How to select a matting system that reduces costs, enhances safety and improves appearance.

No matter the season, shopping center managers and housekeeping professionals work to tackle one of their greatest maintenance challenges: preventing dirt and water from entering their building. Although several pounds of sand, dirt and grit can be tracked into a building every day, the volume of debris brought into a building on the feet of employees and customers significantly increases during wet and slushy weather. According to industry studies, up to 24 pounds of dirt can be tracked in by just 1,000 people coming through an entrance over a 20-day work period.

The solution: an entrance matting system. Whether snow and slush during the winter months, or rain and mud in spring and summer, a floor mat is truly put to the test for durability, safety, effectiveness and appearance. When employees and visitors enter a commercial building, they should not see a wet, dirty floor or a water-soaked mat. First impressions are important, and an effective entrance matting system is recommended to remove, trap, hold and hide the dirt and moisture as people walk into a building.

An entrance matting system refers to scraper and carpet mats placed in traffic entry points outside a building, in a foyer and inside a building. The goal of a system is to remove as close to 100% of the dirt and water as possible from people's shoes by the time they reach the interior floor surface.

An effective matting system will help increase the life of a floor, present a consistent, quality appearance, and create positive customer impressions - all of which will reflect positively on a business. In addition, entrance matting can help lower overall maintenance costs by decreasing the amount of dirt tracked into the building and improve safety by helping to reduce slip and fall accidents caused by water collecting on hard floor surfaces.

First things first "An entrance can invite people in or turn them away," says Jamie Wolf, 3M Commercial Care Division retail key accounts manager. "A clean, bright and attractive entryway sends an immediate message that the organization welcomes and values its visitors and employees. It says that the retail operation cares about the products it produces and the services it provides."

The mat that you place inside the building should not only have dirt and water removal properties, but also be a color-coordinated, attractive addition to your entrance. In the past, matting choices were often dictated by manufacturers' on-hand inventory. Today, entrance matting systems not only help prevent dirt buildup and protect your floors, but also come in styles that complement existing decor and meet your specific color and design needs. What's more, mats can often be customized with your company logo or a coordinating pattern. Shopping centers can now purchase logo mats that use a wide array of personalization methods to communicate names and messages while stopping dirt and water at the entrance.

"There was a time when it was necessary to trade off performance and functionality for the ability to have a personal design or logo on a mat," says Ron Eiden, 3M Commercial Care Division international technical service manager. "New technologies in the floor matting area have changed all that...today customers can have both - functional matting with a message."

Inside entrance mats are most commonly carpet mats that hold dirt and moisture off the floor surface while remaining durable and stain-resistant. Indoor mats should have the ability to handle high amounts of traffic and offer a comfortable step when entering the building. For entrances without a foyer, the indoor mat can be either a scraper mat or carpet mat.

"Entrance matting is a real workhorse. Much like the oil filter on a car's engine, entrance matting filters the dirt and water from a building. Just as important, though, is that it can also look good while it works, making you proud of your retail center's first impression," Eiden says.

Cut costs, not traffic Removing and trapping dirt are two of the most important maintenance functions of an entrance matting system. These functions help protect floors and carpets and reduce maintenance costs. According to the International Sanitary Supply Association, the cost to remove just one pound of dirt after it is tracked throughout a building can exceed $500. With 80% of the dirt in a shopping center coming in through the entrance, a matting system designed to trap, hold and hide this dirt is a cost-effective purchase.

In addition, facilities without adequate matting may suffer premature damage to floor surfaces near entrances. According to a 3M study, as much as 42% of the floor finish can be damaged or removed after 1,500 people have walked within the first six feet of an entrance without a matting system. A matting system that stops the dirt, soil and water from being tracked into the building helps interior floor surfaces last longer, in addition to lowering maintenance costs.

Easy and inexpensive to maintain Although entrance mats help to decrease the amount of cleaning in the interior of a retail facility, mats themselves need to be maintained. Effective mats collect a large amount of dirt and water and act as a filter for the building, especially during winter months. Floor mats should have the ability to be thoroughly cleaned easily by shaking, vacuuming or simply rinsing the mat out. In addition, high-performing mats dry quickly and have properties that inhibit the growth of fungi. Even with the cleaning required to maintain a matting system, having a system is cost-effective overall because of the savings in interior floor maintenance costs.

To reduce the risk of incurred maintenance costs do the following:

- Buy from a reputable company and a brand name you can trust.

- Ask about the product warranty. Will the manufacturer stand behind the product?

- Demand functional matting; matting that will trap, hold and hide dirt and wick away moisture.

Enhancing safety Slip-and-fall accidents most often occur on wet or dirty surfaces. Slips, trips and falls are the leading cause of occupational accidents and result in more than 300,000 disabling injuries each year, according to the National Safety Council.

When a shopping center uses entrance matting, it is already making an effort to help reduce the potential for accidents. By incorporating an appropriately designed, high-quality, complete entrance matting system, nearly all the dirt and water can be trapped, helping to prevent slip-and-fall accidents near entrances and within a building's interior.

It's no secret that keeping entryways clean, dry and attractive can be a challenge. Because matting comes in a variety of types, sizes and colors, shopping center managers and maintenance professionals have several choices in deciding what will best meet the needs of their facility.