The matting season

21st of September 2012
The matting season
The matting season

How far does the weather and climate influence the type of matting a company would choose for their premises? Ann Laffeaty finds out.

Matting systems are vital for keeping buildings free from any foot-borne dirt. This is particularly important in public and commercial facilities where image is paramount and cleaning costs need to be kept down. But the type of dirt liable to come into a building can vary from country to country – and even from season to season. For instance substances such as rain, mud and snow may cause problems in the winter whereas dust, grit and sand tend to be more of an issue in summer. So which season causes the greatest problems for matting manufacturers and why?

Mountville Mills country manager Pieterjan Defoort says the winter months are the most challenging - and the problems are threefold in countries where there is heavy rain and snow. “First there is the safety issue, since the mix of dirt and snow leads to slippery surfaces which increase the risk of slip and fall accidents,” he said.

“The second problem is the cleaning issue, since the amount of dirt tracked inside creates extra work for your cleaning staff and increases your costs. And thirdly, any substances brought into the building on the shoes can damage the carpets and hard floor surfaces. Dirt and grit will create scratches on wood and tiles and cause them to wear down faster whereas snow, rain and moisture tracked on to carpets will lead to moulding and rotting.”

The main problems in spring and summer typically tend to be dust-related, says Defoort. “Dust will damage all kinds of flooring,” he said. “If it is not stopped at the entrance it will grind down the floor and cause serious damage. Dust can also cause sensitive electronic equipment and heating and cooling systems to fail - and allowing dirt to get tracked into the building drives up cleaning costs.

“It is estimated that removing one kilo of dirt costs approximately 400 euros and if you bear in mind the fact that 80 per cent of dirt is tracked into a building from the outside, then the importance of a good matting system becomes evident.”

According to Defoort cotton mats or rubber backed nylon mats are the most suitable choice for the cold, wet months of autumn and winter. “In high traffic areas where moisture and dirt are continuously tracked into facilities, the best results can be achieved by using a complete floor care programme,” he added. “The ideal matting system here would consist of a scraper mat outside the front door to remove the dirt and moisture, followed by a brush mat and then a traditional logo or cotton mat placed inside the front door. Anti-fatigue and message mats could then be used in other areas.”

He says the minimum length of a matting programme should be five metres. “This will help to reduce cleaning and maintenance costs and improve the image of your building while reducing slip and fall accidents during inclement weather conditions.”

Cotton mats are the best solution for moisture control, he claims. “A cotton mat can absorb more than three times its own weight of water so these would be advised for a cold, wet country.” And he adds that technology has dramatically improved over the past few years which has led to a whole host of new products in the marketplace. For example Mountville has developed a series of WaterHog mats claimed to hold more than four litres of water per square metre.

Health and safety concerns

“Traditional dust control mats have also been improved to maximise their capacity and lifetime,” said Defoort. “The dust control capability of these mats has been enhanced by adapting carpet in heights and density to optimise dust and moisture trapping capabilities. There is also a much wider variety of sizes, colours, and textile options available today than there were in the past.”

Coba Europe sales director Chris Stanley says demand for entrance matting systems is often weather-related. “The UK’s 2012 spring and summer saw an unprecedented demand for entrance mats given the exceptional rainfall, for example,” he said.

“Health and safety is the main problem during the wetter seasons. Where smooth floors are concerned the excess moisture on the floor is a potential slip hazard both for the public and for the cleaning staff who have to maintain them.”

He adds that in summer, fine dry dust can be slippery when tracked on to a smooth floor while also causing wear and damage. “Greasy soil also often builds up in central pathways and this can be very problematic to remove if left untreated,” he said. “This is where versatile interlocking tile systems become beneficial because isolated tiles can be replaced or repositioned.”

He says looped matting systems are particularly suitable in warmer seasons and in countries where sand is more prevalent than soil. Coba’s Loopermat has a PVC looped pile surface and is said to be effective in sand-prone buildings. “The sand is trapped and then shaken free of the mat to clean.”

Stanley recommends a heavy duty open-holed style of rubber matting with optional brush inserts for the cold, snowy winters of northern Europe. With carpeted floors, he says, the main issues are soiling and staining. “This not only requires additional cleaning but can reduce the lifespan of the floor covering,” he says.

“The reality is that entrance matting in many buildings simply doesn’t cover enough floor space to deliver optimum benefits. The larger the walk-off area, the more effective it will be. That is why many of today’s modern buildings feature ‘zoned’ entrance areas.”

Zone One, he explains, is the external matting area for scraping dirt and debris; Zone Two comprises the intermediate matting responsible for removing the last of the damaging soil and grit, and the interior matting system in Zone Three will remove any remaining fine dust and moisture. “It is not only footwear but also wheelchairs that should be taken into consideration,” he said. “A full wheelchair revolution requires a minimum 2.5m length of matting to be effective.”

3M European market development manager Richard Jones agrees that the main 'matting season' in northern Europe tends to be the colder, wetter months between September and March. “You have to be prepared for whatever the climate throws at you,” he said. “We sell a lot of mats to the Nordic countries and these tend to be designed for removing substances such as ice and compressed snow. In northern Europe customers will usually opt for an outdoor scraper mat for this purpose.

“Damp leaves can be a problem in the autumn since once they have been tracked into a building they become slippery. The key is to make sure they don’t come in the door.”

For southern European summers where the main problems are dry dust and sand he recommends a backed PVC mat for use outside the building. “This allows you to turn the mat upside down and shake out the debris. If you use a non-backed mat, the sand will fall through it and linger around the doorway where it may become tracked back in again at a later date.”

He says coir matting does not work well in the hot, dry summer months. “Here the dust or sand will simply sit on top of the matting, then if someone else walks on to the mat with damp shoes they may track the sand back in again,” he said.

3M produces the Nomad Terra mat for outdoor use. Made from PVC this is weather resistant and uses a scraping action to remove larger items of soiling from the shoes such as snow and autumn leaves.

For entrances and for use inside a building the company offers the Nomad Aqua Series which comes in various combinations of fibres. “These mats incorporate both coarse fibres to scrape off the dirt and fine fibres to absorb the moisture,” says Jones. “In fact all our textile mats combine both coarse and fine fibres.  We first patented this process around 15 years ago and we still hold by this structure as offering the best combination there is.”

CWS junior product manager Maren Schulte agrees that wet and slippery floors are the main challenge during bad weather conditions.  “During dry seasons, dirt and dust can have a sandpaper effect on valuable wooden floors or marble,” she said. “Mats can help to protect them and preserve the appearance of a building while making expensive repairs unnecessary. By absorbing dust they also contribute to better air quality in buildings.”

CWS offers scraper mats for removing soil, stones and snow from footwear plus 'alu-profile' mats for indoor and outside use. “Our fine standard or logo mats can take over inside the building to reduce the need for additional floor cleaning,” she said.

“A lack of service is usually a much greater problem than any weather condition or specific kind of dirt,” said Schulte. “A mat can only absorb and protect so much - then it needs to be changed and laundered. One square centimetre can absorb approximately 4.5 litres of dirt and moisture but as the water evaporates, the dirt becomes trapped.

“Changing mats regularly and using resource-efficient laundries to clean them will preserve functionality and appearance.”


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