How to Clean Tatami and Points to Note

2019-07-27 LIFE

This post is also available in 日本語

Tatami is essential for Japanese rooms. Whether throwing oneself down and stretching out, or walking with bare feet, tatami is a material that often comes into contact with the bare skin. If you look after it properly, you will always be able to use it in an enjoyable way.

However, the things for which you need to look out and the overall method of cleaning tatami are completely different to when cleaning wooden floors. On this occasion, we shall introduce you to how to clean tatami.

[Before cleaning] Checking tatami terms

  • Tatami toko
    This is the sheet-shaped section that is the core of the tatami. This is made of straw. Nowadays a wide variety of core materials are used.
  • Tatami omote
    This covers the surface of the tatami flooring, like a mat. Generally, this uses a plant called “Igusa(rush)”. Recently, you can see tatami omote made of Japanese paper and polypropylene.
  • Tatami heri
    This is the section with strips of cloth that are sewn on to fix the tatami omote.
  • Tatami-no-me
    These are the grain weave of the tatami omote.

[Before cleaning] Things to note

  • Clean in line with the Tatami-no-me
    If you go against the Tatami-no-me, you can damage the tatami omote. Whatever method of cleaning you choose, you should do this in line with the tatami-no-me one-by-one.
  • Moisture is strictly prohibited
    If tatami gest wet, it can get damaged, mold can set in, and fleas can proliferate. Do not wipe with a damp cloth. If you do wipe with a damp cloth, be sure to also wipe with a dry cloth and ventilate, to make sure it is dry.
  • Do not use adhesive-type carpet cleaners
    If you use strongly adhesive-type cleaners, the surface of the tatami may become frayed and fluffy. If you really want to use it, use the weakly adhesive variety, on which it is written that it is for tatami use.
  • Do not use baking soda
    If you use baking soda, the tatami omote may change color or get stained. Stains from baking soda do not come off. If it is particularly dirty, use citric acid or vinegar.

Normal cleaning

Once a week, wipe with a dry cloth after sweeping with a broom or using a vacuum cleaner. If you are particularly short of time, clean in line with the Tatami-no-me using a dry type flooring wiper.

Sweep with a broom

As the Tatami-no-me are very delicate, a “broom” is better than a vacuum cleaner for picking up the dust. Wipe away the dust in line with the Tatami-no-me.

Once you have taken away the dust, dry-wipe the Tatami-no-me with a dust cloth. Dry-wiping will polish the tatami omote and increase its luster. If you rub roughly, you may damage the tatami omote, so wipe gently.

Using a vacuum cleaner

When using a vacuum cleaner, if you move it slowly along the Tatami-no-me, rather than pushing and pulling it back strongly, you will pick up more dust. You should spend about one minute per tatami mat.
Also, if you use the vacuum cleaner with the same strength as you do with wooden floors, you may damage the tatami omote. Stop the head brush rotation or select “weak” mode. In particular, the tatami heri becomes easily damaged, float the vacuum cleaner head a little.. Robot cleaners will ignore the Tatami-no-me, so avoid using these.

After using the vacuum cleaner, dry-wipe the Tatami-no-me with a dust cloth.

Special maintenance

It is noticeably dirty

In case it is noticeably dirty or the tatami gets baked by the sun and becomes discolored, wet-wipe with citric acid. This helps to prevent mold and fleas. If you do not have any citric acid, you can use vinegar instead.

  1. Fill the bucket half-full with water or lukewarm water
    If you use boiling water, it may become discolored and damaged, so avoid using boiling water.
  2. Insert one teaspoon of citric acid or 100cc of vinegar and mix
  3. Wet a dust cloth and squeeze hard.
  4. Wet-wipe with the dust cloth along the Tatami-no-me
  5. Dry-wipe with a different dry dust cloth along the Tatami-no-me
  6. Ventilate and dry the tatami well

I spilled liquid on the tatami

As long as the water is clean, wipe away the moisture right away, and dry. If it is some other liquid, also use salt.

  1. Wipe away the spilled liquid with kitchen paper etc.
    If this takes time or you scratch it, this may soak in and lead to a stain. Tap it gently right away and wipe away
  2. Spread dried salt on the stained area
  3. When the salt becomes damp, remove out with the dirt
    Gently rake it along the Tatami-no-me with a used toothbrush
  4. Use a vacuum cleaner to remove the salt raked
  5. Dry wipe with a dust cloth and dry the tatami well

It has become moldy

If mold becomes slightly visible on the surface, spray it with an alcohol-based anti-bacterial spray, and then dry-wipe with a dust cloth.

Note that mold-removal spray for bathrooms or kitchens is too strong for tatami, so this should never be used.