What is Sisal?

Sisal is a straw-like plant fibre. It is a species of Agave native to southern Mexico and now widely cultivated in many countries. Today, Brazil and China are the largest producers of sisal. The sisal fibres lie embedded longitudinally in the leaves of the plant and are usually obtained by machine decortication in which the leaf is crushed between rollers to strip it of its outer layers. The resulting pulp is scraped from the fibre which is then washed and dried by mechanical or natural means.

Sisal fibre has many end uses including rugs, wall coverings, rope, twine, matting, hats and brushes.

Properties and qualities

Sisal fibre is a course inflexible fibre that is strong and durable. It has the ability to stretch, takes dye well and is resistant to deterioration in salt water.

Sisal is pale cream in colour and is characteristically woven an open plain weave construction, which produces a coarse straw fabric. Sisal is also a renewable resource that absorbs more carbon dioxide that it produces during its life cycle. When it is processed, it generates organic wastes and leaf residues that can be used to generate bioenergy, produce animal feed and housing material. At the end of its life cycle, the material is 100 percent biodegradable.

These properties make sisal an excellent material for homewares because it’s kind to the environment and 100% natural, requiring no chemicals to treat or produce. Its durable nature makes it suitable for baskets, rugs, doormats and woven furniture. At URBANARA, our sisal products are often made in marginalised communities by local artisans. Our products made with this fibre are therefore often made by hand, helping to contribute to positive livelihoods of the workers.

How does it feel?

Sisal is a coarse material. It is harder than straw.


Sisal can be cleaned with a damp cloth. For best results, refer to the care instructions on your sisal product.