What are Rubber Floor Mats?

Caitlin Kenney

Rubber floor mats are flat exterior or interior floor coverings that may have several purposes, but are principally used to protect flooring, cushion athletic flooring, or add grip to potentially slippery areas. Rubber refers to synthetic rubber, which was first manufactured by Germany in WWI. This durable material has the elastic quality of being able to undergo stress without permanent deformation, making it ideal for use in a mat.

A woman on a rubber yoga mat.
A woman on a rubber yoga mat.

Safety rubber floor mats usually refer to mats meant to add traction to areas likely to have skidding, such as a ramp, a bathtub, or steps exposed to ice or rain. These mats generally have raised portions or ribbing to add friction and thus decrease chances of slipping when walked upon. Water or snow acts as a lubricant on the floor than can cause slipping. When you walk on a surface with a thin coating of water, the tread allows displaced water to escape through the indents so that the raised portions can cause friction and rub with the shoe. These mats are often made of a softer rubber to increase adhesion with shoes or other objects that might be placed on the mat. They are especially common in warehouses and industrial buildings where slipping is especially dangerous.

Rubber floor mats are usually used for wrestling matches.
Rubber floor mats are usually used for wrestling matches.

Athletic rubber floor mats are used to absorb weight and shock, either for purposes of muffling sounds or promoting joint health. A rubber mat is useful in a weight room where heavy weights are being dropped, to protect the flooring and prevent the vibration and noise caused by the heavy metal. In a gymnasium used for such activities as gymnastics or wrestling, the rubber mat’s elastic properties cushion falls, prevent joint damage from consistent jumping, and protect against slipping. Rubber yoga mats are also used for traction and pad joints during practice. Ice rinks often have rubber floor mats outside the rink to protect the flooring.

Commercial kitchens are also frequently equipped with rubber floor mats in front of food preparation stations and sinks. These mats cushion the feet of workers, helping to alleviate fatigue. Kitchens are also high-spill areas, and a mat can help to drain spills and add traction to the floor surface. These mats usually have holes to let water pass onto the floor below where it won’t be slipped on and are made from highly durable, mold-resistant rubber. Mats can be made to endure high temperatures if being used near a stove, or low temperatures if being used in a freezer.

People often choose to use rubber mats over other types because they are easier to clean and more durable. A rubber mat, unlike a woven mat, can be hosed off and does not need to dry before it is used again. Likely, the mat can simply be shaken to be cleaned, and for this reason, they are commonly used on the floors of cars. Chain restaurants often use a rubber mat instead of a woven logo mat for traction in their entryways because they are so easy to clean and so much more durable. Rubber mats may also be printed with a logo.

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