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Jute Flooring

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 25 Jun 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
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What is Jute?

Just is the fibrous inner bark from the stalk of a giant tropical herb, named Cochorus, which is a member of the Linden family and is closely related to hemp. These plants are grown in southern India and other hot, damp regions of Asia and after the harvest, the stems are tied into bunches and then soaked in water for two to three weeks to soften them.

They are then further softened by pounding with wooden mallets and then the fibres are removed and dried in the sun. Finally, these fibres are spun into a yarn with a silky luster and a variety of natural shades. This makes jute one of the most luxurious types of natural fibres although its fine-stranded nature means that it is generally more suitable to delicate fabrics and areas of light traffic.

How is Jute Used?

Jute is also known as Hessian and in Europe, jute sacks are known as “gunny sacks” whilst in North America, just sacks are known as “burlap sacks”. As it is one of the cheapest natural fibres and lagging only behind cotton in the amount produced, jute is used in a huge variety of things. Its main use is as cloth for wrapping bales of raw cotton and also for making sacks and coarse cloth. However, it is also woven into upholstery such as curtains and chair coverings, carpets, rugs and backing for linoleum. Just can also be blended with other types of fibres to make up twine and rope and it can even be used to as wood fibre.

How is Jute Environmentally-Friendly?

Just is probably the most environmentally-friendly fibre you can find, from its seed to its expired fibre – even this can be recycled more than once. It is a true sustainable and renewable resource as it is incredibly easy to grow and re-grow, with plants being grown in 4-6 months. This rapid cycle means that it can replenish itself more easily without the need to plant more trees – and it also doesn’t need as much space or energy to grow as trees do. It provides a huge amount of cellulose from the inner woody of the jute stem, which can help meet the wood needs of the world and therefore protect against deforestation.

Jute is 100% biodegradable and so is a fantastic alternative to many synthetic materials. For example, it serves as great containers for young trees planted directly into the soil, without having to disturb the roots. Its use in many home textiles and products means that there is less worry about synthetic materials clogging up landfills for many decades to come.

Jute as Flooring

Jute is a fantastic natural flooring option. It’s fine, lustrous quality and ability to be woven into many designs, such as herringbone and tweed, make it a great eco-friendly alternative to traditional carpets. It can also be woven into areas rugs or be used in composite form as the underlay or back for linoleum.

Jute flooring has many advantages. It is incredibly durable and strong, and its fibre is colour- and light-fast so it will not fade easily in the sun. It is completely natural and so less likely to trigger skin irritations. Other advantages include its anti-static properties, its low thermal conductivity and acoustic insulation properties. Jute is also fire-resistant due to its inherent structure and its natural oils – it might catch fire but it will not stay lit for long. So having jute coverings in your home can help to protect and prevent fire spreading. Jute can also be easily blended with other fibres, both natural and synthetic to provide a myriad of fabric and textile types with advantageous properties.

Jute does have some disadvantages, namely that its strength rapidly deteriorates in the presence of moisture or certain atmospheric conditions, such as acidic conditions. Thus, it is not ideal for humid climates as not only does it lose its strength and durability but it also becomes more prone to microbial attack. Great care must be taken not to get jute flooring wet and thus it is not recommended for areas such as the kitchen or bathroom, nor for areas which endure high wear and tear as this increases the need for cleaning (as well as being unsuitable for jute’s fine texture).

Nevertheless, jute is still a great choice for sustainable flooring and not only provides you with beauty and durability but also the peace of mind that it will not be filling up landmills but will simply break down into the soils and in fact, replenish natural nutrients.

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