Where does sisal come from?
One of the most important agricultural products of the world's tropical regions, sisal fiber comes from the agave plant. Agave (Century plant or American aloe) is indigenous to Central America and the southernmost part of North America, where its cultivation began on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. East Africa's plantations, in Tanzania, Kenya, and Mozambique, now produce the most sissal, with additional product coming from Brazil.
What does sisal look like?
Agave sisalana is a squat plant with long, knife-shaped leaves that form a rosette close to the ground. These fleshy, rigid leaves, from which the sisal fiber is derived, are usually grayish-green to dark green. The fiber within is coarse, long and extremely strong. Shiny and attractive, its color is usually creamy white to a pale yellow, but some sisal can have a reddish cast.
How is sisal produced?
The process of separating the sisal fibers from the leaves is an arduous one. First the leaves are crushed and scraped, then the fiber is washed, in many places by machine. Next the fiber is graded and sorted, then either hung in the sun to dry or put into a drying machine. Then the fibers are beaten or brushed to soften and separate them and to remove any traces of leaf tissue. There is a 95% loss in weight from the beginning to the end of this process. One hundred pounds of leaves yields only five pounds of sissal fiber.
Is sisal a good fiber for floor rugs?
Sisal is a strong, stable and versatile material that can be woven into boucles and rib weaves, flat weaves, and jacquard patterns and many dyed colors. It can be a little rough underfoot, but less so when combined with other fibers such as wool. Sisal rugs are naturally sound-absorbing, anti-static, and extremely durable because of the inherent qualities of this tough, hard-wearing fiber. It is also naturally insulating and difficult to ignite. Like most plant fibers, however, sissal absorbs moisture readily, therefore we recommend that these materials be used only indoors, in dry areas of a home or office.
How should I care for my sisal rug?
As with all natural fiber floor coverings, regular vacuuming of the sisal rug surface is important. Blot spills immediately with a clean towel and continue to blot until most of the liquid is removed. Complete the drying process with a hair dryer or a commercial product designed to absorb moisture. Never steam clean or wet shampoo your sisal rug.