Jute rugs have a natural appeal, and seem to be a perfect choice for outdoor use. But before you outfit your porch or patio with a rug made from this fiber, be aware that a jute rug may not be the best choice for long term outdoor use--especially in certain climates.
The jute plant thrives in warm, humid climates like India, and was first exported to Europe in the 1800s. While it is growing, jute is a soft, shiny fiber that closely resembles the hemp plant. In terms of popularity of use, jute ranks second only to cotton. Today, jute is most commonly used as a packaging and construction material.
Jute is a strong and durable fiber, and, like many other natural materials, both the structure of the fibers and the natural oils found in jute make it fire resistant. (Jute is often used as a carpet matting to help stop accidental house fires from spreading.) Jute is also a sustainable, renewable resource. Not only does jute grow rapidly, it is easy to grow and regrow. Best of all, jute is biodegradable. Instead of taking up space in landfills, discarded items made from this impressive fiber will break down and actually replenish the soil with nutrients.
As with other natural fibers, jute is adversely affected by mold and mildew. Moisture will rapidly deteriorate the strength of jute by creating an environment for mold to flourish, and any organic soil in the rug will become food for that mold to thrive and spread. Keeping both indoor and outdoor jute rugs clean and dry is the best defense against rapid deterioration.
Because jute breaks down easily when exposed to moisture, it is not an ideal material for outdoor use. In humid climates, jute rugs may even be susceptible to mildew when used indoors. However, if you live in a dry climate, you will have much better results when placing jute rugs outdoors.
If you decide to take your chances with maintaining a jute rug outdoors, the process will be quite simple. Use a brush attachment to vacuum loose dirt from your jute rug regularly. Traditional cleaners will generally bleach out the color of a jute rug; treat spills by blotting with a white cloth immediately. For stubborn stains, dampen a cloth with club soda and blot, or use a cleaner that is specially formulated for use on natural fibers.
Because natural fibers like jute react adversely to excessive moisture, always minimize the amount of liquid you use to clean your rug. Never steam clean or use a wet shampoo method on a natural fiber rug. Dry damp areas on an indoor or outdoor jute rug with a hairdryer or fan immediately.