Stop Dirt at the Door

These tricks will keep your floor spotless.

What’s the best kind of dirt? Dirt that you never allow into your house in the first place. That’s dirt in its proper place — dirt you don’t have to clean up. As we all know from the “ounce of prevention” saying, it’s easier to head off a problem than to fix it after the damage is done. Below you’ll find information on how to protect your home by fortifying its entrance:

Wrestle Dirt to the Mat
Actually, what you want to do is stop the dirt in your tracks — specifically, on the soles of your shoes. Use doormats at every entrance to your home, inside and out. Remember: Most of the grime in your home comes from the outside, the bulk of it hitchhiking in unnoticed on people’s feet.

Choose the right doormat. Selecting the proper mats for your home’s needs will measurably curb the time you spend cleaning and chasing down dirt, says Sarah Smock, marketing director of Merry Maids Inc., a housecleaning business with franchises across the United States. The heavy-duty mats that retail stores, supermarkets, and hospitals use to keep dirt at bay are a terrific choice here. Typically called walk-off mats, they can be purchased in janitorial supply shops and home improvement stores. The name tells the tale here: They’re called “walk-off” mats because people coming into the house walk across them, giving the dirt on their shoes the brush-off.

Mats for outside your door are usually made of rubber- or vinyl-backed synthetic turf. (Astroturf is one popular brand.) Inside, walk-off mat choices come in nylon or olefin with either vinyl or rubber backing. The indoor variety is available in several dark, dirt-defying colors to coordinate with your dé, says Merry Maids’ Smock. A walk-off mat should be long enough so that both of a person’s feet walk across it before entering the house, and the width no wider than the door itself. The mat should never impede the door’s movement, either.

More on Mats:

    • Floor mats are a good idea near such high-traffic or spill-prone spots as the kitchen sink, the refrigerator, the tub, and the toilet, says Mary Ellen Rymanski, who has cleaned houses in Philadelphia suburbs for more than 20 years. “Cleanups are much easier when all you have to do is clean a mat instead of the floor,” she advises. “Think of all the stuff that gets dripped on the floor in front of the sink or the fridge, for instance.”
    • Doormats need minimal maintenance. Just haul them outside occasionally and give them a good shake and also give them a once-over with the vacuum cleaner now and then.
    • When mats are really grimy, hose them down and scrub them with a squirt of dishwashing liquid in warm water. Rinse and allow them to thoroughly air-dry. Another method: Try a wet/dry vacuum or upholstery shampoo to freshen them. Make sure your mats are completely dry before you put them back on the floor. Moisture caught underneath the mats could damage your floors.
    • When your mats get threadbare, replace them — worn mats don’t do their job as well as new ones.
  • To reduce the dirt entering your house, limit the number of entrances that are used. This way, you’ll cut down on the places where people and pets can track dirt in. And if most people enter your house through a mudroom with an easy-wipe floor, a ton of grime will never make it to first base in your abode.

Alternative: Though it may take some enforcement, making your house a shoeless zone for everyone is really the best way to stop dirt at the door. Encourage family members, guests, and friends to shed their shoes just inside the entrance. Provide a decorative basket or some other receptacle where people can stash their shoes. Keep some fresh “house” slippers on hand for guests — slippers that never set foot outside, so they’ll be clean as can be.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest