Carpeted (Wiper) Mats 101

A carpeted mat can be broken down into three basic components: the surface (the carpet), the backing material, and the backing surface.

The Surface

Carpet comes in a variety of materials, both natural and synthetic.  Natural fibers like cotton offer excellent absorbency.  Synthetic fibers like nylon, polypropylene, and polyester constitute the majority of all carpet sold because they offer a variety of benefits over natural fibers, including their resiliency, colorfastness (fade resistance), and their natural resistance to staining.

Nylon is the most versatile of the synthetic fibers.  It can be used to produce many styles, from plush, luxurious cut pile carpets to low maintenance loop carpets, like Berber.  It’s a resilient fiber that holds its twist well, making it an excellent choice for high-traffic areas with lots of activity.  Nylon can be acid-dyed or solution-dyed.  Acid-dying adds color to the surface of the carpet fiber, while solution-dying builds color into the fiber.  Acid-dying produces yarn that is like a radish – colored on the outside, but white on the inside.  Solution-dying produces yarn that is like a carrot – colored all the way through.  Because of this, solution-dyed fibers are impervious to bleach.

Polypropylene fibers will not absorb dye so they must be solution-dyed.  Since solution-dying builds the color into the structure of the fiber, polypropylene is naturally resistant to fading and staining.  It offers exceptional colorfastness, making it the ideal choice for areas with intense sunlight or areas where heavy traffic may lead to spills and stains.  Polypropylene fibers are not as resilient as nylon fibers (they don’t bounce-back from crushing like nylon) so it is better suited for loop carpets like Berber or needle-punched fabric. 

As carpet fibers go, polyester offers the versatility of nylon with the colorfastness of polypropylene.  However, “polyester” is a broad material category, and not all polyesters are created equal.  Our polyester of choice is polyethylene terephthalate (PET).  PET offers un-matched stain resistance, the versatility to produce plush cut pile carpets, and it’s one of the most eco-friendly carpet choices.   PET is made from post-consumer recycled plastic bottles.  The fibers can range from 25% to 100% recycled content.  We use 100% recycled PET on both our WaterHog and WaterHog Max product lines which feature a needle-punched fabric surface.  We developed a 100% recycled PET for our ColorStar products with fibers that are better suited for plush, cut pile surfaces. 

Bonus Question: Do you know the difference between a mat and a rug?  While rugs are typically used for decorative purposes, mats tend to be used more functionally.  Carpeted mats are backed, typically with vinyl or rubber to minimize movement, and while they can be decorative, they are generally placed to serve a specific purpose – to protect floors and prevent tracking, to provide added slip resistance in slick or wet areas, or in the case of anti-fatigue mats to provide comfort and reduce standing fatigue.

The Backing Material

Carpeted mats can be backed with a variety of materials.  Most commonly, PVC (vinyl) or rubber.  While these materials may look similar, they perform very differently, and you should understand those performance differences so you can select the best material for your particular needs.

Vinyl is traditionally less expensive than rubber but lacks many of the attributes that make floor mats durable and versatile.  While vinyl mats may perform suitably in a low/light traffic area, over time vinyl is prone to curling, warping, and cracking, especially in extreme temperatures. 

Rubber mats are best for high-traffic and heavy use areas. Unlike vinyl, rubber has no memory.  It can be rolled and stored, yet still lay flat when placed on the floor.  Rubber can endure extreme temperatures and is far less prone to cracking, curling and warping than vinyl.  Rubber can be produced with a number of different surface patterns/treads for safe use on a variety of floors.

We use two primary types of rubber used for backing carpeted mats: SBR (styrene-butadiene rubber) and nitrile rubber.  Nitrile is oil-resistant and can withstand the rigors of repeated washing and drying.  If your mat will be exposed to oil or grease, or if you are planning to have your mat commercially laundered, you will need to choose a mat backed with nitrile rubber.

Backing Thickness: We offer SBR rubber in one thickness, 48-mil.  We offer nitrile rubber in three primary thicknesses - 52-mil, 65-mil, and 90-mil; however, select products are available in 100-mil nitrile.  The thicker and heavier the rubber, the more dimensional stability the mat has.  Dimensional stability refers to a material's ability to maintain its original dimensions when subjected to changes in temperature and humidity.  

The Backing Surface

The backing surface of your mat should be chosen based on the type of flooring the mat will be placed on.  And regardless of the backing-flooring pairing, the mat should always be placed on a dry floor.

Mats that will be placed on a smooth surface like marble, tile, or wood perform best with a smooth backing.  The smooth backing allows the two surfaces to have the most contact and create the most friction to minimize movement.

Mats that will be placed on a carpeted surface perform best with a full-cleated backing.  Cleats are small nubs that grip the carpeted surface to minimize movement.  Universal-cleated backing is a hybrid option designed to perform on both smooth and carpeted floors.

In areas with heavy foot traffic or cart and buggy traffic, you may want to consider alternative backing options designed to keep mats in place even with extreme conditions. 


Put It All Together
When you are shopping for a carpeted mat, consider the following:

  • Where will your mat live?
    • On a smooth or carpeted floor
    • In a high traffic, medium traffic, or low traffic area
  • What will it be exposed to?
    • Direct sunlight
    • Possible staining agents – dirt/mud, coffee, etc.
  • How will you care for your mat?
    • Will it be cleaned regularly by your janitorial staff?
    • Will it be serviced by a commercial laundry/uniform service?

Which M+A carpeted mat is right for you?

Many carpeted mats can be customized with your logo or design.  If adding your company logo, a message, or photographic-quality designs to your mat sounds appealing to you, check out these mats: