Updated January 2022
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Buying guide for best desk pads

A desk pad, also known as a blotter, has uses that go beyond merely protecting your work surface. If you’re a compulsively organized neatnik, a desk pad helps you keep your sticky notes within boundaries instead of spread all over your desk. If you’re a doodler, a paper desk pad will keep you busy. A paper desk pad comes in handy when you think of a random idea or receive a phone message that needs to be immediately written down. Or, if you’re the ultra-efficient type, you can use a multifunctional desk pad that does duty as a mouse pad and a waterproof placemat for all those lunches you eat at your desk.

Then, there are desk pads that exist to make life a little more pleasurable. Cushioned desk pads are ideal for those who prefer to work at a desk in comfort. Stylish and elegant leather desk pads will cater to your inner CEO.

The world of desk pads includes countless colors, designs, materials, functions, sizes, and shapes. Finding the right one for you is a matter of understanding how you work at your desk and what you’d like a desk pad to help you accomplish. 

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Did you know that writing on a piece of paper directly on your beautiful walnut or cherry veneer desktop can cause permanent surface indentations? A desk pad can prevent that from happening.

Key considerations

Cleanup: If you’re constantly digging out crumbs from your keyboard, you’ll also likely need an easy-to-clean desk pad. It’s best to wipe away spills with a damp cloth.

Comfort: The right desk pad will keep you comfortable. The wrong one will be a distraction. Think about the type of thickness, edges, materials, and the position or absence of rails (the raised pieces on either side) that would be comfortable to you while working at your desk.

Durability: Abrasion-resistant desk pads don’t show any significant wear after heavy use.

Edges: Faux and genuine leather pads constructed with wrapped edges give the mat a beautiful finish and extra durability.

Finish: Choosing a desk mat with a dull matte finish eliminates glare on your desktop. This may seem minor, but glare can stilt your productivity.

Material: Desk pads are designed in all materials: disposable paper, durable plastic and vinyl, handsome faux leather, and classic genuine leather in numerous finishes, from glazed to distressed.

Multifunctional: A desk pad equipped with features such as flip-open rails or pockets is an organizational tool. Paper desk pads offer protection and act as daily planners, coloring book pages, to-do lists, and calendars.

Rigid: A semi-rigid core will keep a desk pad flat so it can’t be rolled, folded, or creased.

Self-healing: Cushioned pads with a self-healing surface are meant to quickly bounce back to their original form if any indentations are made while writing.

Size: A common desk pad size is 19 x 24 inches. Smaller ones can measure 12 x 17 inches, and larger ones may go up to 35 x 71 inches. Consider whether you want an ample size pad to do work or one that’s just large enough for a keyboard and mouse.

Thickness: Ultra thin desk pads are portable because they are lightweight (less than a pound) and can be rolled up to take anywhere you work. Thicker pads with cushioning are heavier (over a pound), unlikely to bend, or crease, and they’re comfortable on the arms and wrists, which reduces writing fatigue.

Underside: An underside lined with felt, micro-suede, or another type of anti-skid foam protects your desktop from marks, and keeps the pad itself from sliding around.

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For your safety
If your elbows feel uncomfortable when you’re using a desk pad with side rails, switch to one with a top rail.


There are more features than meet the eye when it comes to desk pads. They fit into two categories: those that simplify your work and those that make your workspace a little neater and cleaner.

Antimicrobial protection: A desk pad with built-in antimicrobial protection keeps your workspace fresh. It protects you from bacteria, mold, and mildew that may cause stains and odors on your desk. It’s helpful when food, liquids, and your skin’s natural oils find their way onto or underneath the pad. 

Business card flaps: Store important contacts in the side pockets of a desk pad with business

card holders.

Double rub test: Some manufacturers let users know the results of a double rub test, which tests the fabric’s resistance to abrasions and shows how durable the pad will be over time.

Dual-sided: A reversible desk pad gives you a color or pattern choice.

Edge/fixation lip: A lip at the bottom edge of a desk pad can rest over the edge of a desk to keep the pad fixed in place.

Heat-resistance: Desk pads made from heat-resistant material won’t burn from an ultra-hot cup of coffee. Check to specs to learn if the desk pad you’re considering is heat-resistant.

Lift top: Protect your desk pad with a model that has a transparent lift-top that you can write on while it conveniently covers what’s underneath.

Non-slip: A desk pad with an underside that grips will prevent it from sliding around on a slick work surface.

Pen well: You’ll never lose a writing instrument again with a pen well molded into your desk pad.

