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Are Jute Rugs Eco-Friendly? 14 Important Questions Answered

Are Jute Rugs Eco-Friendly? 14 Important Questions Answered

last updated on June 18th, 2022

Natural textures and materials in home decor have become quite trendy within the last few years, and one of the easiest ways to bring that texture into your home is with jute rugs.

Jute rugs come in all different shapes and sizes and are just as durable as they are stylish. Plus, jute rugs can look good with any other type of decor you have in your home.

But as popular as these rugs are, are they eco-friendly?

For the most part, jute rugs are eco-friendly because they are made with plant-based materials that are both natural and sustainable.

In this article, we’ll explore jute rugs in more detail and try to answer any questions you may have about their eco-friendliness.

1. Is Jute an Eco-Friendly Material?

Jute is an eco-friendly material because it comes from plants, is relatively easy to grow, and has several benefits when it comes to the environment.

Jute is sourced from the white jute plant and is grown primarily in India and Bangladesh. 

It is often referred to as the “Golden Fiber” due to having a shiny golden appearance, in addition to all of the environmental benefits that it has.

The plant itself only takes about 120 days to grow from seed until maturity and requires little need for fertilizer and pesticides. 

It relies mostly on rainwater to grow, which is abundant in the tropical areas where jute is largely grown. And, jute produces an average yield of 2 tonnes per hectare (approximately 4,400 pounds).

In addition, one hectare of jute can consume about 15 tonnes of carbon dioxide and produce 11 tonnes of oxygen.

When harvesting jute for cellulose and lignin – the two major plant fibers used in manufacturing – either biological or chemical processes are used to extract these fibers.

Chemical processes are less eco-friendly, and due to the expense of chemicals, biological processes are often used. 

Using biological processes includes bundling the jute stems together and soaking them in water to separate the fibers from the stem. Then, the fibers are stripped from the stem.

So as you can see, the least eco-friendly aspect of jute as a plant would be if chemical processes were used to extract the fibers, but this is not as common as using biological methods.

2. How Are Jute Rugs Made?

We just mentioned how the jute fibers themselves are harvested, but how are the rugs themselves made?

A lot of jute rugs are made by hand. Essentially, once the jute fibers are extracted from the plant, they are spun together to create jute yarn.

Then, the jute yarns are either woven together on a loom or hand-braided and sewn together to create the rugs.

As you can imagine, creating a jute rug by hand can be time-consuming, especially if the rugs are large. 

But due to the increasing popularity of jute rugs, there is a greater demand to make more of them faster, which leads to mass-produced jute rugs often being made on larger looms and machines instead of by hand.

However, even if jute rugs are mass-produced, the majority of them are still made with natural jute fibers instead of a synthetic alternative.

3. Are Jute Rugs Eco-Friendly?

Jute rugs are definitely one of the most eco-friendly rug types that you can buy. 

For starters, the material used to make them all-natural and jute plants can be grown in abundance with little to no use of fertilizers or pesticides. 

They also don’t require a lot of water use other than rain which is abundant in tropical areas.

Also, the fibers themselves are extracted with little to no chemical use, and the rugs themselves are made either entirely by hand or mechanically with machines.

It is worth mentioning that jute rugs made by hand are more eco-friendly than jute rugs made using machinery. 

This is because the machinery uses a lot of energy, not to mention the energy used by transporting the jute to these manufacturing facilities in the first place.

The energy for these processes largely comes from burning fossil fuels, a major cause of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

But again, as long as jute rugs are made by hand, they are one of the most eco-friendly rug types out there.

4. Are Jute Rugs Treated With Chemicals?

Just as harvesting the jute fibers themselves uses little to no chemicals, most jute rugs are also not treated with chemicals either when they are made or afterward as a finishing process.

Most chemical treatments are used to make materials more durable, flame-resistant, or water-resistant.

Jute is already fairly durable, and although not completely fireproof, it has natural fire-resistant properties and doesn’t burn easily, and usually self-extinguishes if it does catch on fire.

In fact, after making jute rugs, fire is run across them to burn off any stray fibers without catching the rug itself on fire.

