Coir is the fiber from the husk of the coconut. It is the “waste product” (renewable natural by-product) of the food industry, and is a very useful material. It is used in ropes, mats, brushes, sacks, caulking for boats and as stuffing fiber for mattresses. It is also used in horticulture in potting compost, especially in orchid mix, and in wetland restoration, erosion and sediment control.
We use fresh water cured (no salt) coconut coir as bedding for our worm beds, cover material in our composting toilets, as a planting medium for aquaponics, and as part of our soil mix in our square foot garden beds. It is a excellent sustainable replacement for non-sustainable peat moss, as it lasts at least 5x longer without degrading.
Coir fiber has the highest strength and durability of any readily-available natural fiber and use for making a variety of products including products for protecting and improving natural resources. Coir is the fiber processed from coconut husks that have been cured in water. This abundant natural resource is a by-product of the coconut industry. It is a plantation crop growing mainly in the tropics. Each tree produces once in every 7 weeks and year round production of coconuts assures the availability of coconut husks. Traditional coir processing begins with curing (retting) the coconut husks in freshwater for at least three months. This curing turns the coir fibers to dark brown in color. It also increases the durability, strength and flexibility of the coir. With skilled processing, coir fiber is separated into different grades, depending on the length of the fiber. This fiber separation process is done only in Sri Lanka, and the Sri Lanka coir products are superior to coir products made in other countries.
During processing, the initially separated fiber is called mattress coir fiber. These are short and flimsy. The next fiber separated is called omat coir fiber. They are medium in length and thicker than mattress coir fiber. The longer and thicker fiber left after separating the mattress and omat coir fibers are called bristle coir fiber. Bristle coir fiber is the best quality fiber in the market and has very low biodegradability. The left over particles once all the fibers are separated is called the coir pith (dust). Although it has very little nutritive value, the porous coir pith is an excellent soil-less plant growing medium. Coir pith also use in worm and reptile bedding, as well in environmental cleanups.
Recently for convenience, some millers are processing fiber with quick defibering machines. The fiber process from this method is not as flexible and durable as the fiber process from traditional method. India, Philippines and a few other countries cure their coconut husks in lagoons. These fibers are generally white in color due the bleaching effect from salt in lagoon water and they tend to contain excess salts.
Coir fiber and Jute fiber are completely different fiber types. Coir fiber products are stronger and more durable than Jute fiber products.