This article is contributed by First Mats Ltd., a UK-based retailer of industrial and commercial matting and floor coverings. The company focuses on promoting better health and safety with entrance mats for a wide range of facilities and environments.
No matter a facility’s location or what type of business you operate, a necessity for clean floors is one thing we all have in common. In our homes, we may only clean the floors once every week or two, but in a commercial building this tends to happen several times per week, if not daily. We often think of cleaning as just another chore, or an undesirable expense, but a greater problem we may not consider is the effect that cleaning has on the environment.
Some cleaning products contain chemicals and elements which are extremely harmful to ecosystems. They are sold in plastic containers which add to solid waste, while energy is used to heat the water required to wash away the dirt and grime from our floors. All these factors combined have a negative impact on the environment but is this something we simply can’t avoid?
All over the world, studies have been conducted to gain a better understanding of the environmental impact of using cleaning products. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency names phosphorus, nitrogen, ammonia and chemicals grouped under the term “Volatile Organic Compounds” as the worst environmental hazards in industrial and household cleaners.
Most cleaning agents that are washed away down drains break up into harmless components, but others pollute rivers and streams which are harmful to their ecosystems. In a May 2002 study of contaminants in stream water samples across the country, the U.S. Geological Survey found persistent detergent metabolites in 69% of streams tested, Sixty-six percent contained disinfectants. These metabolites were classed as Alkylphenol ethoxylates and alkylphenols (or APEs) which are often added to cleaning products, except in the United Kingdom where they have been phased out since the year 2000. In addition to the chemicals they contain, cleaning products also require plastic packaging which adds to waste and more energy is used to heat the water they are diluted in.
While there are many “green” alternative cleaning products available, which are undoubtedly much kinder to our environment, another solution is to reduce the amount of cleaning that is required in the first place. This is where entrance mats offer a significant benefit in facilities.
According to studies by ISSA (the Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association), about 80% of the dirt found in most buildings is carried into the premises on people’s shoes. This includes water, dust, grime, and debris, all things that we’d rather leave outside. Entrance mats help by capturing this dirt and water, keeping floors cleaner for longer and reducing the need to clean them as frequently.
“The key to an effective entrance mat is its size,” suggests Richard O’Connor, a director at First Mats Ltd. “With each step taken on the mat, more dirt and water can be removed, so the larger the mat the more beneficial it will be.” The smallest mats on the market, by comparison, might only be stepped on by one foot, so are only suitable to be used in homes where people are more likely to pause and wipe their feet before entering. In a commercial area, a larger mat will be stepped on at least twice with both feet which will help to make a noticeable difference to the cleanliness of floors. A larger mat will cost more money to purchase, but when the cost of regular cleaning is taken into consideration it won’t take long before the mats begin to save on cleaning costs.
There are many different types of entrance mat available, all made from different materials and backings. To take an additional step with the environment in mind, facility managers might consider mats made from recycled materials, such as tires used for a rubber base and plastic bottles for the matting fibers.
Not only will effective, high-quality entrance matting save facility managers money, it will also help the environment by reducing the amount of cleaning required. Just make sure that to specify the ideal size mat to achieve maximum benefit for the facility.