Made from 100% polycarbonate. Spiked underside keeps mat in place on low to medium pile carpet. Designed not to bend or crack. Resists divots. Transparent to let the carpet show through.
Has difficulty staying in place on higher-pile carpet.
Made of 100% polycarbonate. Designed not to crack or bend. No odors or toxins. Studded backing helps keep mat in place on low and medium pile. Intended not to dip or curl during the lifetime of mat.
Sometimes arrives rolled up, which is not ideal.
Offers 1/8" thickness with an extra-hard surface. Resists cracking or dimpling. Features lip and anti-slip backing. Made without harmful chemicals. Wipes clean and ships flat. For low and medium-pile carpets.
May slide on certain carpets.
Works on low and medium-pile carpets. Includes grips on the bottom to help the mat stay in place. Transparent enhanced-polymer construction prevents dents and cracks. Eco-conscious manufacturing. Ships flat.
The edges can be a little sharp and are not rounded.
Made of scratch-resistant tempered glass. Designed to support up to 1,000 pounds of weight. Works on carpet, hardwood, and more. Wipes clean easily for convenient upkeep.
Somewhat pricey. A little heavy and difficult to place at first.
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Chair mats might seem mundane, but they can play a big role in preserving the health of your joints and the beauty of your carpet or hardwood. Flooring manufacturers have realized this for a while, sometimes declaring warranties void for customers who don’t use chair mats. They know that office chair wheels can snag carpets and damage floors.
But chair mats aren’t just good for floors. They’re good for you, too. Chair mats greatly reduce the effort needed to roll and reach different parts of your workspace. Not only that, but over time pushing to roll a chair over carpet all day, every day, can lead to leg strain, back pain, and other injuries. If that’s not enough incentive, a chair mat protects your carpet from coffee and food stains, too.
A chair mat shouldn’t break the bank, but you want something with the quality to protect your carpet and your legs. Let BestReviews help you find the right chair mat to keep your budget and your floor in good shape. If you’re ready to buy, check out our top picks, too.
It’s important to consider the thickness of your carpet when choosing a chair mat. Thinner, less expensive mats might work with low-pile carpeting, but chair mats are prone to bending – and eventually cracking – on carpets that are heavily padded or have a thicker pile. In fact, mat thickness is one factor in determining quality. The recommended mat thickness varies slightly depending on the material used to make the mat.
2.5 millimeters: The lowest-quality mats measure about 0.10 inch thick and are intended for use with hard flooring surfaces.
3.0 millimeters: Standard mats are around 0.125 inch thick. Low-pile carpets need a mat of this thickness or more.
You also want to think about the size of the area you want the mat to protect. Many mats are rectangular, but some feature an asymmetrical lip that protects the area under your feet. Are there filing cabinets in the area that you also need to access by rolling the chair? The answer to that will help you determine the size and shape of chair mat that you need.
Finally, think about how your chair mat coordinates with the rest of your office. Do you want a clear, understated mat that lets your carpeting show through? Are you interested in a patterned mat to offer a visual break from the carpet? Or is a wooden mat more your style? We discuss the advantages of different materials in the next section.
Most chair mats are transparent to allow the carpet’s color or pattern to show through, but mats are made of several different clear materials.
Chair mats made of vinyl or PVC are usually the least expensive. They’re lightweight, so they’re easy to put in place. Unfortunately, many are so lightweight that they might not stay in place at your desk. A mat made of PVC or vinyl can work well on carpets with low-pile, densely packed fibers, but it’s likely to bow, bend, and crack on higher-pile, loosely packed carpeting. A mat that’s too thin can also allow compression marks from the chair feet or casters to form in the carpet. Plus, the edges of thinner mats made of these materials are prone to curling.
Many mid-grade chair mats are made of polycarbonate, which is a heavy-duty polymer used in some airplane windows. Polycarbonate doesn’t discolor, crack or curl like cheaper materials. Unlike tempered glass, polycarbonate is completely shatterproof; and it’s much lighter in weight and easy to set in place.
Still, polycarbonate isn’t without its drawbacks. Many polycarbonate chair mats remain flat and level on plush carpet, but thinner mats have been known to bow or allow chair wheels to sink slightly.
