Over the years, floor mats have been a constant in the housekeeping arsenal. Their ability to entrap dirt, allergens and other contaminants before entering the building reduces manpower and the need for chemicals, improves indoor air quality and helps protect floors.

Today there are mats that scrape, channel water, dry, reduce fatigue, etc. — and often, they even perform multiple functions.

“There are no cookie cutter solutions,” says Ron Gustafson, marketing manager for Superior Manufacturing Group, Chicago.

Scrape and Clean
Scraping typically starts outside, where grills, grates, and mats remove larger debris before entering a facility. Most often, scrape and clean mats are used in conjunction with absorbent mats in entryways. These entry mat systems could be multiple or all-in-one mats. Gustafson comments that facility managers should consider their geographic region when setting up entryway mats.

“A mat used out West will be different from one used in Chicago, where you also want a drying function,” he says. “Traditionally we use different materials for these functions. We have a mat that looks striped, but one set of stripes is coarser for scraping, while the other stripe is more absorbent. We could also alter the mat’s characteristics with elevated grids and patterns to scrape.”

Marc DuCharme, Americo’s, Acworth, Ga., commercial division sales manager, recommends a three-mat system: exterior scrapers for use outside the door; entrance mats to grab the remaining dirt and moisture; and finishing mats to detail the job. DuCharme adds that finishing mats are also beneficial in areas around coffee machines or elevators.

Experts agree that it’s ideal to cover the entire width of an entryway for a length of four to five footsteps, or nine to 15 feet.

Message and Logo
Logo mats are commonly found in restaurants, hotels, airports, train stations, convention centers, schools and larger businesses. They can be used to display the name of a business, advertising or give instructions on safety reminders. For example, a shoe retailer ordered mats with outlines of different shoe sizes, so customers could stand on them as a fun way to determine their size.

Logo mats can vary between dye injected or actually woven for photorealistic imagery. These mats offer a variety of possibilities for fabric, including standard or looped nylon. Facility managers will also have to choose from rubber or vinyl backing — a decision that will depend on the area in which mats will be placed.

Manufacturers comment that maintenance to these mats is manageable. Some of the lighter weight mats can be laundered, while heavier mats can withstand cleaning similar to standard carpets.

Adhesive Matting
Ben Hellming, ITW Alma’s, Kennesaw, Ga., director of sales and marketing, says some adhesive mats have a clear adhesive polyethylene film that actively removes particulates as it’s walked across, or as wheels cross upon it. He says the acrylic-based, water-soluble adhesive sticks to dirt, but is nontransferable to shoes.

Originally designed for hospital use, this type of matting is now common in cleanrooms, break areas, dental labs and mills. Adhesive matting also has an aesthetic benefit, keeping surrounding areas free of minute debris and looking fresher longer.

“We encourage people to use a traditional walk-off mat and compliment it with an adhesive mat,” says Hellming.

Sometimes mats are applied directly to the floor with a water-soluble adhesive backing.

“The floor must be clean before the mat is anchored,” he says. “Then, just wash as usual.”

Most safety matting reduces slips and falls in wet or dry applications. This type of matting also offers anti-fatigue features.

“We can adhere a grit coating to anti-fatigue mats for safety,” says Gustafson. “There are umpteen different variations that would fit a variety of applications.” Lightly hosing down these mats also makes for easy maintenance by the cleaning department.

Julie Wells, marketing manager at The Andersen Company, Dalton, Ga., adds that matting ideal for a wet environment has holes to drain through, and dry environment matting has solid construction. She emphasizes that these mats can come equip with anti-static qualities useful in areas such as computer rooms. Cleaners can maintain these mats by regularly pressure washing them.

Tommy Wright, national director of marketing and business development at Guardian Floor Protection, Suwanee, Ga., highlights two types of anti-fatigue mats in a variety of styles for every application.

“The basic purpose is to increase productivity and reduce discomfort,” he says.

Foam mats are less expensive, but need to be replaced more often than other types of mats, due to their porous nature. These types of mats are often used in areas where there is not a lot of water or heavy traffic. Foam mats, traditionally, offer more options for color, texture and size.

Rubber bubble mats provide more comfort, and often come with beveled edges to reduce the risk of trips and falls. “Our bubbles are offset, so feet are constantly moving and it keeps consistent blood flow throughout the legs,” Wrights says.

Food Service
“To the naked eye food service matting looks similar to that used in an industrial environment,” says Gustafson. “But food service mats are a custom color so it can be easily identified. They often include rubber, which is a good product in restaurants because it provides more friction than vinyl.”

Some food service mats are perforated so that food drops through the mat, while others have beveled edges, removing what could be a slipping hazard. They also have rigid surfaces for slip resistance, and are made of nitrol rubber to repel grease. Others are grease resistant, which protects the mat from being corroded.

Food service mats often feature added benefits to keep workers safe. Some have suction cup backing to keep it in place, or edging that provides a non-slip surface that also acts as a scraper mat.

Food service matting is traditionally lightweight and durable, and can be picked up and put into an industrial dishwasher.

Specialty Matting
Many manufacturers make specialty matting to meet every facility need.

Anti-static mats can be used in front of copy machines or in manufacturing facilities where high-tech circuitry needs protection from static electricity. Sweeping or lightly mopping easily maintains these mats.

Some manufacturers also provide insulated nonconductive mats that grounds the individual standing on it and protects them from shock. They are often used near fuse boxes, transformers and high-voltage boxes. Maintenance for these mats are similar to anti-static mats.

For facilities in need, there are also fire-retardant mats made of molded rubber, which can include anti-microbial properties. Gustafson says these are used most often in military and manufacturing applications.

Matting manufacturers who design products for pleasing aesthetics deliver the concept to Class “A” facilities where looks are as important as performance.

“The lobby is the first impression made on guests, customers and associates,” says Mitchell Saltzman, president and founder of Creative Flooring Concepts, Plainview, N.Y. “Typically oversized mats are left there all the time, and the goal is to create a plan that ensures that matting is in the natural walk pattern of guests.”

He adds that it’s important to work with oversized material in both nylon and polypropylene, as well as the architectural floor plans and “on site” surveys. “Doing so helps the property manager create a matting floorplan that meets their unique needs including safety, storage, transport, floor plan re-assembly, color, style and budget,” says Saltzman.

When considering aesthetics, it is important to also consider safety edges, corner supports and water retention.

Mats need to be cleaned regularly, following the manufacturer’s specifications. Wright comments that applying any unapproved chemicals could produce an oily film that could make rubber mats slippery.

It is also important to store mats properly when they’re not in service so they don’t lose their shape and become trip hazards. Using heavy manufacturer-provided paperboard cores, cleaners can roll mats up and stack them, so they don’t warp.

Manufacturers recommend that facility managers examine their matting needs before making a purchase. Using the right type of matting will protect flooring and minimize both cleaning and potential safety hazards. Matting specialists also suggest cleaners follow a regular maintenance program with their matting. Doing so will guarantee effectiveness for the life of the product.

Lauren Summerstone is a freelance writer based in Madison, Wis.