Pockets: Models with built-in pockets on the surface can hold a date book, writing utensil, and other important papers or cards, so they don’t get lost in the shuffle.

Rails: Side or top rails create a nice finish on a desk pad made of faux or genuine leather. Rails can be fixed or flipped over with storage pockets.

Refillable: If you love having an endless stream of paper on which to write your to-do lists and doodle at your desk, make sure your paper desk pad is refillable.

Reinforced edges: Well-stitched desk pad edging prevents fraying over time.

Set: Desk pads may be a part of desk accessory sets with coordinating accessories, such as a paper tray, card holder, pencil cup, or memo paper holder.

Waterproof: Some paper pads with plastic overlays keep things dry. Pads constructed of other materials are treated to repel water.

Desk pad prices

Inexpensive: In the $8 to $16 range, you’ll find desk calendar paper pads. You can choose from plastic and vinyl desk pads as well as smaller versions of faux leather pads. This price range offers some nice features, such as anti-skid backings and waterproofing on non-paper pads.

Mid-range: In the $16 to $36 range, you’ll have a choice of synthetic leather desk pads with added features such as pockets, fixation lips, and molded pencil wells. In fact, features begin to appear on all types and materials of desk pads, including antibacterial treatments, dual-sided designs, reinforced edging, and clear lift-tops.

Expensive: Above $36, you’ll begin to find larger desk pads and faux leather models that appear just as beautiful as genuine leather versions. A handful of genuine leather models price at around $50. True executive-quality genuine leather desk pads with classic side rails run about $100 or higher. Genuine leather executive desk sets will range from $100 to over $200. Often, expensive desk pads are all about the leather and not necessarily the features.


  • Some laser mice may not work best on clear, textured plastic desk pads. A laser mouse sensor tracks better on a smooth pad, textured synthetic leather or a genuine leather pad. A mouse with a ball tracks nicely on a clear, textured plastic desk pad.

  • A desk pad may help you with “desk friction.” Desk friction happens when your forearm or palm becomes mysteriously and uncomfortably stuck to your desk while working with a mouse. By covering your desk with a larger pad, you may alleviate the problem between your arm, palm, and desk. It’s especially helpful to place a desk pad on a glass-topped work surface in the summertime, when it will heat up.

  • If oils from your hand and forearm build up and leave stains on a genuine leather desk pad, remove the marks with leather cleaner that lifts out oils. You may want to use a leather conditioner on your desk pad after cleaning. Sometimes, you have to pay a small price for working in luxury.

  • When shopping for desk pads, you’ll encounter different and often confusing terms describing leather. For example, PU leather looks and feels like real leather, but it’s synthetic split leather. Split leather sounds genuine, but it’s really the fibrous leftover part of a hide, which is then coated with polyurethane to resemble real leather. Bonded leather also mimics genuine, but it’s ground up leather waste which is then spray glued to a polyurethane backing.

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A desk pad is a way to keep your keyboard from sliding around on your work surface without having to install a keyboard tray.


Q. What’s an antistatic mat, and should I use one with a computer?

A. If you’re fixing, building, or otherwise working on computer components, you may need a specialty antistatic mat workstation with a wrist-strap that you wear to ground you from built-up static electricity. If you’re working day-to-day on a laptop or desktop computer, you’ll be fine with a regular desk pad. Should you find a desk pad that says it’s antistatic, that typically means it helps keep dust away from your computer and other electronic devices on the mat. 

Q. Can I use a gaming pad as a desk pad?

A. Gaming pads are marketed as oversized, non-slip mats with tightly woven surfaces that are optimized for speed and excellent mouse sensor traction for best response times and performance during a game. A gaming pad, for example, may measure 33.5 x 23 inches, and they often are designed with vivid colors and wild patterns. There are also plenty of desk pads larger than that which can make excellent gaming pads and vice versa. The bottom line: gaming pads and desk pads can be used interchangeably, but it all depends on your comfort and preference.

Q. What kind of desk pad should I get for a curved work surface?

A. Though there are plenty of curved or circular mouse pads, curved desk pads are few and far between. They’re typically rectangular or oblong in shape. Occasionally, you’ll find a round desk pad or an L-shaped desk pad for an L-shaped desk. 

Q. Will a desk pad discolor my work surface?

A. It’s rare but not impossible for a desk pad to cause discoloration on a work surface. Subtle discoloration may potentially occur over a long period of time if you keep your desk in direct sunlight. Or, if you consistently place piping hot cups of coffee or tea on the pad, the extreme heat may cause moisture to react with the desk’s surface. However, a desk pad may offer protection from worse offenses that could ruin your work surface.

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