What is Coconut Fiber?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Coconut fiber or coir is a product which is extracted from the outer shell of the coconut fruit. It is used in a variety of ways worldwide, being especially popular for rope and matting, and there are a number of sources for coir and coir products. Both organic and conventionally produced versions are available, and some firms specialize in coir which has been harvested sustainably by workers who are paid a fair wage for their labor.

Coconut fiber is extracted from the outer shell of a coconut.
Coconut fiber is extracted from the outer shell of a coconut.

For people who are most familiar with the coconut as a food, the myriad uses of coconut products may come as a surprise. Coir comes from a matted fibrous layer found between the inner and outer husks of the coconut. To process coir, coconut husks are classically soaked to cause the fibers to swell and loosen so that they can be pulled apart.

Coconut fiber is also known as coir, and has a variety of uses.
Coconut fiber is also known as coir, and has a variety of uses.

There are two different types of coconut fiber: white coir and brown coir. White fiber comes from young coconuts, while brown fiber comes from more mature specimens. In mature coconuts, a layer of lignin has been deposited in the cellulose walls of the fiber, causing it to darken in appearance. Once extracted from the coconut, the fiber can be spun or matted. It can also be bleached or dyed, although some producers prefer to leave the fiber as it is for a more natural look.

Coconut fiber rope is a common use for coir, along with related products like woven mats and netting. Coir can also be used to make twine, doormats, and brushes. Matted or woven coconut fiber is sometimes utilized for natural erosion control, since the fiber is very durable, and it will withstand heavy weather and saltwater. The fiber is also utilized in mattresses, as both a stuffing and outer layer.

Another use for coconut fiber is in the garden, where blocks or mats of coir can be used in a variety of ways. Some gardeners use the fiber as a soil amendment, since a mat of coir can absorb a lot of water and nutrients, locking them in place for plants. It can also be used as a growth medium, or as a mat to keep down weeds. Unlike peat, a product commonly used for the same purpose, coconut fiber can be produced sustainably, and it is also less likely to harbor potentially dangerous bacteria and other organisms which could damage the garden.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Several dollar stores have round mats to use to line wire hanging pots. I used them around the base of new cedars to hold the moisture and smother weeds. They were $1.25 each. And they make a nice neat appearance around the trees, which are 5-6 feet tall at this time.


I use coconut coir fiber in brick form to help break down compost! This is a trick my kind neighbor passed on to me and it's really helped my efforts to be eco friendly.

One brick expands a lot so it's good value for money too. I buy them online in packs of ten, but it's no trouble to store them as they're very compressed.

If you want to make good compost you need to blend nitrogen and carbon rich matter. Coconut husk fiber is perfect to complement the food scraps and grass I already used.


@CaithnessCC - If you're having no luck at the gardening stores try a pet store instead!

The bricks may be labeled as coconut fiber substrate and I'm pretty sure that most of the bigger places will stock it. Or you can easily order it online if there's nothing close to you.

One of my brothers kept reptiles for years and used this stuff a lot.


I've just started a little garden and my friend recommended using coir to start some seedlings off. I can't see anything like it in my local garden center. Is there anywhere else where I could buy coconut fiber from?

I'd prefer not to have to buy in bulk as I only have a small garden and not a lot of storage space.

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