The Crazy History of Floor Mats

by Chris Martin on December 2, 2013

Admit it. Whether you’re a business owner who was laying down floor mats in your store at the start of a work day, or a customer sitting in a shop or cafe whose gaze has wandered to the entry mat laying in front of the entryway, one particular thought has occasionally crossed your mind: Floor mats. Who thought of those? And where did they come from?

We’re glad you asked! Presenting for your amusement and education: A brief history of floor mats. Books open, please.

“Oh boy! This will be mind-blowing!”

Archaeologists believe that the earliest “portable floor coverings” were made as far back as 25,000 years ago in Paleolithic times. The dwellings of clans used tree bark to create a type of felt which was then made into floor mats. After all, even primitive people don’t like hunters tracking in dirt and mastodon blood all over the place.

Not long after, humans developed the practice of weaving to make certain goods. Women would take either straw or plantlike grasses called rushes and weave them together for clothing, baskets, or other items. The first recorded use of plaited rush floor mats was in Mesopotamia about 6,000 years ago.

In biblical times, people who weren’t rich lived in houses with floors made of earth. Instead of using mats to clean footwear like today, the mats were used as sleeping pads. These mats were probably constructed of woolen yarn woven together. These types of floor coverings were popular well into the Middle Ages.

In Japan, noblemen adopted the tatami mats as far back as the ninth century. Tatami is made out of straw formed from both rice and soft rush, and the mats were reserved for the seating areas for aristocrats. It wasn’t until the 17th century that commoners were able to procure tatami mats for their homes.

In the early 1800s, a new type of floor covering was created using the waste products from traditional weaving looms. The discarded pieces of yarn, known as thrums, were collected and pulled through a woven base of straw or some other study material. The practice, known as rug hooking (whose roots may extend further back into history), became popular in floor mats found in England.

As the 20th century dawned, the set of materials used to make floor mats expanded. In America, people used everything from straw and burlap to canvas and jute in floor mats. It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution was in full swing that institutional floor coverings were made from rubber and petroleum-based materials.

Today, floor mats are not only effective in keeping floors clean, but they are also eco-friendly. Many floor mats are manufactured using recycled materials from plastic beverage bottles and vehicle tires. Modern floor mats can even be visually appealing with colorfast yarns which maintain their appearance for years and/or colorful logos that can be displayed on floor mats thanks to state-of-the-art digital printers.

Whether you need a floor mat that’s highly moisture-absorbent, one that aggressively scrapes soil from footwear, or even one that reduces fatigue levels for those who stand on it, Ultimate Mats is your one-stop shop for all of your floor mat needs. Contact Ultimate Mats today and check out their full line of superior floor mats, some of which may end up in future history books!


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