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Matting 101

It's winter, which means it’s time for a quick review of “Matting 101”- how high-performance matting works and why it's crucial for keeping facilities clean, healthy, and safe year-round.

February 2 will certainly go down as a date to remember in Chicago history. Who could forget 60-mile-per-hour winds, blinding snow, and freezing temperatures bringing the city to a standstill for more than two days? It was definitely the most powerful blizzard to hit the city in more than a decade.

Of course, Chicago was not alone when it came to foul weather this winter. Extreme cold, freezing rain, and snow have hit the country from Maine to New Mexico, making this one of the worst winters in decades. The question now is, how did schools, office buildings, and other facilities weather these powerful storms?

One thing is certain: for those buildings without an effective, high-performing matting system in place, much of this winter’s wrath was "walked in" on the feet of facility users, causing major floorcare problems for custodial workers. This means it’s time for a quick review of “Matting 101”-that is, how high-performance matting works and why it's crucial for keeping facilities clean, healthy, and safe year-round.

How High-Performance Matting Systems Work

At one time, matting meant little more than placing what some type of “rug” at key entry points, hoping building users would take the time to wipe their shoes before entering. Unfortunately, some mats are still designed with this basic concept in mind.

Effective, high-performance matting systems, on the other hand, are designed to stop dirt and moisture at the door. They then hold on to these contaminants until cleaning crews can remove them via vacuuming or extraction.

This containment system often requires mats featuring "two-level" or "bi-level" construction. With this type of matting, building users walk on the top level of the mat, but the soil and moisture on their shoes falls to a lower level, preventing it from being tracked into the building and reducing floorcare needs.

The “Rule of 15” is also vital to any effective matting system. To trap as much contamination as possible, experts recommend using five feet each of three types of matting:
  • Scraper mats, placed directly outside entries to catch larger debris and heavier concentrations of moisture
  • Scraper/wiper mats, installed inside facilities to capture and trap smaller contaminants and liquids
  • Wiper mats, the "final line of defense," positioned after wiper/scraper matting to remove any remaining dirt and moisture from shoe bottoms
Using this type of effective contaminant-trapping system does more than keep facilities clean. It also enhances building safety by reducing the risk of slip-and-fall accidents. 

Do They Really Work?

Several organizations and studies have scientifically evaluated how much soil and moisture can be walked into a facility when proper matting is not installed. Here are some of their conclusions:
  • Eighty percent of the soil that enters a facility is walked in through the front door.
  • On average, one person brings 0.02 ounces of soil into a facility every day.
  • If 100 people work in this facility five days per week, more than 10 ounces of soil is walked in daily.
  • In one year’s time, that adds up to more than 160 pounds of dust, dirt, soil, and contaminants.
  • It can cost between $500 to $800 to remove just one pound of soil from a facility.  In this scenario, cleaning costs could run more than $10,000.
  • Fifteen feet of effective, high-performance matting can trap and hold up to 75 percent of this soil at the door; 30 feet can remove as much as 100 percent.
As mentioned above, proper matting also increases safety. The National Safety Council estimates that the average cost of a slip-and-fall accident in the United States is approximately $50,000 per incident (including lost work time, worker’s compensation, and medical costs). Building managers and cleaning professionals know that these accidents and their associated costs can be minimized or even eliminated with an effective matting system.

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