Why you should not flip your car mats

Use plastic car mats on muddy days and leave them in the boot on dry days.  Photo/Tony Mushoborozi

What you need to know:

Because most motorists do not want to get their car mats dirty, they flip them rubber side up so that the woolen, cozy, decorative side is hidden from the mud and the dust. Here is why this is a bad idea.

Tony Mushoborozi

There are two types of car owners. Those that keep their car floor mats in impeccable condition and those that turn them upside down. It be true, after all, that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The people who overturn their car floor mats, believe it or not, have good intentions. They do not want their car interior to get dirty. So, they say it is easier to clean the rubber side of the carpet than to clean the thick woollen side. Sadly, they all end up with a dirtier car.

Car floor mats are there to keep the car clean. The cushiness of the car floor mats is not just for comfort and luxury, it is meant to collect dust from your feet and prevent it from going anywhere else in the car. This effectively means that turning the carpet upside down takes away this very important role of car floor mats. They should never be turned upside down even in muddy situations that we all find ourselves in. Having some plastic ones stashed away in the boot will come in handy for those rainy days.  


Keeping carpets right side up affords you a perpetually clean car while turning them leaves you with constant dust. This is because when turned upside down, the woollen part of the carpet, which is supposed to absorb and hide dust is replaced by the rubber side that can only collect dust and disperse it everywhere in the car, leaving you with a heavy cleaning job once your passengers have left. This is why many floor linings eventually become caked with dirt from constantly trying to get the dust out through washing. 


A car owner who keeps his carpets right side up keeps their carpets intact for years while the latter loses theirs in mere months. Have you ever entered someone’s car and the carpets were hideously cracked, worn out, and curled around the edges? That is one of the consequences of turning car floor mats upside down for long periods. They just become ugly old rugs. Car floor mats that are turned upside down get won out faster because the rubber side was not designed to withstand the heavy traffic on car floors, but rather, to grip into the floor lining. On the other hand, however, the woollen side was designed to be stepped  on, which explains why it is so tough and cushy. 


Turning the car floor mats upside down simply makes the car less luxurious. It turns a luxurious little sedan into an ugly farm truck. As mentioned above, the rubber side of car floor mats was designed to grip into the floor lining for comfort and safety, which is why they all come with those little sharp rubber spikes.

This means that once you place the carpet on the floor the right way, it will not slide back and forth and into corners. It stays put. Because of those down-facing spikes. This explains why upended carpets curl around the edges; because they keep sliding to places they should not. Keeping your car floor mats the right side up maintains the beautiful colour scheme of your car interior, matching the floor with the rest of the interior. 

Additional plastic carpets?

The compromise that many people tend to make is adding plastic carpets on top of the woollen ones in order to protect them from dust. This is better than turning them upside down. The plastic usually comes with turned-up edges, making them ideal to hold in the dust. But the car owner who truly values luxury will not make this compromise because oftentimes, the dust falls out of the plastic tray, lands outside the edges of the car floor mat and gets stuck in the floor lining, which is a lot harder to clean.

The best way to go about the plastic carpets is to see them for what they are; temporary. Use them on muddy days, and leave them in the boot on dry days. This way, your car floor mats will effectively do their job of absorbing the dust before it lands on the floor lining and the rest of the car.

Cleaning car mats

The first step to cleaning car floor mats (woollen ones) is to dry them in the sun before beating the dust and sand out of them. This can done by carefully slapping the mat onto a flat surface repeatedly until you feel satisfied that the dust is out.

The next step is to apply an upholstery cleaning agent before applying a cleaning brush. After thorough brushing, suck the dirt out with a vacuum cleaner and dry.

Correct use of car mats

1. Prepare the area: Start by thoroughly cleaning your car’s floor area to remove any dirt or debris. The floor should be completely dry before installing the mat.

2. Position the mat: Place the car mat in the intended area. For the driver’s side, align the mat with the pedals for a secure fit. Avoid placing mats over the top of one another, which can lead to slippage.

3. Check the fit: Once installed, check the mat’s fit. It should not obstruct the pedals or interfere with the operation of the vehicle in any way.

4. Regular maintenance: Clean the mats regularly to prevent dirt buildup, which can lead to slippage over time.