Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Getting Walked All Over

August 17, 2012

If a group of facility managers were asked about the secrets for keeping hard surface floors clean and healthy throughout the year, most would likely say it starts with using the right finish followed by regular dust and damp mopping, as well as scrubbing and recoating.

Similarly, if they were asked about the secrets to keeping carpets clean and healthy, they would likely suggest things such as frequent vacuuming and regular cleaning using hot water carpet extraction.

Although these answers are worthy and do have merit, in more cases than not, the secret to maintaining clean and healthy hard surface floors and carpets starts with an effective matting system.

A well-placed, effective matting system is, without question, the most significant way to keep indoor floor coverings clean.

Taking this a step further, mats help keep all surfaces in a facility clean and contaminant-free.

A study by 3M, manufactures of a variety of matting systems and other floor care products, found that if 1,500 individuals walk through a building with no front entrance matting installed, then up to 42 percent of the floor finish can be damaged or removed within the first six feet of the inside entrance.

Many in the professional cleaning industry are aware of the studies conducted by ISSA, the worldwide cleaning association, and others that have scientifically evaluated how much soil and moisture can be tracked into a busy facility when proper matting is not installed.

For instance, it is estimated that anywhere from 70 percent to as much as 90 percent of the soil entering a facility is "walked in" through the front door, which can total as much as 24 pounds by 1,000 people when no matting is installed.

These contaminants can mar hard surface flooring and soil carpeting — and much, if not most, of this can be trapped at the door with an effective matting system in place.

But, once it has damaged floors and carpets, these same studies indicate it can cost anywhere from $500 to more than $800 — including labor and equipment — to remove just one pound of soil.

Conversely, the European Dust Association estimates that, for every dollar spent on keeping soils outside, managers can save $10 in cleaning costs.

A Systems Approach

To understand how matting works and can help protect floors and carpets as well as the indoor environment, we must first realize that we are not discussing the placemat of a small mat here and another one there.

What we are referring to is the installation of between 15 and 20 feet of matting with about five feet placed outside a facility, another five in the vestibule area — an area between two sets of entry doors found in many commercial facilities designed to keep cold or hot air outside — and the remainder of the matting inside the facility itself.

Further, the 15 or more feet of matting should be viewed as part of a system, with three different components based on the texture of the matting.

These three components are the following:

1. Scraper mat

The scraper matting is placed outside the facility.

Typically made from polypropylene fiber, these mats are designed to aggressively remove the larger particulates of soil and moisture that can damage floors and carpets the most.

2. Scraper/wiper mat

Directly inside the building, in the vestibule area mentioned earlier, should be a less aggressive matting material, sometimes referred to as a scraper/wiper mat.

This mat further removes soil and traps moisture.

It is also designed to take advantage of the way people actually walk into a facility.

Typically, when walking through the vestibule, people twist their feet when they open the next set of doors.

This twisting motion helps remove soil and moisture, which is then captured and trapped in the mat.

3. Wiper mat

The final matting component, found directly inside the facility, is often referred to as a wiper mat.

Not as roughly textured as the other two matting components, some cleaning professionals refer to it as "the final line of defense," stopping most of the remaining contaminants and moisture from entering the facility.

Along with the three components that make up a matting system, some experts suggest that they all be selected from the same manufacturer.

This is because matting manufacturers often engineer their mats to work together so that one mat — for instance, the scraper mat — works most effectively with the next mat, and so on.

Different Strokes For Different Folks

With a basic understanding of how mats work and how their soil and moisture removal capabilities can protect indoor flooring, it is important to note that, while high-quality — often referred to as high-performance — matting systems are preferable for use and should be selected, not all mats are made for all facilities.

Typically, high-performance matting systems are those purchased from a JanSan distributor; although it is possible, they are usually not the types of mats used by linen services.

Because they are of higher quality, a high performance matting system will often have a warranty of one or more years; a lower quality matting system may have a warranty of just a few months.

For example, the type of matting selected for a school is not necessarily the type of matting that should be placed at the entries of an office facility.

With schools, children are often walking in right from the playground.

They will likely have a considerable amount of dust and sand on the bottoms of their shoes, and a matting system made of a specific textured material designed to trap and capture this dust is preferable.

This type of mat would not necessarily be the best matting for an office building entry and may actually prove ineffective at keeping soils and moisture outside in this setting.

I should also note that matting placed indoors can also play a major role in helping to protect floors and carpets, and these, too, may be a specific type of matting.

For instance, some mats are designed to be used in foodservice areas to capture "sticky" substances like grease and oil, while mats in industrial settings like warehouses trap fine dust.

An astute distributor can help managers as well as cleaning professionals select the best matting for these and other indoor areas of the facility.

Cleaning And Care

To protect floors and carpets, matting systems must be kept clean; but, how best to accomplish this can vary based on the location.

For instance, in a high-traffic setting such as a busy office building, it is recommended that the mats be vacuumed two or three times per day.

Further, they should be picked up frequently to make sure the undersurface is clean and dry.

Soil and moisture can become trapped under the mat, and if the mat is placed inside the facility, this soil and moisture can mar and even discolor the floor.

Beyond vacuuming, the most important and effective way to keep matting systems functioning properly is to clean them using a hot water extraction system.

Typically, portable carpet extractors are used in commercial locations.

Because of the probability of dealing with heavily soiled materials, facility managers and cleaning professionals should select equipment that heats the solution.

Heating the solution to approximately 212 degrees Fahrenheit helps improve the effectiveness of the cleaning chemicals, as it helps dissolve and loosen soils embedded in the matting.

Along with this, equipment that has earned the Seal of Approval (SOA) from the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) should be selected because these machines have been independently evaluated and proven to remove contaminants as well as protect the environment.

Also, many experts now suggest the use of "box" portable extractors instead of walk-behind extractors because evaluations by CRI and other organizations appear to indicate they more thoroughly deep clean carpets as well as matting systems.

Hopefully, if a group of facility managers or cleaning professionals were now asked the secret to keeping floors and carpets cleaned, they would know it''s not the finish selected, the dusting or damp mopping or even the cleaning.

Instead, it''s the matting.

It all starts at the front door and it can have a bigger impact on floors and carpets and the overall health and cleanliness of facilities than many of us ever realized.

Mark Baxter is an engineer for U.S. Products, a manufacturer of portable carpet cleaning equipment, and a carpet cleaning trainer. He can be reached via his company''s website at