Going green in building is becoming an ever more prevalent concern to those of us in the flooring industry, and while floor coverings like bamboo and cork are the most frequently recognized ecofriendly flooring materials, there are a plethora of other green options out there that people aren’t aware of. One of those lesser known materials that we here at Floor Coverings International of Hillsborough find particularly promising is coir. Coir carpets and rugs are made from natural plant fibers, are durable, biodegradable, and will provide natural beauty and resilience to your home. Whether you invest in full coir carpets, or simply opt for a traditional coir doormat, here’s everything you need to know about this ecofriendly material.

What is Coir and How is it Made?

Believe it or not, coir is made from coconut husks! Most of the coconuts from which Coir comes grow in places like Kerala, India and Sri Lanka. The discarded plant fibers from the coconuts are either brown, from mature and ripe coconuts, or white, from the green husks of young coconuts. These coconut husk fibers feature great durable and elastic properties, while simultaneously being very strong, and environmentally friendly! To manufacture and produce coir, the husks are harvested and then soaked, sometimes for months, in order to make them soften and swell in a process known as ‘retting.’ They are then washed, beaten, and dried. At that point the fibers are then ready to be woven into rugs and flooring. The term “coir comes from the Malayam word ‘kayar’, and the material has been used throughout southeast Asia for centuries to made things like rope, mats, cords, and rigging. It is interesting to note that even today, the majority of the coir that comes to market is hand produced rather than mass manufactured. In fact, in many places in India, monkeys are still trained to get the coconuts down from the palm trees!

The Look of Coir

The natural look of coir has a distinctive beauty that is characterized by bristly imperfection and woven naturalism. The unique look of coir can compliment most décor styles, although it is rougher and darker than many other natural fiber carpet options, such as sisal. To get an idea of what coir carpeting looks and feels like, think of the outer skin of a coconut. This rustic look can be woven in patterns from herringbone to boucle, and can range from bleached in color, to natural tan and brown. Coir exudes a sense of warmth and tends to compliment other rustic textures such as stripped timber, reclaimed lumber, or exposed brick. The thick bristles or coir carpeting are bulky and noticeable though, so it might not be the ideal choice for a minimalist aesthetic.

Advantages of Coir

Doormats are often made from coir for a reason, and that is because coir is extremely durable. The short, bristly strands of coir are resistant to mildew, while also being mildly waterproof. In fact, coir is one of the few natural fiber carpets with any sort of natural water resistance, although they still are generally not recommended for outdoor use. Coir tends to be more durable than its slightly more popular cousin, sisal, and can handle higher traffic on its dark, rustic surface. Coir also happens to be resistant to insects and moths, due to the natural coconut oils it contains. Coir’s natural look comes in a large variety of weaves and textures, as well as some bleaches and dyes, so there are coir options for every interior. Furthermore, coir tends to be less expensive than some other natural fiber carpeting options, so it’s great if you’re trying to be sustainable on a budget. Coir is not only sustainable, but also hypoallergenic, and is resistant to mildew and dampness, some risk factors that are much higher in other natural fiber carpets. It even acts as a natural humidifier! Because coir is so thick and bristly, it also provides excellent insulation qualities, from sound to heat. If you’re not a big fan of housekeeping, worry not! Coir is very low maintenance, and only requires regular vacuuming.

Disadvantages of Coir

While coir is an excellent natural fiber carpet option, there are still some downsides to the material. One of the most obvious ones is that while the thick, dense and rough texture of coir makes it a durable flooring option, it an be uncomfortable under bare feet, and isn’t the most “comfy” or plush carpet option. The course texture might therefore be less ideally suited for rooms like bedrooms. Coir can also be prone to spills and stains, so keep that in mind around pets or rooms where the carpet might come into contact with food. Another thing to note is that while coir is on the rise, it is still difficult to find in many places, as so much of the world’s coir is still produced by hand. Coir can also shed over time, and while it is more water resistant than many natural carpeting options, it is still not recommended for outdoor use. Also, keep in mind that coir tends to fade over time when placed in direct sunlight, although this can create an attractive faded look that some homeowners enjoy. 

Sustainability of Coir

One of the most important things to note about coir is its status as a green, ecofriendly flooring option. As a natural fiber, it doesn’t take up precious fossil fuels like petroleum to produce, the way synthetic materials such as nylon do. Coir is a renewable resource. Coconuts are the seeds of palm trees, and they only take a single year to flower. A typical palm tree will have coconuts available in every stage of its maturity, and even those coconuts that have fallen or ripened can be used to make coir. Coir is hand produced in most places, using very little in the way of destructive manufacturing processes, and coir is 100% biodegradable.

If you think coir carpeting sounds like a good fit for your home, call Floor Coverings International of Hillsborough today!

Image by Thamizhpparithi Maari (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons