When it comes to mats, the belief that "the thicker, the better" is a common misconception. While mat thickness undoubtedly influences performance, does it genuinely extend the useful service life of a mat? We'll delve into the nuances of mat thickness and how it impacts two critical attributes: movement and yarn shrinkage.
The Thickness Myth: A Deeper Look
1. Movement Control: It's true that thicker mats are heavier, making them less prone to "creeping" or shifting, which is a common issue in high-traffic areas or places with heavy cart and buggy traffic. Hence, thicker mats are typically recommended for such environments. However, the misconception lies in assuming that thicker backing automatically equates to a longer-lasting mat. Here's a striking example: In an application with moderate traffic, a 90-mil rubber mat will not last any longer than the same mat backed with 52-mil rubber.
2. Yarn Shrinkage and Rippling: The thickness of a mat's backing plays a pivotal role in shrinkage and rippling, particularly in situations where mats will undergo regular laundering. The fibres constituting the carpeted surface of a mat may shrink when exposed to high washing temperatures. Yes, even synthetic fibres are not immune to the effects of very hot temperatures—nothing remains unchanged forever!
As these fibres contract due to heat, they exert a pull on the base of the rubber, causing small waves to appear along the mat's border, a phenomenon referred to as "rippling." Thicker backing and borders are less susceptible to rippling because thicker rubber can more effectively resist the forces exerted by the contracting carpet fibres.
Investing Wisely: If you're determined to consistently wash your mats in hot water (temperatures exceeding 140°F), opting for a thicker backing becomes a prudent investment. This choice will help keep your mat in a flat and well-maintained condition, resisting the adverse effects of high-temperature laundering.
Conclusion: The Truth About Mat Thickness
While mat thickness undoubtedly plays a role in movement control and resistance to rippling, it's essential to understand that thicker mats aren't a universal solution for extending a mat's lifespan. The overall longevity of a mat depends on several factors, including the environment it's placed in, its maintenance, and its intended use. Before choosing a mat solely based on thickness, consider the specific needs of your space and how well it aligns with the unique attributes of the mat in question. Remember, the key to a mat's lasting performance goes beyond thickness—it lies in a comprehensive approach to mat selection, care, and usage.