Welcome Mats, Door Mats, and Runners: What’s the Point?

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Heather says:

The short answer? Door mats, welcome mats, and runners can extend the life of your flooring. Don’t believe me?

It takes an average of six to ten steps for all of the dirt on shoes to fall away and let’s face it, not everyone is diligent about wiping their feet. All but the smallest dogs can carry a surprising amount of dirt in a house between their paw pads -especially in winter when there is less grass.

rugs for house

Now, some people get around this by having a no shoes in the house rule and when I’m a guest I comply with the rules. If that works for you, great. You’re welcome to find a high horse if one is available, the internet is full of them. Personally, I’m a shoe person and I’m not about to take the time to switch to house only shoes every time I enter or exit my home. Maybe it is all the time I spent in chem labs or industrial kitchens that have conditioned me, but I can’t stand going barefoot. I strongly recommend that everyone should wear closed toe shoes while cooking. Maybe I was born without grace, but it seems I am always knocking knives off a counter or breaking the random glass. In my world, shoes are of the good. If you want to go barefoot, fine, but don’t cry to me when you need stitches.

Entryways are often some of the highest traffic points in a home. Without a rug, just the physical action of walking on the carpet, hardwood, or other flooring surface creates wear in a narrow path. Once you throw dirt into the mix, things wear out faster. If you pulled out a magnifying glass and took a close look at the dirt and grit that is tracked into a home, you’d find that the edges ย of most of the particles are rough. When that dirt is ground into the flooring on a microscopic level it isn’t pretty. The dirt scratches flooring and tears the fibers of carpeting. Rugs counter this effect by acting as a catch all for tracked-in dirt and by taking the brunt of the impact at these high traffic points.

As wear develops, the scratches created by the dirt create hiding places for smaller particles of dirt which lead to that grimy, impossible to scrub away look.

Walking on carpet, especially carpet without the proper padding, creates what is called crush damage. As the fibers are repeatedly pressed down, they lose their ability to spring back into shape. Rugs offer protection from this type of wear. This is why hallway runners are so popular, either to hide existing crush damage or to keep it from happening in the first place.

Don’t forget to regularly shake out your rugs or they can become so loaded with grit and sand that they no longer catch what is tracked in, negating any chance of wear prevention.

guide to clean floors
Click the picture for more tips!

Rugs and mats may seem a needless or frivolous expense, but homeowners consider them an investment in the lifespan of your flooring. A new door mat every few years is significantly more cost effective than prematurely replacing carpeting and linoleum or refinishing hardwood. Renters, well some of you may file flooring under “Not My Problem”, but using mats and rugs decreases the amount of time spent sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming. Isn’t that a win all around?

Send your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

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22 thoughts on “Welcome Mats, Door Mats, and Runners: What’s the Point?”

  1. in most chinese/asian households, it's customary to remove your shoes before entering a house, so that's the way I grew up. I always take my shoes off whenever I walk into someone else's house mostly out of habit. I typically don't make people take their shoes off when they're at my place though.

    • It's also pretty customary, at least in my experience, in midwestern homes, too. At least that is true for Minnesota. With the mud season and the snow / salt issues it makes more sense.

      I always go by the home owners preference. If I see shoes near the door, off they go.

    • Yes, Heather is right, shoes are a really good idea in the kitchen. Great for safety. But…. I think better barefoot. (Why are you laughing? I also think better when I'm wearing shorts) I grew up going barefoot most of the time, and barely wore shoes at all in the summer except to ride my bike – the parents insisted on that.

      • We were told we'd get hookworms going barefoot. (Part of the reason Southerners have a reputation for being "slow" is due to severe anemia in childhood from hookworms. This was especially true in poverty stricken areas with no sanitation)
        I think better in shoes, but I live in an each to their own kind of world. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I don't have a rule, but the first thing I do when walking in the door is kick off my shoes. I'm a barefoot kind of person. I don't even put on shoes when going out to check the mail or walking to the back yard to feed the creatures. This does lead to an unsightly pile of shoes being the first thing some people see when coming to my house (if I have warning, I can throw them in a closet). If guests notice that I'm barefoot (or in the winter, wearing socks) and they want to remove their shoes, fine, but I would never ask a guest to do so, how rude.

    I have hardwood floors through out with only two area rugs, so I worry about the dirt and grit ruining the finish (I'm really a very poor housekeeper and am convinced that sweeping is some Sharia law punishment for showing your bare feet).

    • We, also, have two unsightly areas, in the foyer and garage, (two entrances we use) piled with shoes.

