How to care for and clean tatami mats

Tatami mats are a wonderful, natural addition to any room and will provide you with a beautiful space for years of use.

Just like any floor or rug in your house, tatami mats need regular cleaning.  For regular maintenance, vacuum your mats and then wipe with a very slightly dampened cloth.  

Try to vacuum along the grain of the top of the mat so that you to not damage the igusa rushes.  Also, do not use the vacuum beater brush (the spinning brush on the vacuum cleaning head) – use the hardwood floor attachment which has no moving parts, and vacuum gently to avoid catching the surface fibers.

When wiping with a cloth, also make sure you wipe along the grain and make sure that no excess water drips into the tatami (wring out the cloth so that the cloth is only slightly damp).

Stains and Spills

Cleaning up stains and spills on your tatami mat will depend on what has been spilled.

The first step is to place a dry cloth or paper towel on the area of the spill to soak up as much moisture as possible from the mat. 

If there is a stain, the next step is to use a slightly damp cloth to wipe away what is possible. 

Then there are various methods to remove stains and marks.  Some put talcum powder or flour on the affected area, then vacuum once it has dried completely.  Some wipe the area with a cloth dampened in milk, but we have not tried this!

Other conventional stain removers can often be used – we recommend products that are natural cleaners with no solvents, but again, do not let these products drip down into the tatami mats.

For oil stains, use a highly-wrung, slightly damp cloth with a diluted neutral detergent and wipe the tatami in the affected area.

If you have had a large spill or you are worried about dampness or humidity in the room where your tatami mats are, consider using a de-humidifier to dry out your mats after a spill, or to keep the air less humid and help keep the tatami mats dry and mold-free on an ongoing basis.

Dampness and Humidity and Mold

It is best not to keep tatami mats in a place where there is consistent high humidity – like any plant based materials, there is a chance of mold.  If you do find any mold on your tatami mats, wipe the mold away using a cloth moistened with ethanol (ethyl alcohol).  Some use a toothbrush dipped in ethanol to brush away the mold.    

A de-humidifier is recommended in rooms where the humidity is high enough that it might lead to mold.

Some tatami mat owners also make sure that they put their mats outside in direct sunlight once or twice a year to ventilate and dry the mats with natural sunlight.

Furniture, heavy items and sharp edges

Tatami mats are strong, but they can be dented and the dried rushes can be broken if you do not follow common sense guidelines.  Heavy objects with sharp edges can damage tatami mats.

In particular, do not put heavy furniture on your tatami mats if possible.  If you do want to place furniture we recommend putting pads below the feet of the furniture to spread the weight of the furniture on the mats and prevent damage or denting.  You can also choose furniture with wide feet or a base that covers the entire piece of furniture.

In Japan, it is traditional to take off shoes when walking on tatami mats and this makes sense to reduce potential damage, especially for shoes with hard soles that might put too much direct weight on one area of the mat.

Getting Rid of dents in your tatami mat

If you do end up with a dent on your tatami surface you may be able to remove it by placing a damp cloth over the area and gently steam-ironing the area.