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aka: pains in the (gr)ass! 

Photograph of sisal agave growing in Mexico.

Sisal (ssəl), with the botanical name Agave sisalana, is a species of Agave native to southern Mexico but widely cultivated and naturalized in many other countries. It yields a stiff fibre used in making various products.

[Source: Wikipedia]

Close-up of coir fibre

Coir ( kɔɪər), or coconut fibre, is a natural fibre extracted from the husk of coconut and used in products such as floor mats, doormats, brushes and mattresses. Coir is the fibrous material found between the hard, internal shell and the outer coat of a coconut.

[Source: Wikipedia]

Photograph of a coil of sea grass.

Seagrass resembles natural rush but is already twisted into a rope-like cord. There is some variation in the diameter since it is hand twisted. Seagrass is used in basketry as well as woven matting. It is a two-ply cord.

[Source: Caning.com]


aka: pains in the (gr)ass! 

Sisal, coir & seagrass fall into a distinct category for the professional carpet cleaner - pains in the (gr)ass. Technically classed as cellulosic fibres, they are similar in that they are all derived from plant sources. In general, they share the characteristic of being quite hard-wearing, as well as lending a room an organic quality. Because they are natural fibres, they also have subtle variations in colour that can be very appealing.

From our journeying, surveying & carpet cleaning between Bath, Bristol & Stroud, it seems that the taste for these lovely materials peaked a few years ago. These materials really are lovely - they can elevate the look of a room and often carry a soothing scent of hay/grass with them... it's just that from a professional cleaners point of view, they present genuine difficulties.


When cleaning sisal, coir & seagrass, it is vital to limit the use of any water.

When they were living plant matter, parts of these materials acted as conduits for transporting water. Now that they are no longer alive, they will all quickly absorb water and deteriorate, and eventually disintegrate.


Before making an enquiry about having this type of carpet or matting cleaned, it is important that you understand that, as a rule of thumb, once these fabrics are damaged/ stained/ heavily soiled or over-wetted, it is virtually impossible to restore them. This is because they absorb other liquids readily, but cannot then be deep cleaned using traditional extraction methods.

Stage one: Deep vacuum

Much like rugs, each of these materials has the potential to contain vast amounts of dust and dry soiling. Green Man will thoroughly vacuum with an industrial vacuum cleaner with a motorised beater bar to ensure as much material is removed at this initial stage.

Sisal cleaning

Stage two: Measure out VLM cleaning agent

VLM cleaning is sometimes referred to Zero-drying time cleaning. Essentially, it relies on limiting the amount of liquid in the clean by using small micro-sponges infused with an eco-friendly cleaning solution.

Sisal cleaning

Stage three: Agitate the cleaning material in with a contra-rotating brush machine.

[I may have forgotten to photograph this process!]

Leave the material to dry for 30 minutes, then vacuum away.

Cleaning sisal


Sisal cleaning
Cleaning sisal

The issue here is obvious, there is very little noticeable difference!

While the VLM cleaning system succeeds in limiting the chance of water damage, it simply doesn't penetrate into the sisal/coir/ seagrass sufficiently to have an impact on the staging/damage. There are companies around who employ this type of clean on standard carpets. Unless having the carpets dry instantaneously is a priority, we wouldn't tend to recommend this method as it lacks the benefits of either low moisture cleaning or traditional wet extraction clean. As it is the only safe method to use on cellulosic fabrics, we are fully trained and happy to provide this service. However, we will always try and make it clear that (in our experience to date) it often has little discernible impact.

What conclusions can we draw from this?

Here at Green Man  HQ, we feel that consumers ought to be made more aware of the ongoing maintenance issues with these fabrics. While it seems reasonable that they be sold as "hard-wearing", "sustainable" and "organic", it feels wrong that customers aren't also informed that- once damaged- they are "uncleanable".


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