As with any introduction – to people, places or products – first impressions are critical. Which is why facilities like malls, hotels and restaurants ensure that their entrances make a lasting first impression and satisfy a variety of requirements including attractive design, high throughput rate (even during the busiest of times) and excellent functionality. And one aspect of entrances is the mat. However, the functionality of mats goes way beyond their appearance and further from the entrance. We find out more with our colleagues from the industry!
Reducing cleaning costs
Entrance mats come in a range of colours and patterns to match any interior and improve the overall aesthetics of the entrance giving it a professional, stylish and upscale appearance making every first impression a great one. Moreover, they are important in reducing cleaning costs. According to Ralph Langhammer, Managing Director, Island View Distributors, about 70 – 80 per cent of dust, dirt and grime in public buildings is tracked in from the outside and spread throughout the floors. Over a 20-day period, 1,000 people can walk in 9.6 kilograms of dirt into a building.
Twelve times as much dirt is tracked in during wet weather conditions. Large commercial buildings can see as much as 5,000 crossings a day.” Hence, he says, the benefits of a good entrance matting system are very measurable in annual savings of cleaning costs. The more dirt removed at the entrance, the less can become airborne inside the building.
Khalil Fakhouri, Division Manager, Commercial Solutions-Gulf, 3M Gulf Ltd., adds, “Customers don’t realise that almost 80-85 per cent of dirt tracked into the building can be blocked by mats. This makes it far easier to maintain walkways in all kinds of facilities.” Andrea Deutschbein, Director-FM Soft Services, Dubai Malls, agrees, “The first ten steps taken by customers at our mall are on the mats – both outside and inside. This reduces the amount of dirt and debris brought into the facility. As a result, the number of scratches and marks on the floor are reduced - making it unnecessary to have a cleaning operative stationed at all our entrances through the day or have regular deep cleaning and crystallisation!”
At Dubai Mall, the requirement of entrance matting is high. All the entrances have mats outside and inside. The company uses 3M mats, and Deutschbein commends them for their durability. Every two years, these mats are replaced with new ones. But that is only for appearance. The older mats are relegated to the back-end and service areas – in perfect working condition. As a result, the mats have proven to be easily maintained and low-cost.
Air quality and better floors
Langhammer says that an imperceptible advantage of matting is in improved air quality. In building design, designers often overlook the benefits of designing entryways and managing buildings to remove tracked-in pollutants from shoes that improve air quality through reduction of air particles. Outside dirt can be a carrier of particulate matter such as dust, pollen, bacteria, fungi and insect parts. Dirt particles are deposited on the floor, where they are ground into smaller particles as they are walked on. The smallest particles are suspended in the air, while larger ones settle back on the floor, where they are ground again. These airborne particles are a large contributor to indoor air pollution, which can cause breathing problems, allergies and aggravate asthma. Indoor air pollution is one of the top five environmental risks to public health as often indoor air is found to be up to 70 times more polluted than outdoor air.
While dirt on the floor is ground into smaller particles, it can leave scratches and marks wearing out the floors and carpet, due to its razor-like texture. Within the first 6 feet, 42 per cent of the floor’s finish or carpet nap will be removed after only 1,500 people have entered,thereby shortening the overall life span of interior flooring. Entrance mats are made with coarser fibres that are designed to preserve the floor by absorbing much of the initial abuse that would otherwise shorten the interior flooring or carpeting useable life to protect the investment.
At The Dubai Mall, Deutschbein finds that her costs and time involved in deep cleaning and crystallization of the delicate marble floors at the mall have reduced considerably since the introduction of mats. It is now mandatory for shops that have fit-outs to have ample matting to prevent the floors from scratching.
Mats are used for various other purposes. Slips and falls are the leading cause of accidents in homes, hotels, restaurants and public buildings. (70% occur on flat and level surfaces). Therefore, one of the more popular options is wet-area matting. 3M has anti-fungal and antislip matting, which is used in washrooms and swimming pool areas. Khalil says, “Health and safety of customers is paramount. Hence, matting is important in wet areas. But regular matting can absorb the moisture and give off bad odours – anti-fungal vinyl mats are the solution.”
In the GCC region, every facility has dedicated prayer rooms and ablution areas. At Dubai Mall, the ablution areas are covered in black vinyl matting that prevents customers from slipping and allows for a firm grip on the floor. From there on, a microfiber mat leads them into the prayer room. Deutschbein says, “Usually, wet feet on the carpet in the closed prayer room leads to a sense of dampness and often odour. By introducing microfiber mats, we have reduced this since the mats absorb about 80-90 per cent of the moisture and are easy to maintain. Moreover, damage to the carpet in the prayer room is reduced.” Apart from this, 3M also has the Optima range of matting with an aluminum frame and both vinyl and carpet – these mats are rigid and more durable and can carry the heavy weight of things like full trolleys, etc.
Mats function optimally when regularly cleaned. By removing soils through a combination of grooming, vacuuming and extraction, the life span of the mat can be extended. Permanently installed mats need to undergo regular maintenance and thorough cleaning to remove the build-up of contaminants that could otherwise be tracked throughout a facility. A maintenance schedule should include daily vacuuming of the top surface, especially in heavy traffic areas, to prevent dirt from building up and being ground into the mat. Weekly grooming of the carpet will maximize vacuuming by loosening the fibres and creating easier access to the soil underneath. Grooming also helps to aerate fibres to allow quicker drying. Monthly injection and extraction shampooing will clean fibres and remove any leftover dirt.
At The Dubai Mall, each entrance has three sets of mats – one in use, the other in the laundry and the third in storage. These mats are vacuumed every day and washed weekly. Extraction is also an option here. The microfiber mats in the prayer rooms are washed daily and dry quite quickly. While the vinyl anti-slip mats in the ablution areas are steam cleaned to ensure that they are disinfected and clean without the need for chemicals. Pressure washing for washroom or swimming pool mats is also an ideal solution.
Trends and challenges
One of the biggest trends in matting has been customization – mats can be designed in brand colours or have brand logos etc. on them. However, what is lacking in the matting industry is customer awareness. Deutschbein says, “While there is a wide range of matting solutions available in the market – the awareness of their advantages is not. Most customers simply look at the immediate cost of investment to buy and replace the mats.” Khalil concurs – he cites the example of the Dubai Metro – one of his leading clients that has not had the need to change its 3M mats for about 7 years now. Regular maintenance has kept them durable till now. Deutschbein suggests that matting suppliers market themselves better. She says, “Whether it is magazines like Clean Middle East or shows like MECTW, matting suppliers have not made themselves known. They must work hand in hand with other cleaning suppliers.” Another huge challenge for matting suppliers is the cheap matting products now available in the region. Khalil says, “With purchasing managers tightening their purse strings,
it becomes difficult for quality suppliers to showcase their solutions in the market. Eventually, we do get business because the cheaper competition’s mats are not durable. But, customers’ awareness has to increase.” On that note, it is heartening to see that there are evangelists of matting out there – but like in the case of all extremely effective cleaning solutions the awareness of its long-term effects has to increase.