Natural and organic fibres are the go-to for responsible rugs. These are usually biodegradable, their production doesn’t involve huge amounts of fertilizer and pesticides, and fibres have unique qualities such as in-built flame retardant and antimicrobial constituents.

We will be discussing the pros and cons of natural rug materials, including options like Jute, Wool, and Cotton.

It may interest you to know that cotton and wool are great options for furnishing an eco-friendly home. However, one cannot overlook the vast amount of pesticides and water that is used in growing conventional cotton. As such, choosing organically grown fibres for natural rugs. And while you are at it, don’t shy away from asking questions about the provenance of any wool.

Wool natural rugs

Wool rugs used to be very popular until cheap, synthetic options stole the show. Thankfully, greater awareness of the perils of polyester means people are once again turning their attention to wool. Wool is a fire retardant, does not give off harmful emissions, and has an ability to inhibit the growth of bacteria and dust mites. It also tends to be hardwearing, keeping its shape even in high-traffic areas.

So, wool is the ideal eco-friendly natural rugs material, right? Not so fast. The reality is that wool production can take a significant environmental toll, be mired in problems such as animal exploitation and cruelty, and wool may still be treated with toxic chemicals, especially if it is dyed.

Many companies claim that wool is non-allergenic. Sadly, this isn’t true. Some people have an allergic reaction to lanolin, a fatty substance found on the skin, and the wool, of sheep. Buying a wool carpet would be a costly way to discover a lanolin allergy, so ask to take a sample home before you commit to buying.

Wool that is ‘lanolin-free’ may have been washed using harsh chemicals, which can also cause allergies. And, as lanolin is a  water repellant and is stain resistant, ‘clean’ wool will likely have been treated with toxic chemicals to reinstate those qualities. Wool is also fun food for moths and carpet beetle larvae, so many wool carpets sold as natural have probably been treated with insecticide.

When wool carpets are made in a sustainable and eco-friendly fashion, however, they are an excellent option for an eco-friendly home. Stylish, affordable, resistant to fire, stains, and soiling, wool products also absorb sound, feel cozy, and are fairly easy to maintain.

Natural rugs

Jute natural rugs

Jute is a sustainable, durable, biodegradable, and flexible fiber derived from the jute plant that commonly grows in India and China. Jute natural rugs can be made with small or chunky braids, and the variations in the fiber’s colors add depth and richness to décor.

Jute isn’t as durable as sisal but is just as easy to care for, requiring just light vacuuming, brushing, sweeping, or beating (outside!). Jute products are typically reversible, meaning that they can be flipped for extra longevity. They’re great for high-traffic areas and can stand up to rough and tumble play from kids, cats, and dogs.

Jute carpets can, however, be a fun chew toy for puppies (even my older dog was very excited about rubbing her face on my new purchase). These natural rugs can also be a little tricky to clean if soiled significantly. Some people also find that jute fibers are too knobbly and rough to comfortably stand, sit, or lie on for any length of time, while others consider this free foot massage a bonus of jute.

Cotton natural rugs

Cotton is soft, breathable, light, and can be machine washed, making it a great choice for family areas, underneath dining tables, and in children’s bedrooms. Cotton isn’t as durable as jute, sisal, or wool, however, and should be used with rubber or other eco-friendly pads to avoid sliding.

Cotton products are very common, but almost all are made with conventionally grown cotton. If you’re keen on cotton, choose a product made with organically grown cotton. Look for the GOTS label or other credible certification for peace of mind that the cotton was not grown using pesticides or other toxic chemicals and has not been treated with harsh chemicals or azo dyes during processing.