Intelligent matting

12th of November 2018
Intelligent matting

ECJ speaks to Lee Fox, sales and marketing director of matting specialist Kleen-Tex, about
the key role mats play in commercial buildings.

Mats are often perceived as a mundane purchase, something for people to wipe their feet on to keep the worst of the dirt at bay. But an intelligent choice and positioning of matting can do much more than that. It can transform the appearance of entrance ways, help reduce cleaning costs, reduce health and safety risks and help minimise bacteria in a building.

It is thought that up to 90 per cent of dirt enters a building on the soles of people’s shoes. Wheelchairs, too, can bring in dirt on their tyres. For many businesses the obvious way of preventing dirt entering is to buy a mat. The problem is, there is often very little thought put into that purchase and into the environment in which it is expected to operate.

To make matting work effectively it’s necessary to ask some key questions about the type of dirt it is expected to trap. For example, entering via a gravelled walkway will produce far more debris than a concrete footpath. The weather should also be an important consideration. Mats need to withstand far more moisture in wet weather, but factor in ice and snow, when grit may have been laid outside to prevent slips, and the mat then must contend with additional debris which can overwhelm it.

It is known that 1,000 people can bring in up to 100 grams of dirt. Factor in wet weather and that figure increases tenfold.  Removing that dirt is time-consuming and costly – around €900 a kilo.
Often companies adopt ‘one size fits all’, with  supermarkets selecting the same kind of mat as a corner shop. Another common mistake is to fail the change the mat regularly, allowing it to be become clogged, saturated and unfit for purpose.

Sales and marketing director of mat specialist Kleen-Tex Lee Fox says choosing the right kind of mat for the right job is critical to performance, longevity and effectiveness. “An entrance flooring system should scrap, wipe and retain moisture.  If the area is large enough, mats designed for each specific purpose can be laid so that by the time people step onto the floor their footwear is clean and dry,” he explained. This same logic can be applied internally, for example, moving from a factory production line to an office, or in domestic locations, moving from a kitchen to a living room.

There are many types of entrance systems including grilles, ribbed, impregnated, disposable, textile, leakage and spillage controlled, and random looped.  Their surface materials can be used separately or in various combinations, depending on space and requirements. These include natural fibres such as wool, cotton and coir (coconut matting), man-made fibres such as nylon, polypropylene, viscose and polyester and other materials such as natural and synthetic rubber, paper, polyvinyl chloride and other plastics.  Retaining systems can be recessed or surface mounted.

“It is worth spending time researching the best options for a particular building, based on footfall and overall surface area,” advised Fox. “Wherever possible, we advocate using a three mat system where the first mat removes grit and heavy soiling, the second mat removes grit and moisture and the third mat takes up the residual grit and moisture. By the time people step onto the floor their shoes are practically dirt free which brings all kinds of benefits.

“Firstly, floors remain dry, which minimises the risk of slipping. Excess debris which could cause falls or trips is eliminated. This in turn reduces how often the floor is cleaned, impacting positively on cleaning costs. Finally, it has an impact on the appearance of building, helping to create a good first impression.”

Matting length also has a dramatic effect on the effectiveness of dirt and water removal. Ideally, a minimum of six metres of matting is required to optimise performance, as each foot should come into contact with the mat at least three times. Figures based on a 10-metre runner estimate that approximately 37 per cent of all dirt is trapped in the first two metres, 52 per cent in the first four metres, 71 per cent in the first six metres and 86 per cent in the first eight metres. “A matting length of nine metres will effectively remove 99 per cent of dirt and moisture,” said Fox.

Where matting is positioned is also critical to its performance. Mats should be positioned to cover all the routes people use to enter a building and be the correct size to provide adequate cover of the whole of the entrance way.

Having a proper cleaning and maintenance programme is as important as choosing a matting system that is fit for purpose. A well cleaned system will remove and capture dirt and moisture, but if cleaning is inadequate the mat will quickly become ineffective. “Reputable mat suppliers will provide details of the cleaning methods required and the timescales recommended for carrying them out,” said Fox. Different cleaning methods will apply, depending on what matting system has been selected, from daily vacuuming, to carpet extraction and pressure washing.

“Not only will regular cleaning keep entrance ways looking good, it will also extend the life of the product by reducing the abrasive and rotting effect of dirt and moisture. If you have invested in a well-thought-out matting system it’s common sense to look after it properly,” added Fox.

“It’s also worth remembering that, as with almost every product, quality really does count. By investing in the best materials your budget can stretch to, you will get the benefits in longevity and performance,” he advised.

Whilst entrance matting is used in virtually all buildings, mats can also be used elsewhere to transform the appearance of a building and enhance the wellbeing of those who work in it.

Specialist mats are a valuable asset in areas where safety and hygiene are critical, such as hospitals, catering establishments, swimming pools and spas. Mats which deflect moisture and dirt are highly effective in reducing spread of bacteria, whilst sticky mats are very popular for reducing contamination in highly sensitive environments such as laboratories. These mats are available in modular formats, to enable a bespoke system to be laid for maximum effectiveness.

Whilst many jobs, such as production line operatives, chefs and hairdressers, have always involved long periods of standing, modern desk-based workforces are now being encouraged to stand more at work, too. Sitting has been classed as the new smoking when it comes to shortening life expectancy as sedentary lifestyles are blamed for a host of health issues, from obesity to diabetes. However, standing for long periods on hard floors can put pressure on joints and muscles causing back issues, so to prevent this, specialist anti-fatigue mats promote wellbeing whilst standing.

With advances in print technology it is now possible to create matting that is bespoke for a particular business, a complementary floor covering to match the overall décor of the building. It’s worth remembering, too, that the floor is one of the most overlooked areas when it comes to getting across an important message.  “Most people look down when entering a building, so where better to place a message for them to notice,” said Fox.

This can be anything from a welcoming message to a company logo. “More and more companies are recognising that the floor is the largest untapped advertising space other than the sky and are beginning to have bespoke messages printed onto their mats. “Some are using them to help with advertising and promotional campaigns, placing strategic messages about their company and its offering,” he added.

It is the thought the earliest form of matting was used thousands of years ago in the form of rush matting, as apparently even humans living in the most primitive conditions did what they could to keep external dirt at bay.

We’ve come a long way since then, and today’s mat technology provides endless possibilities for products to protect more than the floor. Very similar technology is now used for bar mats in pubs and bars and no doubt other applications will be recognised in the future.


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