Myths - Mat Edition

The internet has exposed us to loads of information, but not all that information is accurate. Knowing the difference between fact and fiction can be difficult, so we’re busting some of the most common myths about mats.

Myth 1:  Mats have a clearly defined service life.

The service life of a mat is finite, but the duration depends on the environment in which it serves and the way it is maintained.

Just like any tool, if properly maintained, it will last longer than those that are neglected. Entrance mats should be cleaned regularly to ensure that it effectively removes dirt and moisture from your shoes to prevents tracking. Mats that already contain dirt, sand and water in the carpet are less effective. Anti-fatigue mats should be cleaned regularly to ensure the surface remains slip-resistant and safe.

Service life is affected by usage to a large degree. For instance, let’s assume two identical manufacturing facilities purchase the same anti-fatigue mats. These facilities are identical in every way, except Plant A runs three shifts seven days a week, while Plant B runs two shifts five days a week. The mats in Plant B will be used roughly half as much as the mats in Plant A, and will subsequently have a much longer service life, pending no unexpected damage occurs to them.

Myth 2:  The thicker the backing of a mat is, the longer it will last.

While thickness does affect the performance of a mat, it does not necessarily extend its useful service life. Thickness affects two mat attributes – movement and yarn shrinkage.

Mats with thicker backing are heavier and therefore less likely to move or “creep,” as we say in the industry. We recommend thicker mats for areas with higher traffic and areas with a heavy cart or buggy traffic. However, in an application with moderate traffic, a 3mm rubber mat will not last any longer than the same mat backed with 1.5mm rubber.

Backing thickness also plays a role in shrinkage and rippling, which typically is a problem for mats that are regularly laundered. The carpeted surface of a mat shrinks if exposed to high washing temperatures. Even synthetic fibers shrink if laundered at very hot temperatures. Nothing stays the same forever! As the carpet shrinks, it begins to pull on the base of the rubber causing small waves to form in the border, known as “rippling.” The thicker/heavier the backing and borders are, the less likely it is to ripple. The thicker rubber can resist the pull of the shrinking carpet better. If you know that you will wash your mats more often in hot water (>60°C) than a thicker backing will be a good investment as it will keep your mats flat for a longer time.

Myth 3:  The softer the anti-fatigue mat, the better it is.

When jobs require an employee to stand for long periods of time, blood flow to the lower extremities is restricted causing soreness and fatigue. Anti-fatigue mats are designed to support the muscles in the legs and back and promote slight movements in the leg and calf muscles which results in increased blood and oxygen flow, preventing or delaying soreness and fatigue.

Compression deflection is the measurement used to gauge the displacement of the mat under pressure. A load is applied to the mat and the results show the deflection as a percentage. Typically, one load is applied at 1.41 kgf/cm² (kg per square cm) which equates to a 68kg person. Another load is applied at 2.82 kgf/cm² which equates to a 272kg person. Research suggests that the optimum deflection is between 20% and 60%. Anything less than 20% feels too hard, while anything over 60% feels too soft.

Though it seems counterintuitive that a surface could be too soft but it could. When surfaces have too high a deflection, your leg and back muscles don’t move subtly to promote blood flow, they work harder to stabilize your body. So a mat that’s too soft can actually cause increased fatigue.

Myth 4:  Mats cause more accidents than they prevent.

Mats are designed to help prevent accidents. They keep floors dry and provide slip-resistance. However, just like seatbelts that are designed to minimize potential harm, they must be used correctly in order to be effective. As long as you use them the right way, your mats are far more likely to prevent accidents than they are to cause them.

  • Use mats made from quality materials, especially in high traffic areas. Vinyl-backed mats are often a tempting choice because they are cheaper, but they do not perform very well where there is more than moderate traffic. They are also prone to cracking and curling around the edges. When this happens, they can become dangerous if still in use. If you’re interested in mats that offer long-term durability and safe performance, it is better to invest in a rubber-backed mat. It will not crack or curl and will lay flat providing years of reliable service.
  • Select the proper mat backing surface based on your floor surface. Mats placed on smooth floors (tile, wood, and marble) will perform best with a smooth backing surface. Smooth backing on a smooth floor creates the most contact between the two surfaces, and therefore the most friction which minimizes movement. Mats placed on carpeted floors will perform best with a claw backing. Claws are small nubs that grip the carpeted surface to minimize movement.
  • Maintain your mats properly. If you want your automobile to perform best, you can't skip oil changes and tire rotations, etc. Mats are no different. They should be properly maintained to be effective. This means regular cleaning to remove dirt, sand, and moisture. If you choose to store your mats, they should be rolled properly, never folded. This is especially true for vinyl mats. Unlike rubber, vinyl has “memory,” meaning if it remains in a position for a long period of time, it will not return to its original position.