Steve Spencer, facilities specialist at State Farm Insurance in Bloomington, Ill., doesn’t have just any matting program. Instead, he spends day in and day out perfecting the ideal walk-off program that will minimize tracked-in debris, prevent slips, trips and falls, and still provide a visually appealing entryway.

“We call it a walk-off program because it isn’t just about matting,” says Spencer. “We also use walk-off tile with pressure-sensitive backings and build it into our entrances so we get the most effective results.”

In fact, Spencer stresses that the program is successful because it consists of three key phases. Phase one begins outside the building with a large scrapper mat that is designed to “scrape” off heavy soils from shoes and prevent it from coming inside.

“There is so much debris in the parking lot that you never want to see inside the vestibule of the facility,” says Spencer. “Scrapper mats are designed to grab and trap that debris.”

Phase two of his walk-off program happens immediately inside the entrance where Spencer recommends using a “scraper absorber” that is less abrasive than what’s used outside, but both scrapes and holds debris from footwear. But before choosing his walk-off of choice, Spencer tests it for water capture, retention and sand capture.

“It has to have some heavy yarns in there to scrape, but also absorb moisture,” he says. “When you have a mat or walk-off, you have backing, but the face weight should be able to absorb eight to 10 times its weight. If it does that, then I test how quickly it releases the water or debris.”

Spencer actually does six different tests on matting and walk-off tiles before implementing them in his facilities. For example, one test consists of sprinkling ice melter on it and using a standard upright vacuum in an attempt to remove it. If the debris isn’t easily lifted, he won’t implement the mat.

“A lot of products have groves to absorb water and debris, but if you can’t get it out with a regular vacuum, then what’s the use of being able to hold it?” he asks. “We use ice melter because it is the biggest complaint from our cleaners.”

Finally, phase three in Spencer’s program involves a little math. According to industry studies, if the average person walks on six feet of matting or walk-off tile, roughly 40 percent of the debris from their shoes will be removed. If matting stretches 20 feet, 80 percent of debris will be removed.

Reportedly, 98 percent of debris and soil will be removed after 39 feet of walk-off. With that in mind, Spencer has designed the interior of State Farm Insurance so walk-off matting and tiles stretch 30 to 50 feet into the facility. The walk-off matting and tiles are also strategically placed to provide optimal performance.

“Our walk-off spans the width of the door because we found it will wear evenly that way,” says Spencer. “If you have a large vestibule with decorative areas on the sides where no one walks, the mats will wear differently and look new over there. We put something else there and keep the walk-off in the main track of foot traffic. We found that you don’t need the tiles from wall to wall.”

CORINNE ZUDONYI is the editor of Facility Cleaning Decisions magazine and

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Routine Cleaning Of Walk-Off Matting