However, although jute rugs do have some water resistance, they are not completely waterproof. 

If jute rugs are treated with chemicals, it will mostly be to make them more waterproof since if jute does get wet,  the moisture can cause the fibers to darken over time. 

But jute rugs that are treated with chemicals are less eco-friendly than jute rugs that are untreated.

5. Are Jute Rugs Sustainable?

Jute rugs are sustainable, especially if they are hand-made since they are made with renewable resources and use eco-friendly methods in the harvesting of the jute and the creation of the rugs themselves.

One of the most important eco-friendly aspects of growing jute is that most of it is grown without fertilizers and pesticides, both of which can contaminate water and soil resources.

Using chemicals in the processing of products can also cause contamination and pollution, but very few – if any – chemicals are used in the making of jute rugs.

The only thing that isn’t sustainable about jute rugs is if they are made by machines with energy supplied by fossil fuels. That could be fixed by switching to renewable energy sources such as solar power as one example.

But it often isn’t that easy or affordable to make the switch to renewable energy sources.

However, if you consider jute rugs overall, they are pretty sustainable compared to rugs that are made with synthetic materials, many of which are made from plastic themselves.

6. Are Jute Rugs Biodegradable?

Jute is a 100% biodegradable material and jute rugs are as well provided that they aren’t treated with any chemicals.

Jute fibers themselves can biodegrade in 1 to 2 years. However, it may take jute rugs longer just because of their size. 

An important thing to consider with biodegradability is that the basic materials that make it up have to naturally return to their environment and blend back in without leaving any toxins or by-products behind, and jute does that.

However, jute rugs that are treated with chemicals may leave chemical residue behind even if the fibers themselves completely decompose. That’s why some treated jute rugs may not be completely biodegradable.

7. Are Jute Rugs Compostable?

Jute rugs are also compostable, again provided that they aren’t treated with chemicals. 

Being compostable is also part of what makes jute rugs sustainable, as compost can be used for organic fertilizer rather than using chemical fertilizers.

If you are going to compost jute rugs, you will need to cut them into smaller pieces first so that they decompose quicker.

And remember not to compost jute rugs that are treated with chemicals because even though they will decompose, the chemicals can contaminate your compost.

If you aren’t sure whether your jute rug has been treated with chemicals, it’s better to be safe and not compost it.

8. Are Jute Rugs Organic?

To be considered organic, a product has to be grown for a period of so many years without using chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

For the most part, jute rugs are organic since a lot of jute is grown without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

However, it can’t be said with 100% certainty that all jute rugs are organic since some growers may use pesticides or fertilizers even though they are mostly unnecessary.

Plus, jute rugs that are treated with chemicals can’t be considered organic either.

9. Are Jute Rugs Toxic?

Jute rugs are non-toxic as long as they are not treated with chemicals.

Some of the chemicals used to treat jute rugs could be somewhat toxic depending on what specific chemicals are used.

But these chemicals can vary based on their purpose and the manufacturer of the jute rugs.

However, jute itself isn’t toxic as long as jute rugs are used as intended any chemicals used to treat them shouldn’t have any toxic effects on humans.

10. Are Jute Rugs Durable?

Jute rugs are durable and can withstand foot traffic very well. They are also naturally mold and mildew resistant.

However, sunlight and excessive moisture can cause discoloration and deterioration over time.

With that being said, jute rugs are the most durable when used indoors instead of outdoors.

11. Are Jute Rugs Washable?

Since jute rugs are made from natural fibers, they are not washable in the washing machine because the amount of moisture and agitation can cause damage.

However, jute rugs are easy to spot clean with just soap and water or vinegar and water.

But, you should be careful about cleaning them too often as even gentle cleaning agents can cause the fibers to change in appearance or deteriorate over time.

After cleaning, drying the cleaned areas quickly with a hairdryer or fan can help prevent discoloration. 

12. Do Jute Rugs Shed Microplastics?

Jute rugs do not shed microplastics since they are made with natural material, not synthetic ones, and don’t contain any plastic at all.

