Though you can absolutely use a jute rug outside, you may have better options. Jute rugs are environmentally friendly and add a natural, rugged feel to a space. Given that they are made from plants, they seem a perfect fit for outdoor spaces. Consider all the facts before choosing jute, however. Though durable and biodegradable, jute performs poorly in humid climates and poses some cleaning challenges.
What is Jute?
Jute is a plant that thrives in warm, humid climates like India. It was first exported to Europe in the 1800s and is now used around the world. 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 commonly used to make burlap and twine as well as rugs.
Jumping for Jute Joy
Jute is a natural fiber, so it seems logical to use jute rugs in outdoor spaces. Because it's biodegradable, you can leave a jute rug in your outdoor space indefinitely, simply laying another rug on top of it when it begins to deteriorate. Jute is also a wise choice near an outdoor fire pit as its natural oils make it fire resistant. Jute is further classified as a vegetable fiber, so you don't have to worry if the local wildlife starts to nibble away sections of the carpet to use as nesting material. As a soft material, jute absorbs some sound, which may help ensure that your outdoor gatherings don't disturb the neighbors.
But Then Again...
Like many other natural fibers, jute is susceptible to mold and mildew. Moisture rapidly deteriorates jute and saps its strength, so jute rugs are best used on covered patios or in climates with very little rainfall. Their susceptibility to moisture makes jute rugs tricky to clean, so think twice about putting one outside if mud or grass stains on the rug will bother you. Food stains and spills may also prove problematic if you place a picnic table on the rug. Steam cleaning simply isn't a stain removal option for jute. Jute rugs also fade quickly in direct sunlight, so lighter rugs work better outdoors than darker ones which will fade noticeably and possibly unevenly. You might get away with a dark jute rug in a shaded area, but proceed with caution.
There are benefits to using a jute rug outside, so do so if your heart is set on it. You may, however, wish to consider some alternative natural fibers that are similar to jute but better suited to outdoor environments. Seagrass rugs are as durable as jute but better able to withstand wet and humid climates. Because seagrass plants grow in wet conditions, rugs made from it shed both water and stains. Seagrass is also the least expensive natural fiber on the market. Bamboo rugs are another outdoor option. They don't last as long as jute, but they are a snap to wipe clean and are both fire and insect resistant. Bamboo fades in sunlight, but no more so than jute.
Melissa Lewis has worked as a freelance writer since 2004, gaining much of her experience by working in the marketing/PR field. She writes for various websites, specializing in the areas of marketing, home improvement, cooking and pets. Lewis studied English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.