How to Break-In a Tatami Mat

Written by stephanie lee
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How to Break-In a Tatami Mat
Tatami mats are efficient in absorbing heat and moisture. (Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Tatami mats are a common floor covering found in Japan. The mats are made with a straw filling, a woven reed covering and lined with decorative fabric. While tatami mats are ideal during the summer as they are efficient at absorbing heat, they succeed equally well at absorbing moisture. Without proper care, this can lead to mould or mildew. Caring for newly purchased tatami mats is a delicate process as the material is fragile. But with a few simple steps, you can expect the tatami mats to have a lifespan of approximately 20 years.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Dry cloth
  • Protective covering
  • Humidifier

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  1. 1

    Avoid wearing shoes on the tatami mats as they can scratch and stain the surface of the mats. Many households even avoid wearing house shoes or slippers on the mats. For maintenance, it is best to walk on the mats either barefoot or with soft socks.

  2. 2

    Clean up any spills or dirt with either a vacuum cleaner or a dry cloth. If using a vacuum cleaner, practice caution so that you do not tear at the straw. Remove liquids with a dry cloth. Mildew can form easily in the tatami mats if exposed to excessive moisture. For this reason, it is best to clean liquids immediately and to air dry the tatami mats occasionally.

  3. 3

    Dry the tatami mats every four months to prevent mould and mildew. It is best to lay the mats in the cool shade rather than directly under the sun, as the heat from the sun can make the straw weak and brittle. Once the mats are dry, place them back in the room with the opposite side facing up. Just like a mattress bed, you need to rotate the tatami mats on each side to balance the wear and tear.

  4. 4

    Protect the tatami mats from furniture scratches by placing a protective rug between the furniture and the mats or a piece of felt cloth to cover the legs of the furniture. Tatami mats are fragile, so you never want to push furniture across a room lined with tatami mats.

  5. 5

    Place a humidifier in the room if you live in an area with high humidity. This will help to filter out excess moisture in the room and prevent the growth of mould or mildew.

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