      I don't ask guests to remove their shoes, but I'm the only one that wears shoes inside our home. Mostly, I think, because its not as easy, with my back, to put my shoes on, out in the garage.

      I can't imagine how much more dirt we'd combat if everyone wore their shoes inside.

      I try to respect a home I visit, when I see an unsightly pile of shoes, and remove my shoes, though.

    • I admit, I'm almost the same as JanetLee. I almost hate to wear shoes unless I'm really going outside for a walk or to work. As soon as I walk in, the shoes are off. We are also working on finding more rugs for all of the high-traffic areas. It's hard though since rugs are expensive and it's difficult to find the right look. We have a mat outside and inside the doors, but need to find runners and more area rugs.

  3. I always wear shoes, and I really hate it when I have to take them off to be polite. It makes me uncomfortable (figuratively and literally). I am only 32 but I have to wear orthopedic type shoes. If I go barefoot for too long, I won't be able to walk the next day. Often guests will take their shoes off when they come to our house, but that's out of their own habit and preference. I would never presume to ask a guest to remove their clothing if they didn't want to (that goes for coats, too. Living in the land of AC – first SC then TX I get cold and I HATE it when people insist on taking my sweater. I need my sweater! Even in July, if you keep your house at 62 degrees!)

    • We're the same age and going barefoot has always made my knees ache. I don't know if stand improperly or what, but wearing shoes fixes the issue. I'd rather wear shoes and sweep more often, but that is just a personal preference.

      • it might be the way your knees are. I had to drop out of ballet in MS because my knees were crooked! The teacher had a name for it, but I don't remember what it was. Basically, if I stand with my feet parallel, my knees turn slightly inward.

        I should add that I am the only one who consistently wears shoes in the house. Or actually, shoes period. All my kids love to run barefoot everywhere. I have to threaten them with death to get them to put shoes on for church. They totally take after their dad!

  4. Our house is a no shoes type of house too. We all take off our shoes and promptly put on flip flops or slippers. (I can't handle being barefoot).
    But you're right, rugs help so much. I can SO tell that the people who lived in our house before us did not have rugs. You can see so much more wear in the floor where the "high traffic" areas. Rugs are expensive (and we rent) but if cared for properly they usually last awhile. The rugs I have in my house my Mom bought a JCPenny's like 7 years ago for $100. A larger one (about 1/3 of the size of an average area rug) and 3 regular sized rugs. She used them for 3 years and I've had them for 4…the backing is finally starting to wear and peel off. (no I don't dry them). But it was so worth it!
    I love rugs <3

  5. You're so right on the dragging-in of dirt! I have these wonderful mats with scrubby things sticking up to help scrape crud off the bottom of your shoes, but mostly they just get stepped on as folks just trudge on in, crud and all. Currently, there is nothing to damage — no flooring, just the lovely oriented-strand-board, without which you would have nothing to stand on but air, but have you tried to sweep that stuff? It's all full of little nooks and crannies and the dirt just plays hide and seek with you and even the vacuum never seems to get it all out. So, I usually wear shoes because my husband insists. He's right – the OSB floor does tend to give more than its share of splinters.

    When we do (if we do) eventually finish the house and install real, actual, normal-people-type flooring, I would LOVE to switch to no shoes, to save the flooring, but I doubt that I'll ever convince my husband.

  6. I will always roll my eyes at people who expect all their guests to take off their shoes. That said, there is an etiquette they should follow if they expect it:

    1) Tell people before they come over. Seriously. Lots of us have stinky feet and need to prepare to have them out.

    2) Have a place to sit to put shoes back on. Can you put on your shoes standing up easily? I can't.

    • #1 Then there is the whole sock issue. I have socks that are good enough and socks that are for public viewing. I like to know I should have on publicly acceptable socks ahead of time.
      #2 is a huge pet peeve of mine. I'm not super graceful as it is, and how attractive is it to either fall over or just plop down on someone's floor?

    • that is one of my mom's pet peeves with taking shoes off at the airport, she can't stand walking through the x-ray machine knowing that thousands of people with stinky, nasty, feet have walked there. She buys the cheap-o socks from walmart and puts them on while in the security line, then throws them out on the other side.

  7. Yes, most houses in the midwest are shoe free, I could not imagine the mold issue that would rise from melted snow all over the house or the way the wood floors would look. I tried slippers and well my feet have phobias, don’t ask but is is as bad as my food not touching;)

  8. Interesting about the midwest thing- I grew up in Colorado and no one in my house (or friend's houses) ever was a "shoes off at the door" kind of family.