Some high-quality chair mats are made of tempered glass. The strength of this material makes it a good pick for both chairs and users who are heavier than average. Tempered glass is completely flat and smooth, so it’s ergonomically easier on your joints than other materials. And unlike other mat materials, tempered glass doesn’t bow or sink into plush carpet, buckle or dent under pressure, or curl at the edges.
Tempered glass chair mats are heavier, so they won’t slide like PVC or vinyl. This is good news once your mat is in place, but could be bad news for getting it there. While tempered glass is very strong, it can still shatter if it’s hit on an edge with a strong, hard object. However, this happens infrequently, and when it breaks, the glass cracks into small, interlocking pieces rather than large, sharp shards.
Some chair mats are made of natural materials like wood or sisal. These mats are often available in a variety of colors and can give an office a high-end, contemporary look. While attractive, these mats can lack the longevity of mats made of synthetic materials. Order with caution, especially in high-use workspaces.
Studs: Mats intended for use on carpeting should have small studs on the underside that hold onto the carpet without causing damage.
Antistatic: Protect computers and other electronics from damage or data loss caused by static electricity with an antistatic chair mat.
Inexpensive: Low-priced chair mats cost between $30 and $50. In this price range, the mats are usually made of vinyl or PVC. The price climbs within the range based on the mat’s thickness and size. Some in this price range might not have the studs needed to stay in place on carpets, so check carefully before ordering.
Mid-range: These chair mats generally cost between $50 and $100. Most of the chair mats in this range are made of thicker, higher-quality PVC or polycarbonate. Again, the price increases within the range based on thickness and size. All these mats should have studs or nonskid backing to stay in place.
Expensive: The best chair mats cost $100 or more. Most of these are made of polycarbonate or tempered glass, although there are a few large PVC mats. At this price, mats should measure at least 0.187 inch thick, have studs, and may have beveled edges to help prevent stress fractures.
Measure the space correctly. When you measure your flooring, don’t include the portion covered by the desk. Chair mats aren’t designed for use under the desk and may crack. Instead, buy a mat with a lip.
Be careful when you open a rolled chair mat. Some are packed very tightly and may unroll quickly and forcefully. And be patient. Chair mats can take up to 24 hours to fully unroll and flatten.
Air out the mat before use. Vinyl and PVC mats can release chemical odors, at least at first. Keep this in mind if scents and gases trigger breathing problems or other reactions.
Q. How do I know what kind of pile my carpet has?
A. If you didn’t install the carpet, you might not know. But you can measure it. Grab a paperclip, straighten one end, and stick it into the carpet. Make sure it pokes through the backing and reaches all the way down to the floor. Pinch the paperclip where it’s even with the carpet, being careful not to push the fibers down, and then pull the clip out of the carpet. Measure from your fingers to the tip of the paperclip. That measurement will help you determine your carpet’s pile. Low-pile carpets measure 0.25 inch thick or less, and medium-pile carpets measure between 0.31 and 0.75 inch thick. High-pile carpets measure more than 0.75 inch thick.
Q. My chair mat shipped in a roll. What’s the best way to unpack it so that it lies flat?
A. Some vinyl, PVC, and even a few polycarbonate mats are shipped rolled up. It can be a daunting task to unpack and flatten one, especially if it’s large. First, take your mat to the room where you want to use it. Unpack it and carefully cut any bands holding the roll together. Give the mat time to warm to room temperature to make it easier to unroll. When the mat has reached room temperature, kneel on it and slowly unroll it. If the mat is too large to unroll while kneeling, place a heavy object on one end. Once it’s unrolled, place heavy, flat objects like books on the corners to help the mat flatten. Placing the mat near a sunny window can warm up the mat and hasten the flattening process.
Q. Can I clean my chair mat?
A. Chair mats are great for keeping dirt off your carpet, but all the dirt has to go somewhere. You’ll want to clean your chair mat to prevent discoloration and keep from tracking dirt across other parts of your carpet. You can clean both sides of the mat with a damp cloth and a mixture of mild soap and water. Use a toothbrush or other small brush to gently clean around the studs on the underside. Carefully rinse both sides and allow the mat to dry fully before putting it back in place.
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