder if I'd be happy with this style.

Here's what goes on in this house: 2 cats with claws, 2 small dogs (one sheds a lot), 1 DD, 1 DH. Never spilled red wine on the current rug, but that possibility always exists. We do sometimes eat in this room. Other rugs around the house are oriental, but I don't think one would work in this room because of bold upholstery and orange-ish knotty pine wood paneling (1950's house).

My worry is getting something that attracts cat claws. I can't figure out what trips them off ---- they never scratch their scratch post or the hand-knotted
oriental rugs; just certain pieces of furniture (to be reupholstered soon) and
the machine-made oriental runner going up the stairs they pick to death. Simple solution is getting rid of the cats, but that's not an option. Neither is declawing them.

This room gets a LOT of traffic, as well.

So ---- I need something cat-proof, easy to clean, holds up well to people and pet traffic. And we live in the South, so bare feet in summer is happening too. So, something on the softer side, maybe.

What should I get? I don't know the pros and cons of these types rugs. Thanks for your help.

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I have a seagrass rug in my dining room. I think it's softer than sisal, but I have to say it's not terribly comfortable underfoot, but maybe that's just me. We have kids and a dog, and it's held up really well for 10 years, but the room isn't used daily. We don't have cats, so I can't help you there.

I'm sure others will weigh in!

    Bookmark   November 30, 2012 at 9:58PM
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Cats love sisal!

    Bookmark   November 30, 2012 at 10:50PM
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Cats may love sisal but for some reason it doesn't seem to show :). At least in my house that has been our experience. I've got a couple of large sisal area rugs and a seagrass hall runner. All are quite attractive to my two cats in terms of them scratching it but nothing has visibly damaged the rugs. As for stains, we have a couple of small light patches where my husband has cleaned up cat-puke but overall sisal and seagrass are pretty bulletproof. They vacuum easily and don't show dirt.

And in terms of value sisal is so cheap you can try it out and if it doesn't work you're really not wasting a lot of money. IKEA carries sisal rugs and there are numerous online vendors. I got my runner from and it was very inexpensive; I ordered a custom size during a remnant sale and got for a great price.

I say go for it and enjoy the look.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 8:02AM
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I've had several different rugs of this type and I've found a lot depends on how it's woven (in terms of comfort, I mean). Joanie on cote de texas did a great piece on the differences between seagrass and sisal. It has been referenced here before. If you do a search, I'm sure it will pop up.

I've found the same thing with my cat. She does scratch it, but it doesn't seem to damage it. Growing up we had a very expensive wool rug that the cats destroyed. I think the clawing pulls out the fibres of the wool because they are individual whereas the sisal is woven longer strands. Not sure about this, just a guess.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 8:43AM
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cyn427 (zone 7)

Off-topic, but regarding the spilling of red wine: I read an article years ago that told about a lovely party in a home with white carpeting. A guest was aghast when she spilled red wine on the carpet, but the hostess simply and calmly poured her glass of white wine over it and blotted it. The red wine disappeared without any effort. Now, I have never tested that, but if it ever happens here, you can bet I would try it. ;)

Back to your regularly scheduled program.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 10:51AM
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Daisychain - thanks for the very excellent cote de texas article on seagrass and sisal. Never heard of cote de texas before, and the article was quite enlightening.

Based on that article alone, I am leaning in the seagrass direction for my den. Still would love to hear from more cat owners with seagrass rugs. Please!


    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 12:46PM
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In our last house the previous owners had left a sisal area rug and we used it under our kitchen table. It was a bit rough on bare feet. By trial and error I learnt that you didn't clean up certain spills quickly. If the kids dropped a piece of chocolate cake/brownie I would leave in the sisal nooks and crannies untill it dried up, it would then be easy to vacuum up. If you tried wiping the cake/brownie you would just make a bigger mess.

The only stain I never got out was red wine. I had a party and someone spilled red wine around the back side of the table and I never saw it untill the next day. Had I been told about the stain when it happened I could have rinsed it with lots of water and blotted with a towel and most of the wine would have been rinsed out. Not so nice guest!

This post was edited by chispa on Sat, Dec 1, 12 at 16:17

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 12:56PM
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I did a lot of research on natural fiber rugs last year. I was primarily concerned with durability, and ended up with seagrass. Jute is softer, but it sheds and is not water repellant the way seagrass is. It is my understanding that seagrass and sisal are the most durable.

I bought a large 9x12 rug fom pottery barn for very little. I don't have a cat, but do have a large dog and 2 small kids. It still looks practically brand new, and it has dog vomit and urine on it. (I feel compelled to say that neither were from MY darling pooch. ;-) ).

It isn't soft underfoot, and I really hesitated on whether it would be appropriate in our living room. But we don't mind it, and my kids still sprawl out on it with no complaints.

It did make my house smell like hay for a good week. That didn't really bother me though, as it reminds me of my grandfathers farm.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 6:03PM
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I have now seagrass, which is a lot less forgiving than the previous sisal in terms of spills. I bought mine from the site below at a huge discount and am very happy. So far, it has held up very well with dog and moving dining chairs around.

Here is a link that might be useful: Natural area rugs

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 11:19AM
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nosoccermom, I'm a bit confused. Is your new seagrass better for hiding/cleaning up spills, or was the old sisal? Thanks for clarifying.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 2:20PM
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Sorry, meant to say "more forgiving." Actually, way more forgiving.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 2:25PM
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Thanks to everyone for their input.

nosoccermom, today I took the plunge and ordered a 9x12 seagrass rug (basket weave with black border) from the company you recommended. My fingers are crossed! If we like it in the den, I'll get another for the dining room. Anything will be better than the hideous combination of new upholstery and old yucky rug!

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 7:30PM
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I hope you'll like it. Let us know what you think.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 12:13PM
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I am now the happy owner of a 9x12 seagrass rug with black border! Ordered it from the company nosoccermom recommended. Arrived in excellent condition. As suggested there was a faint hay smell for a couple of days, but not at all unpleasant. The rug is flattening out and losing the look of having been rolled up. Everything is in tip-top shape! Best of all, no cat or dog problems, yet. My 13 year old DD complains the rug isn't comfy on bare or stocking feet, but we'll get used to the new texture in time. If I can remember how to post a photo, I'll do so later. Thanks very much for your advice and guidance. GardenWeb comes through again!

    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 12:37AM
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lizb, thank you so much for following up. That is most helpful. I'm looking to replace our old rug and have been wondering how it went with you.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 9:02AM
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lizb, good luck on your new rug. My experience with a Pottery Barn sisal one had been good, overall. The cats scratched it regularly, but there never seemed to be any visible damage. The rug was very durable, so that's a second point in its favor.

One of the downsides is that cat puke seemed to stain it, but then, I never applied anything to protect it. More important, perhaps, is that over time, the rug iteself seemed to discolor the painted wood floor under it. I don't know whether that was a function of the rug, the floor, the floor paint, or some combo of all three. My advice: you might want to consider a rug pad to protect your floor.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 11:28AM
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First, I commend you for not declawing your cats.

Second, as I understand it, when a cat starts to scratch something, s/he scent marks it, and keeps coming back to that same place. My cats certainly do.

And third, yes, do put a pad under it - the best you can afford. Its resilience will add years to the life of the rug.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 4:58PM
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