Mouse mats used to be everywhere. They came with every new computer purchase – like they were a vital part of the computer setup. Of course, this is from back when all computers were beige boxes, laid on desks with giant CRT monitors perched on top of them. Times have changed quite a bit since then, and so have mouse mats.

You see, mouse mats had a function back in the day: they provided dependable grip, and a predictable surface – two things that an old computer mouse needs in order to work.

The old computer mouse design used a weighted, rubberised ball to track motion. The ball would roll inside the mouse as it was moved, and this in turn moved against electronic rollers inside the mouse. These rollers sent the signal to the computer that the mouse was moving in a given direction – and the cursor on the screen would then behave as expected.

Except for when it didn’t. The Achilles heel of the old ball and roller design was that it would get clogged up with fluff and dirt, which would cause the rollers or ball to stop moving. These old mice needed almost constant cleaning or they wouldn’t work – and cleaning mouse mats was required to stop it happening again too quickly.

So it was a big relief when the optical mouse was invented – and the ball design was retired. But with no need for grip, optical mice rarely needed a mouse mat to work (except for on a rare handful of highly reflective surfaces).

Plus, as more people moved over to laptops and trackpads, the humble mouse mat seemed relegated to history. But not for long. They were about to make a big comeback.

Anyone who got used to working with oversized mouse mats found it hard to go back to the hard, flat, cold of the bare desk. Why not have a comfy, soft mat under everything your hands touch – the keyboard, mouse, your phone?

And so, desk mats were born. A fancy and fashionable (yet functional and comfort-driven) desk accessory, bound for offices the world over.

Today, we see absolutely loads of desk mats in offices. Some have built-in wrist support, some are purely decorative, and some act as non-reflective surfaces for optical mice to track better over.

No matter why they’re used, they all share one thing in common; they get really dirty. We’ve already covered cleaning computer mice, keyboards and office desks in detail – but now, in this post, we’ll get into cleaning mouse mats and desk mats.

How to clean a mouse mat

Office desk with mouse mat
Mouse mats can get pretty gross. Makeup, food, skin oils, hair – all grime on your hands from just living your life – it all gets absorbed into the soft fabric and neoprene. And if you, like some of us around here (not naming any names), tend to spill a tea or coffee from time to time, then that’s going to soak into the mat, too.

Some mouse mats are machine washable, but the machine washing process is harsh and can deteriorate the materials over time. Rubber doesn’t like getting stressed like this too often, as it can crack, and the glue keeping the fabrics together can separate.

The safest bet is to follow these simple instructions to clean a mouse mat:

  1. Take the mouse mat to a sink. Dab off any spillages, and dust off any crumbs or surface debris
  2. Using very warm water, soak the surface of the mouse mat and scrub at stains or marks with an old toothbrush or cloth
  3. For persistent marks or oily stains, scrub in some washing up liquid with an old toothbrush
  4. Thoroughly rinse the mouse mat with cold water – allow to air dry, away from direct sunlight or heat sources

That last point is important: UV light from the sun can damage plastics and fade colours, and heat can cause rubber to become too dry. Even though it takes a little longer, be sure to air dry your mouse mat.

How to clean a desk mat

Well, it’s kind of the same drill as above – but desk mats usually have more variety in their materials and fixings than mouse mats, and are generally about 4 times the size (or bigger).

  1. Dust off your desk mat and rinse it in a large sink with warm water
  2. Scrub it with a soft brush and some washing up liquid or fabric cleaner, depending on the top material (check the manufacturer’s recommendations first!)
  3. Rinse with cold water, until completely clear of washing up liquid or fabric cleaner
  4. Let the mat drip dry for about 15 mins, then leave to air dry fully

There you have it – a perfect process for how to clean mouse mats and desk mats, at home or in the office. Still got more office equipment to clean? Read this next: The Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Office Equipment.

Office cleaning, done by professionals

Get professional office cleaning in Cardiff – from The Abbey Cleaning Service. Call 029 2067 9323 today, and find out how we’ll help you keep your office clean without disrupting your work day.