The tatami mat is a traditional Japanese flooring that has served many purposes withinin Japanese homes, temples, and businesses for centuries. J-Life tatami mats are composed of Japanese rush grass and filled with a baked dried rice straw that adds strength and durability. Each mat is sewn with a black fabric border and bound with twine, and a moisture resistant barrier is included in the foundation of the mat.
Creating a tatami room (和室) or incorporating tatami into your sleeping and living spaces is a wonderful way to embrace traditional Japanese living and add comfort to your home. Tatami is designed to create a comfortable floor space for barefoot walking and eating while seated on the floor or on a floor pillow, as is traditional in Japan. It also serves as the foundation for a shikifuton sleep system, where it creates cushion and circulation underneath the Japanese mattress.
Tatami is a durable and versatile flooring option, but life still happens. Drinks spill, kids and pets have accidents, and wear and tear naturally occurs over time. That’s why we put together this simple guide to help you deal with any problems you may experience with your tatami grass mat and prevent future damage.
As with any flooring, tatami mats will still need to be cleaned occasionally. In general, it is best to lightly clean your tatami flooring regularly to avoid it becoming too dirty to be fully cleaned.
Minor dirt, stains, and spills: A simple damp cloth wiped in the direction of the grain should do the trick when dealing with minor soiling. Always avoid oversaturating the tatami when you clean it with liquids as this can cause mold growth (which we'll discuss below).
Deep cleaning and tough stains: Water mixed with vinegar can be applied to a damp cloth to gently rub out the spot. Again, take care not to oversaturate the tatami grass mat and to wipe in the same direction of the weaving.
Dust and debris: Believe it or not, tatami can be vacuumed. Always make sure to move the vacuum with the grain of your tatami mat to avoid damaging the grass fibers. Be sure not to use the brush roller setting (designed for carpets) on your vacuum, as this will be too abrasive on the mat. If possible, use a lower power setting or a small hand vacuum on your tatami. If a vacuum is not necessary, simply sweeping the tatami with a soft-bristled broom will also help remove unwanted dust and dirt.
If you discover mold on your tatami mat, it is not a reason to panic or dispose of the mat altogether. Mold formation is rare, but, since it is made of grass, it is not impossible. The specially designed moisture barrier that is included on all J-Life tatami mats is intended to help prevent the formation of mold and other moisture-related issues.
Small mold spots can be cleaned using a small amount of ethanol to kill the mold, and a toothbrush or small cleaning brush to scrape it away, taking care not to damage the fibers of the rush grass in doing so.
To prevent the formation of mold on your Japanese grass flooring, ensure it is getting enough circulation. Consider if the space you are using or storing the tatami mat in has high humidity, as this is usually the cause of mold in a tatami mat. If the problem persists or you are unable to relocate the tatami, using a dehumidifier in that space may help to prevent mold growth.
Insects like mites and bedbugs can be an unfortunate burden in even the cleanest of homes. These nuisances are usually brought in unknowingly from outside and quickly spread in our homes. Since tatami grass is an organic substance, these pests may make a home in it just like they would a mattress or box spring- especially if you are using your tatami sleeping mat as a base for your Japanese sleep system.
To prevent pests before they become an issue, use a bug spray occasionally on your mats and clean the tatami whenever you clean your shikifuton cover and kakefuton. Storing your shikifuton mattress when not in use, regularly airing it in the sun, and shaking it off between uses can also help prevent pests. This also helps prevent moisture and mold buildup within the mat, as mentioned above.
Damage & Dents
You may not think it’s possible to put furniture on your tatami mat, but that’s not the case! While we don’t suggest you place large or heavy pieces entirely on the tatami mats, smaller furniture items like tables, chairs, and drawers can be used on tatami. Furniture with wide, flat-bottomed legs will also be better for tatami than skinny-legged furniture, such as dining chairs. We also recommend using foam pads on the bottom of any furniture you place on your tatami flooring to prevent scraping and denting.
Over time, furniture may cause unsightly indentations on your tatami mat. By dampening the area with a wet cloth and rubbing the area lightly, dents can be ironed out.
In summary, here are some best practices for general maintenance and getting the most life out of your Japanese tatami mats:
- Keep your tatami mats dry and in a well-ventilated space.
- Avoid using tatami in basements and uninsulated rooms, especially in warmer climates/ seasons.
- Be gentle with your Japanese floor mat. While they can withstand daily use, it is still best to avoid harsh cleaners, coarse brooms, vacuum brushes, and rough handling.
- Put your tatami in a safe, dry place when not in use. If you only use your mats occasionally, the best way to keep them safe and undamaged is to store them.
Tatami has been used in Japanese homes for over 1,000 years thanks to the comfort, versatility, and practicality they add to any living space. Tatami flooring doesn’t require much maintenance and can easily be moved and replaced as desired. Their long-standing use is evidence that tatami is not difficult to keep in your home and is certainly a worthwhile addition to your life.