A building’s entryway is poised to greet clients with a reflection of the business that resides beyond the front doors. But often times that front door allows uninvited guests, in the forms of dirt, dust and allergens, to settle further into the building.

In fact, up to 24 pounds of dirt can be tracked in through a building’s front door during a 20-day work period, according to a study conducted by ISSA. However, building service contractors can stop 90 percent of dirt from entering the building by installing effective matting systems.

First Steps
When tailoring a building’s matting system, the first thing to study is feet.

“Try to look for traffic patterns,” explained Joseph Jenkins, president and CEO of the Salt Lake City-based BearCom Building Systems. “Where are the most common entrances that may be spreading dirt?”

Once the critical entry points have been identified, it is time to build the matting system. Ideally, the matting procedure begins with an exterior mat that will initially capture larger debris, such as snow or clumps of dirt.

“The point is that it catches the big stuff,” advises Jenkins, who recommends three to six feet of exterior matting.

Allen Rathey, president of InstructionLink/Jan Train Inc., Boise, Idaho, also stresses that longer is better. “Think walking, not wiping. Most people do not wipe their feet, so mats need to be extra long to enable enough walk surface to remove maximum soil.”

To ensure that larger particles are prevented from being tracked in, the exterior system should employ a scraper or finger mat. The finger mat with its tiny rubber nubs or the scraper mats’ mesh surface will hold fast to dirt particles and should secure excess water that may appear with snow or rain.

Once inside the door, the interior mats should follow a similar procedure as the exterior system. By the time a pair of shoes reaches the interior mat, the hope is that only trace particles of dirt and dust are left. Most contractors recommend wiper mats with durable rubber backing. These mats will continue to gather moisture while still capturing smaller particles. A quality interior mat may hold up to one-and-a-half gallons of water per square yard. As for the length, a good rule of thumb is that an interior matting system should run at least four to eight feet, say BSCs.

For a more modern approach, some businesses are employing adhesive matting. The adhesive mat’s glued surface captures finer dust and dirt particles than standard rubber mats. However, adhesive matting may be too slippery for main entryways, cautions Carolyn Shaw, operations manager, Worktec, Jonesboro, Ga.

When choosing an interior or exterior mat, its stability should be a deciding factor. A stable mat won’t bunch up or slide around while being walked on, which will help decrease possible slips and falls.

Matting needs to be properly maintained to ensure its effectiveness over a long period of time.

“Cleaning and replacement of mats should be scheduled to ensure continued effectiveness,” advises Rathey, who emphasizes that a matting system is only as successful as its maintenance.

Exterior mats are perhaps the easiest to maintain, typically only needing a good shake down. If the mats receive excessive use, upkeep may include sweeping or vacuuming with a wet-dry vacuum.

“The frequency of exterior maintenance depends only on how dirty the mat gets,” explains Jenkins, who says that most exterior mats may only need maintenance a few times during the week.

Interior mats, on the other hand, should be cared for daily to help preserve aesthetics and building cleanliness.

Vacuuming the mats daily will ensure the removal of dirt embedded deep in the mat’s surface.

“Vacuum and rotate for even wear,” says Jenkins. “This will force the carpet fibers to go in different directions and will help capture dirt.”

Steam cleaning or shampooing is recommended for deeply soiled and stained carpets. Some BSCs even advise businesses to buy two identical mats so that one can act as a replacement during maintenance.

The undersides of a mat also may need cleaning with a mild soap to guarantee that dirt brought in is not trapped under the mat, which can damage floor surfaces.

Businesses employing adhesive mats need only peel back the top layer to reveal a new sticky surface.
“Depending on the traffic,” explains Shaw, “this may need to be done once a day.”

It’s likely that most customers will be skeptical about switching to a new matting system and less than enthused about paying for it. But explaining to clients the added benefits of proper matting might change their minds.

An effective matting system helps reduce the amount of cleaning needed in the rest of the building.

“Soil passively removed at the door does not need to be actively removed by cleaning,” says Rathey.

By preventing dirt from entering the building, there will be less dirt to mop, dust or vacuum later. Less dirt also means improved indoor air quality.

Another benefit to proper matting systems is the potential for preserving floor surfaces.

“Small particles typically scratch the floor,” describes Shaw. “By capturing the particles with mats, maintenance is reduced and the floor finishing lasts longer.”

“Dirt on hard floors can become embedded,” adds Jenkins. “No amount of mopping will help with that.”

Matting benefits even extend to green-cleaning programs. Installing proper matting can help environmentally-conscious BSCs earn Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Existing Buildings (LEED-EB) credits for their customers. To earn one point towards LEED-EB certification, matting needs to be a minimum of 10 to 12 feet at all entrances, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.

Matting is the first line of defense for BSCs. Installing better matting will help ease the duties of cleaning staffs and ensure that the rest of the building remains clean throughout the day.