Walk It Off! The Value of Matting Programs

December 14, 2010
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The beginning of winter challenges the floor maintenance technician with unrelenting soil and moisture migration that encroaches into all buildings. The combination of soil and moisture that occurs at this time of year, in conjunction with foot traffic, makes floors particularly vulnerable to the damaging effects of erosion.

The struggle against the elements begins outside of the facility. Regular maintenance of exterior areas and parking lots can contribute a great deal to reducing the soil load that otherwise has the potential of working its way into the facility.

Parking lots should be policed for debris on a regular basis and serviced by a professional parking lot cleaning company on a periodic basis. Sidewalks adjacent to the entrances get very soiled during this time of year, so periodic pressure washing may help to reduce or eliminate these harmful soils.

Taking care of these exterior areas before the soil ever reaches an entry point will be helpful in maintaining the interior flooring materials.

The main line of defense against exterior soils is at the entrance points, and there is nothing more valuable to the floor maintenance program than a good matting system. A good walk-off mat program is the best defense for dirt and grit control; reducing the amount of soil coming into the building increases the chance of controlling what does get in.

The matting system is a three-step process that begins outside the entrances. The first part of the system incorporates the use of a scraper-type mat that utilizes natural or synthetic matting to scrape away the larger amounts of dirt and grit attached to shoes.

The second piece of the system is a natural or grass mat. This mat is placed inside a vestibule (if there is a dual entrance) or just inside the main entryway. The primary purpose of this mat is to absorb moisture and remove a little more of the soil coming into the facility.

The final type of mat is the fiber mat, and its function is to trap the remaining soil and moisture that enters the facility before it has the opportunity to come in contact with the floor.

In addition to simply having the mats themselves, consideration should be given as to their respective lengths. A generally accepted notion is that a person should have at least four footfalls come in contact with matting before stepping on a floor. If a person has a 3-foot stride, that would equate into 12 to 15 feet of matting. The American Institute of Architects conducted a survey that indicates that 5 feet of matting will capture 33% of external soil entering a facility, 10 feet will capture 52%, 20 feet will capture 86% and 25 feet will capture nearly all of the soil entering into a facility.

It is safe to assume that the more matting placed around entrances, the more soil will be captured.

Unfortunately, many facilities will only have a 3-by-4-foot mat placed at the door, with the expectation that the mat will collect all the soil. This is totally inadequate for most facilities, and longer mats should be incorporated for better results.

Maintenance of the matting system is just as important as the maintenance of the facility. The purpose of the walk-off mat is to collect soil, but mats can become filled to capacity, after which they will not work and will even contribute to the problem. Therefore, these mats must be vacuumed on a daily/routine basis, laundered at regular intervals and replaced when worn out.

It’s also important to have enough walk off mats to be able to change them out. In addition to the amount of soil that the mat may hold, there is also the consideration of the amount of moisture that the mat can retrain. Too much moisture in the mat can cause issues on many types of floors, especially water-sensitive flooring. Keeping the mats dry by changing them out frequently can help to reduce or prevent damage to the floor.

One other thing that should be addressed is mat construction. Some mats with rubber or vinyl backing may cause discoloring when placed in front of a door where there is excessive sun exposure. The combination of sunlight, heat and moisture allows petroleum or plasticizer migration from the mat to the floor. For the most part this is not an issue, but occasionally a dark silhouette the shape of the mat will migrate into the pores of the flooring material which will be difficult, and in some cases impossible, to remove.

Just because walk-off mats do not help to clean the floor does not mean you should ignore them. That they capture soil and moisture at the door makes them an essential part of the floor maintenance program.

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