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Find the right fiber

Natural fiber: Sisal (from agave cactus plant)

Pros: Probably the strongest of the natural fibers. Classic look. Good for high-traffic areas, especially stairs.

Cons: A little scratchy for bedrooms. Stains should be cleaned immediately to avoid discoloration. Cats might claw it.

Natural fiber: Sea grass (tropical grass)

Pros: More forgiving of stains. Spills dry quickly. Sheds least of all. Attractive matte finish. Some pet owners say getting stains out of sea grass is easier than from sisal.

Cons: Not great for stairs or damp areas.

Natural fiber: Jute (vegetable fiber)

Pros: Often the most inexpensive choice. Gives a chunky look and adds texture. Softer. Good for medium-traffic areas.

Cons: Sheds. Not good for rooms where kids roll around on the floor. Has tendency to fall apart with heavy use because it is loosely woven.

Natural fiber: Hemp (mountain grass)

Pros: Its natural greige or taupe color is a very hot neutral right now. Minimal shedding.

Cons: Because it's still mostly hand-woven and not widely available, prices tend to be higher than those of other natural fibers.

Natural fiber: Coir (from coconut husks)

Pros: Functions well as a doormat in covered areas because it's abrasive and mildew-resistant. Good for entrance halls.

Cons: Not great for family rooms or bedrooms because the coarseness that cleans the bottom of shoes would be painful on bare feet.

-- Jura Koncius, the Washington Post

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