13. Can Jute Rugs Be Recycled?

Jute rugs can be recycled, however, whether or not you can recycle them depends on what your local recycling program accepts.

It’s more likely that you will have to find a more specialized facility that accepts carpets and rugs since they will have the ability to recycle them more easily than local places that accept only paper and cardboard, plastic, glass, and aluminum.

Carpet America Recovery Effort can help find carpet and rug recycling locations in America, and the European Carpet and Rug Association is working to make carpets and rugs recyclable as well.

Most of the time, jute rugs that are recycled are going to be used to make other jute rugs or products such as tote bags.

14. How to Dispose of Jute Rugs Properly

If you can recycle jute rugs, that is one of the best disposal options if you want to be more eco-friendly.

If you can’t recycle them, they are biodegradable so it’s not as bad for them to go to a landfill as it would be for rugs that are made of synthetic materials that won’t biodegrade at all.

However, jute rugs may not biodegrade as quickly in a landfill or they may biodegrade anaerobically which leads to the release of methane, a greenhouse gas so this still isn’t the best option.

If you can’t recycle them and don’t want to throw them away, there are ways that you can reuse them.

For example, if the rugs are discolored only in certain areas, you can cut them into smaller pieces and use them as doormats.

Or, you can cut them into even smaller pieces and use them as coasters.

You may even be able to use jute rugs in the garden as a weed barrier under gravel or rocks, provided that they are thin enough to allow water to pass through easily.

2 Eco-Friendly Jute Rugs Brands

1. Parachute

Parachute’s selection of jute rugs are Craftmark-certified as being hand-braided by artisans in India.

They also partner with a textile factory that uses renewable energy sources and help to ensure that the children of employees that work in that factory receive an education.

2. The Citizenry

All of The Citizenry’s jute rugs are handmade with 100% jute fibers by artisans in India. 

These artisans are paid twice as much as the fair-trade wage requirement to ensure that the rugs are made ethically in addition to being sustainable and eco-friendly.

3 Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Jute Rugs

Jute rugs are pretty eco-friendly and sustainable themselves. But if you are looking for other eco-friendly rug materials, here are a few more worth considering.

1. Seagrass 

Seagrass is another eco-friendly plant-based material that is often used to make rugs. It is durable and great for high-traffic areas.

Seagrass is also more water-resistant than jute due to being non-absorbent, so it can be used even in areas that have high moisture such as the bathroom and kitchen.

It’s also a great choice if you have pets as it is easy to clean due to its naturally waxy coating and the fact that it won’t attract pet hair. It also has a softer texture than jute.

However, seagrass rugs are not ideal for outdoor use as they are prone to mold and mildew on the underside of them.

2. Sisal

Another eco-friendly, plant-based material is sisal which is made with fibers from the agave plant. It is also durable and can withstand high-traffic areas.

Sisal is also low-maintenance and can be cleaned with just a vacuum. However, it is more absorbent than jute and seagrass and shouldn’t be used outside.

Plus, it is prone to staining due to its absorbency and it has a rougher texture than both jute and seagrass, making it uncomfortable to walk on without shoes.

3. Coir

Coir rugs are made from the outer shell of a coconut, and coconuts are one of the most sustainable crops there is as all parts of the coconut can be used.

Coir is durable, inexpensive, fairly water-resistant, and has natural insect repellent properties. It can also be kept by vacuuming and doesn’t stain easily.

However, coir has a prickly texture that is uncomfortable to walk on without shoes and it can shed fibers and fade when exposed to sunlight.

It’s a great choice for outdoor use in places that aren’t directly exposed to sunlight.

Conclusion

If you want an eco-friendly rug in your home, then jute is one of the best options.

Not only is most jute grown without the use of pesticides and fertilizers, but it also requires very few or no chemicals to be used in its processing. 

Jute is also biodegradable and compostable, and can even be recycled in some areas.

The only downside is that its appearance can deteriorate over time so it may not be good for high-traffic areas that would require it to be cleaned frequently.

However, there are other eco-friendly and sustainable rug options that are suitable for these high-traffic areas besides jute.

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