Problematic Rugs: Viscose & Sisal

Rugs are more than just mere floor coverings; they’re reflections of our aesthetic sentiments and sources of comfort. They can pull together, or even completely transform an interior space. At Fiber-Seal, we maintain the opinion that caring for and preserving the longevity of these rugs is just as important as choosing the right color, texture, and design.

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Viscose Rug
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Sisal Rug

There are several factors to consider when considering easy to clean rugs and carpeting, including fiber makeup, rug construction, backing, and more. Today, we will focus on fiber makeup: specifically the two most difficult fibers to care for in the world of floor coverings. Click here for a guide to help you pick the best area rugs for your home.

Viscose Rugs and Floor Coverings

Ever since its conception in the late 1800s as a cheaper alternative to silk, viscose has steadily gained in popularity around the interior design world. It is sought after for its natural lustrous appearance that stands out in any setting. Viscose is also known to be very soft to the touch. Viscose fabric and floor coverings are commonly referred to as “rayon”, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says that the terms can be used interchangeably.

Though it is hard to beat the appeal of a brand-new viscose rug displayed at a showroom, here are some of the downfalls that may mean those rugs’ beauty will be short-lived:

Viscose Rug

Loses Strength When Wet

Viscose is 50-80% weaker when wet.  This leaves the material vulnerable to shading, crushing, and shedding when exposed to moisture. This makes it extremely difficult for homeowners to care for their viscose rugs without doing damage to the fibers.

Fabric Shading And Yellowing

The single most entrancing feature of viscose fabric and floor coverings is arguably its lustrous look. However, because of this, any slight shift in the pile direction can irreversibly change the appearance of the rug. We refer to this occurrence as pile distortion, or shading, and it can be difficult or impossible to correct. A small spill or wet feet can quickly result in this issue. The same kinds of moisture exposure can also cause yellowing or browning discoloration; this has much to do with the foundation yarns or backing that often make up a viscose rug.

Poor Resiliency

If wool were the Rolls Royce of resiliency, viscose would be a broken-down pickup that never made it past 10,000 miles. Crushing and matting is common in high-traffic areas, and it is nearly impossible to bring the pile fibers back to normal once flattened.

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Pile Distortion on Viscose Rug via
Sisal Rugs and Floor Coverings

Sisal rugs, born from the resilient fibers of the Agave Sisalana plant, originated in Mexico and Central America. These rugs didn’t take long to spread around the world due to their inherent durability, making them able to withstand the challenges of high foot traffic and harsh environmental conditions.

Despite the durability gained from the strong fibers and tightly woven construction, sisal rugs certainly come with their fair share potential problems:


As with other natural plant fibers such as cotton and linen, sisal can be subject to cellulosic browning when faced with moisture. Sisal is extremely hydrophilic (absorbent) making it vital to address liquid spills as soon as they happen. This is why the vast majority of sisal rug manufacturers will recommend dry-cleaning only on their products.

Rug Backing

Many sisal floor coverings have rubberized or latex backings. These kinds of backings are susceptible to deterioration when exposed to solvents. This creates a double-edged sword, as solvent-based dry cleaners can deteriorate the backing, while water-based cleaners can cause browning and/or buckling of a sisal rug.

Area Rug Protection

Sisal rug bleach spot from Oxiclean

Use Fiber-Seal as a Resource

Fiber-Seal is your one-stop shop for all things fabric care. Feel free to contact us to discuss the best fabrics for different applications around your home. Although sisal and viscose rugs are difficult to clean— we are happy to help get them in better shape. Contact your local Fiber-Seal Service Center on more information.

Fabric Questions? Call (214)-333-9400

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