Cellulosic fibres 
Sisal is produced from the dried fibres of the agave plant, agave sisalana, and as such is a cellulosic fibre. Cellulosic fibres come from plants and many are used in carpets, rugs, upholstery and soft furnishings.  
These finished products include cotton, linen, hemp, jute, sisal and seagrass. Cotton grows as a fluffy staple fibre, having a short discrete length and is almost all cellulose. 
Sisal by contrast yields long stiff fibres, through a process called decortication which includes beating and the removal of waste such as leaves . 
Washing and rinsing with water is part of this process After cultivation and harvesting, decortication is the first of many steps before we get the final floor covering. 
All fibres including cellulosic (from plants), protein (from animals/insects), reconstituted cellulose (Tencel/Lyocell/Viscose/Rayon) and synthetic go through numerous processing stages. As we have seen, sisal goes through an extraction process and washing after which it is dried at and then graded. Lower grades are used in many ways such as rope making but the higher grades are used for carpet. The dried fibre now goes through stages to make it recognisable as a floor covering including spinning, weaving and dying. 
You may think your golden or light brown sisal rug is the natural colour of the processed fibres. It isn’t as the fibres are white or light yellow so dying is required to provide the colour schemes people want. Most carpet is in shades of brown but stronger colours such as greens, charcoal or blue are not uncommon.  
As a rule, these strong colours are more difficult to maintain. Dying is perhaps the most critical factor when it comes to maintenance and cleaning. If the dyes are unstable or react to moisture in unpredictable ways, the cleaning task becomes more challenging. Here at Scimitar, we have tested many samples of sisal carpet with controlled staining and stain removal. The results of even just staining, with wine, tea and coffee or water spills vary enormously and this relates principally to the types of dyes used. Stain removal varies accordingly. 
Some of the sisal colours available from Crucial Trading 

What about cleaning sisal carpets? 

Few companies offer a proper cleaning service for sisal because it is tricky, results can be variable and the availability and quality of training is limited. Even manufacturers and retailers advise caution in selecting and installing sisal and all mention issues concerning moisture, humidity and wet cleaning. 
Why is it problematic? 
Sisal is a cellulosic fibre. Cellulose “browns” very easily when exposed to uncontrolled moisture (spills or wet cleaning) and elevated pH cleaning chemicals. 
Sisal is dyed as the initial processing produces long white or yellow strands. Some dyes do not respond to cleaning or react with the cleaning solutions. 
Sisal can shrink and the yarns can snag or become fuzzy. 
Most of the few companies cleaning sisal use a “very low moisture” technique called dry compound. This produces poor to moderate results and usually does not improve the appearance of stains. 
“Dry”* cleaning solutions similar to those used by clothing dry cleaners can address some issues like sticky areas but are poor at removing stains and soiling. Dry* in this context means not containing water but is in liquid form. These solutions are also very expensive. 

Can sisal carpets be cleaned? 

Manufacturers, retailers and maintenance operators issue their guidance from their perspective which is mainly to limit liability. Cleaning and maintenance operators limit liability by not offering the service. But you the customer have an issue: your sisal is dirty or it is stained and here at Scimitar we understand that. In many cases the floor covering is too far gone, the damage is too extensive to restore or too expensive to clean. In most cases however we find customers would rather get an acceptable result rather than rip out thousands of pounds of sisal floor covering. 
Our approach 
Before every sisal carpet cleaning job, we have an honest discussion with the customer about expectations, potential problems and risks. 
We will not use hot water extraction or truckmount cleaning and steam will be avoided as these systems introduce too much moisture. 
Techniques we have developed over several years of cleaning sisal produce good cleaning results in nearly all cases. Stains are tricky but are usually improved. In many cases cleaning the whole area rather than just the stain helps blend in the stain to give an acceptable appearance. In extreme case recolouring may be necessary but this is expensive and an “as new” result cannot be guaranteed. Assuming the achievement of a good result we strongly advise the application of stain protection and we can do this. 
Beyond economic restoration! 
Qualification and experience 
Scimitar Carpet Services undertake a range of cleaning of different types of floor covering. Stephen at Scimitar undertook training at Jacaranda Carpets under the oversight of Woolsafe and this was for the cleaning of difficult cellulosic fibres. Scimitar is a recommended contractor for Jacaranda. Our sisal work includes repeat customers from museums, galleries, interior design studios and filming companies who have damaged sisal whilst shooting on location. Most customers however are domestic clients who need to sort out problem areas. 
Mixed Fibres 
We are increasingly seeing mixed fibre, especially in rugs. Typically, it is a mix of sisal and wool, the contrast in texture and colour producing satisfying patterns, particularly for contemporary design settings. Rugs and runners and stair carpet, whether all sisal or a mix with wool, often has a cotton edging. Edging can also be in leather, suede, linen or other material. Edging can be problematic, but we find the better know brands are easier to clean. You may think that the mix of wool (protein) and sisal (cellulosic) would be even more of a challenge for cleaning but our experience to date has produced great results. 
Wool/sisal blend carpet 
Every job is different and a price will be established through discussion with the customer. 
You don’t have to live with dirty sisal or look at that big stain every day. Get in touch and find out what we can do. 
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