Living Space

Living Space: The great contour mat debate

Tribune Media ServicesMay 3, 2013 

Poor maintenance is the bugaboo of contour rug haters.


There’s a love-hate relationship going on in the bathroom today – all over a little rug. Designers loathe contour toilet mats, yet many homeowners cling to them. So what’s all the fuss about?

The case against

Interior designers are decidedly negative about toilet contour rugs. Few upper-tier retailers even carry them. High-end home accessories retailer Frontgate carries a 100 percent cotton contour rug the company claims becomes more lush with each wash ( Overall, though, interior designers say matching toilet lid and contour rug sets are unappealing, unhygienic and make a poor decorating statement.

“Too often, home maintenance is overlooked, and everything needs to be on a regular cleaning schedule,” said Alice T. Chan, interior renovation and design specialist. “When I see these toilet rugs, they’re often not maintained and they’re filthy. Frankly, it’s just the whole idea of the toilet mat that I object to.”

As someone who’s worked with clients to help them sell their homes and is also a consulting designer for HGTV’s “Flip It to Win It” show, Chan says that when toilet mats are used in a home that’s on the market, buyers see a lack of hygiene and an attempt to cover up defects in the bathroom floor.

“It’s not my preference to use toilet mats mostly because no one knows when to get rid of them or to clean them regularly,” she says. Asked if she has the any such mats in her own home, Chan says emphatically, “Absolutely not!”

The case for

Homeowner Jodie Harvala, of Fargo, N.D., says she has a real need for a contour rug.

“I live in the northwest and our bathroom floors are freezing when it’s 30 below. As if that’s not enough, I also have two little boys and a husband,” explains Harvala. She likes how the rug handles splashing.

“With boys, it’s not just the worry about urine going on the floor, but also the splashes from the toilet.” As for maintenance, Harvala says all her bath mats go in the weekly wash to keep them and the bathroom fresh.

Harvala admits toilet mats get a bad rap because of their association with nasty men’s college dorm bathrooms, or with people who don’t clean properly. Some people simply assume that contour rugs are not clean.

“The problem I have with not using a toilet rug is that once urine has soaked into the floor, (the flooring is) hard to replace, but I can throw away a rug and get a new one easily.” Harvala also likes the way the mats feel and how they take the chill away from a cold tile floor.

Contour mats should be cleaned regularly and occasionally replaced. They’re especially helpful for unsealed stone floors that soak up moisture and are difficult to clean thoroughly.


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