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