    I've tried runners but they don't work for us. Mainly because my entertainment deprived kids will roll up in them like aburrito and play around for hours, so it's always crooked or dragged off into the wrong room. We rent too, but we have a Bissell ProHeat that does a great job when I can't stand it anymore. I also have an entrance mat I bought at Target that is olefin – you can hose it off! Love that thing.

  9. I disagree, I feel having mats and rugs on my hardwood floors take more of my time. Six people live in our house, and I am cleaning floors almost everyday. It takes less of my time to get out a floor vacuum and pick up dirt when I do not have to clean around, over, and under runners and mats; or picking up mats & rugs, clean under & put back.
    The volume of dirt from 4 kids is inevitable. Less time cleaning everyday vs. the occasional hardwood floor refinishing; less time cleaning wins.

  10. I find that more small area rugs are troublesome to clean around, under, etc. as one person commented. Also, we have severe dust mite allergies, so I only keep door mats at entry ways. The olefin mat sounds like a good solution. Any other suggestions for families with dust mite issues would be much apreciated.

    • Rag rugs, assuming they are lighter in color, can be tossed in the washer on hot which will kill the dust mites. Additionally, with floor mats, there’s no padding for the mites to escape the vacuum cleaner, so the issue is mitigated somewhat with regular cleaning.

      I have bad allergies, so I do understand. That said, I’ve been doing immunotherapy and finally made it to the maintenance vial this week. Monthly shots, here I come.

  11. After living overseas my family became adjusted to and converted quickly to no outside shoes in the house. When they were little, their friends complied also. I would laugh sometimes at the half dozen tiny sneakers and flip flops scattered all over the laundry room floor. Now even as adults, they come in and immediately remove their outdoor shoes. I have rugs and runners at the doors but I also believe the shoes play a huge roll in preserving your floors. Nice post Heather!

  12. I haven’t seen this comment regarding guests & shoes, so I would like to add it, in hopes of encouraging a shift in perspective. It was given to me, and because of my life, this perspective was something I really needed.

    “If you are the guest, oblige the host/hostess. You are the *guest*. You are not the one who has to live with the results/consequences, you are not the one who has to do the cleaning, care, maintenance. It is the host/hostesses *home.* It should be their “safe place” and their “comfort” and their place to *be*. You are not required to be there. If you are uncomfortable, you are able to leave and can make arrangements for–perhaps– a neutral place to meet. But the people who live there, they reside there; relax; enjoy, sleep; be sick; be well– their life happens in their home. Why on earth should they cater to a guest? Especially if the guest is “drop in” or uninvited?”

    That said (those are my words for the essence of the message), I definitely understand some people have medical issues that require them to wear special/supportive footwear. I, too, have medical issues of a wide variety (even though I tend to be a barefoot person; most times, though, I have to wear shoes for my feet, ankles, knees, hips, and back). When I am a guest and it’s the first time, I ask the host/hostess what they prefer: “Do you want me to take off my shoes?” It is my way of showing I respect them and their home. I then follow their answer on subsequent visits.
    As a homeowner, my answer varies. Having lived over a dozen years on the Washington coast, I became a “please remove your shoes” person (I hate wearing shoes in the house, but this is when I started asking people to remove their shoes & boots). Bringing in the rain (usual) and dirt makes a horrible mess to clean, inflames my medical issues, and just isn’t healthy. I did, however, make exceptions for my friends who have medical issues who needed to wear supportive footwear.
    Now as a homeowner in Montana, wow! The home we bought was built in 1989. It has all the original flooring–in excellent and immaculate condition! Along with all the other original building– no remodeling done in this custom designed & built home. Apparently, one of the things the original owners did was to use lots of rugs, which is why the carpets are in such excellent shape, along with the furnishings that got left and the antiques we purchased from them (an older couple, but the wife passed after the house went on the market). The reason I’m sharing this bit of information is because I am absolutely stunned at the QUALITY of the home and everything in it. They were “frugal,” but far from “cheap,” and it shows in every detail. I have lived in various U.S. places, as well as in Europe and traveled quite a bit; this home is incredibly stunning. It is my personal desire to change my bad habits (some of which are from poverty & abused upbringing) and to rise to the quality of the home in which I live. That written, I am quite glad to have come across this blog, and I am excited to have so many pages to peruse.
    A tidbit of humor: One of the first things I did when we moved in near the 1st of June (2017) was to paint my room. The very first thing that happened, before I began painting it, however, is the paint can spilled and the lid wasn’t on it all the way (it had just gotten here from the store!). . . it dumped not onto the drop cloth the can was on, but off to the side a bit, where it was the original house carpet. ๐Ÿ™ Yes, I am an “accident prone” person!


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