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.
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.
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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.