Can Sisal Rugs Be Used Outdoors?

Can Sisal Rugs Be Used Outdoors?

Whether you have a patio, deck, or balcony, integrating rugs into your outdoor design is a way you can elevate the space. There are many types of rugs that work for outside use. If you’re reading this, you’re probably already a sisal rug lover and want to know: Can sisal rugs be used outdoors? Here's what you need to know about using this style of rug outside the home.


Properties of Sisal Rugs

Sisal rugs are made from the long, sturdy fibers of the agave sisalana plant. These fibers are known for their strength and resilience, which means sisal rugs are less likely to show signs of wear, such as flattening or matting, even in high-traffic areas like hallways, entryways, and living rooms. Their durability also means they’re less prone to premature fraying or tearing compared to some synthetic rugs or softer natural fibers like wool.

Can Sisal Rugs be Used Outdoors?

Although sisal rugs are uncommonly durable, there are two things that can easily damage them: moisture and direct sunlight. And because of this weakness to getting wet, sisal rugs should not be used outdoors. 

Here are a few ways the elements can negatively affect your sisal rug.

Sun Damage 

Sisal is an incredibly durable natural fiber for rugs. However, when placed outside in the sun, it is prone to sun damage. 

When your sisal rug is placed in direct sunlight, the UV rays from the sun can cause the natural fibers to fade. This is true whether your rug is indoors or outdoors, but when your rug is placed outside, discoloration can happen much faster and to a much higher degree. 

Beyond the color of your rug, prolonged exposure to UV rays can also weaken the sisal fibers themselves. Over time, the fibers will become brittle and more prone to breaking, greatly reducing the durability of your rug and dramatically shortening its useful life. 

The best way to protect your sisal rug from sun damage is to keep it indoors and away from windows that will expose it to direct sunlight. 

Mold and Mildew 

Sun is not the only natural enemy of your sisal rug: moisture from rain and even excessive humidity can create lots of problems for a sisal rug’s natural fibers. And one of the main ways moisture can damage your rug is through the growth of mold and mildew. 

Mold and mildew are known allergens and can have negative health impacts, even outdoors. When mold and mildew grow on a sisal rug, they release spores into the air, which can be inhaled and lead to respiratory issues. These problems can range from a simple nasty smell to coughing and lung irritation. 

While there are steps you can take to combat mold and mildew, these are generally only effective for more humid indoor areas. To effectively prevent mold and mildew from forming on your sisal rug, do not put it outdoors. 

What Happens if a Sisal Rug Gets Wet?

There are three main types of damage that can happen to your sisal rug if it gets wet. 

  1. Discoloration. Sisal fibers are highly absorbent, and when the rug gets wet, it can soak up water like a sponge. As a result, water can cause the natural pigments in the fibers to bleed, leading to staining and discoloration. This can be particularly noticeable if the rug gets partially wet or is exposed to water unevenly.
  2. Weakened fibers. Excessive moisture can weaken the sisal fibers over time. When wet, the fibers become softer and more pliable, making them more susceptible to breaking and premature wear.
  3. Shrinking and warping. Wet sisal rugs may experience shrinking or warping, especially if they are left to dry unevenly. This can cause the rug to lose its original shape and result in a misshapen appearance.

As with every other threat to your sisal rug, the best way to prevent your sisal rug from getting wet is to keep it indoors. If your sisal rug does get wet, even inside, make sure you dry it as quickly and thoroughly as possible to prevent permanent damage.

Can Sisal Rugs be Used Outside in a Covered Setting?

While it’s clear that a sisal rug won’t last long if kept outside, what may be less clear is what happens when it’s kept in a covered outdoor area like a screened-in porch or gazebo. In environments like this, take into account how much direct sunlight and humidity your rug will be exposed to. 

If you live in an area with reliably low humidity and you place your sisal rug in an area that is generally shaded and well-protected from rain, the dangers are minimal. 

Are Jute Rugs a Better Option?

The natural fibers used for jute and sisal rugs are very similar, so the same challenges that a sisal rug faces outside will be a problem for a jute rug as well. Jute rugs are not particularly resilient when exposed to moisture and can be severely damaged when exposed to direct sunlight for prolonged periods. 

Just like with sisal rugs, jute rugs shouldn’t be used outdoors. To keep your jute rug happy and healthy, keep it inside and away from direct sunlight and rooms with high humidity such as a laundry room or bathroom. 

What Rug Material Is Best Suited for Outdoor Use? 

There are many spaces and style choices that work for a sisal rug, but outdoors isn’t one of them. But don’t worry. There is an alternative that works outdoors and still gives you the look and feel of a sisal rug: polypropylene rugs.

All-Weather Indoor/Outdoor Polypropylene Rug in Costa Rica Sisal.

All-Weather Indoor/Outdoor Polypropylene Rug in Costa Rica Sisal.

Polypropylene rugs are made from non-toxic synthetic fibers that can stand up to the sun, temperature, and moisture changes that happen outdoors. Available in a variety of colors and patterns, polypropylene rugs look like sisal but can stand up to outside elements much better.

Indoors and Outdoors

Can sisal rugs be used outdoors? We now all know the answer is no, but it still has a place inside your home. Whether you are designing for inside or outside, you can check out our full sisal rug collection and all our polypropylene rugs in our store.

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