Interview with Contamination Control Specialist

Interviewer: We’re here with Danae Crumb, a local contamination control specialist, to discuss various aspects of floor-level contamination control methods and their implications. Let’s start by discussing your experience as a contamination control specialist.

Danae Crumb, Contamination Control Specialist (CCS): Certainly. As a contamination control specialist, my primary responsibilities revolve around educating customers on contamination control at the floor level, as well as addressing factors that affect airborne particulate levels and how floor-level contamination control measures can influence airborne particulate.  It is generally known and accepted that contamination from feet and wheels is a concern that must be addressed but there is a concerning lack of consistent information available regarding the effectiveness of commonly used disposable contamination control methods.  As a contamination control specialist, my role involves delving into the specific needs of a facility, understanding prescribed processes and procedures, examining personnel and material flows, and assessing current contamination control methods and cleaning procedures. By understanding these factors, I can advise clients on the most appropriate methods to effectively control contamination. 


Interviewer: Could you elaborate on the factors that should be considered when deciding between different contamination control methods? 

CCS: Certainly. The big three factors I see being discussed are effectiveness, cost, and sustainability; these are paramount considerations in the decision-making process. 

First, it’s crucial to assess how well a contamination control method performs in reducing or preventing contamination within a specific environment. This involves considering factors such as the type and amount of particulate contamination present, the classification grades throughout the facility concerns with cross-contamination, and the method’s ability to maintain particulate control over time. 

Opting for a solution that costs less upfront, OpEx vs CapEx for example, may seem appealing in some ways, but if the solution is not effective at controlling contamination, it can lead to increased risks and costs associated with product contamination in the long run.  

In today’s world, sustainability plays a significant role as sticky mats and shoe covers generate an enormous amount of single-use plastic in landfills. Opting for sustainable methods can not only reduce environmental harm but also contribute to long-term cost savings and regulatory compliance. 


Interviewer: Those are three essential considerations for any industry focusing on contamination control. How do user experience and convenience influence the decision-making process? 

CCS: While user experience and convenience may not be primary factors, they remain crucial considerations, especially for various categories of operators like forklift drivers, material transfer personnel, and cleaning staff. The ease of use plays a significant role as operators and cleaning teams might be disinclined to follow protocols if they perceive them as cumbersome or time-consuming.  


Interviewer: What are some common challenges or complaints regarding the use of shoe covers and sticky mats? 

CCS: Wheeled traffic frequently runs into problems with sticky mats—they can get tangled around wheels leading to decreased productivity, increased cost, and increased plastic waste.  Additionally, it is virtually impossible to use sticky mats in areas with heavy wheeled traffic such as pallet jacks and fork trucks. One major headache is when both sticky mats and shoe covers are used together. Shoe covers sticking to tacky mats can tear or come off, but it’s not always reported, and it probably happens more often than we realize. The worst scenario is when a shoe covers tears go unnoticed, and someone walks into a clean area with an exposed shoe—it’s a serious contamination risk. 


Interviewer: It sounds like there are a lot of challenges associated with the disposable CC options. Have you encountered challenges related to the maintenance of sticky mats or the usability of shoe covers in clean and controlled environments? 

CCS: Absolutely, maintaining sticky mats can be quite labor-intensive for several reasons.  

First, sticky mats require frequent peeling to maintain any sort of effectiveness.  Most sticky mat manufacturers say to peel the mat when it looks dirty but give very little if any, guidance as to how often they should be peeled.  Some say every 30 minutes, some every 20 passes, some every two hours.  Moreover, peeling instructions typically say to simply peel the top sheet to reveal the next clean sheet.  To correctly peel a sticky mat, the dirty layer should be slowly peeled from the corner toward the center and rolled in on itself to create a tidy, 8” ball of plastic.  So it is common that sticky mats are only peeled once a day or once a shift and they are peeled incorrectly because frequent and correct peeling is time-consuming and tedious.  Considering that overstrike on a sticky mat can increase particulate on feet and wheels by 300% or more and that over 200,000 particles can be released into the air if they are not peeled correctly, inconsistent and irregular peeling can, and does, increase the risk of contamination entering clean and controlled areas.   

Next, when replacing sticky mats, it is essential to remove any adhesive residue before applying a new stack to ensure it adheres properly to the floor. This cleaning process is time-consuming and often overlooked but a sticky mat stack that is not adhered to the floor can lead to a myriad of health and safety issues as well as the potential for increased contamination entering clean and controlled environments.  

Additionally, sticky mats require a specific storage method—they must be stored flat as opposed to standing on end, which can be inconvenient and take up valuable shelf space that could be utilized for other purposes.  

Another consideration with both sticky mats and shoe covers is that maintaining an adequate supply is essential to ensure uninterrupted workflow. However, supply chain issues, particularly exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, have made stocking disposables such as shoe covers and sticky mats challenging. 


Interviewer: Given the labor-intensive nature of maintaining sticky mats and the challenges with stocking disposables that you’ve highlighted, how do you think adopting Dycem contamination control mats could impact overall cleanliness and contamination control compared to using disposable methods? 

CCS: Dycem mats offer a more effective barrier to contamination compared to shoe covers and sticky mats. They also reduce the risk of health and safety issues associated with trip hazards and the release of particles into the air. 


Interviewer: Are those the key advantages of using Dycem contamination control mats over shoe covers and sticky mats? 

CCS: Dycem mats offer several key benefits, including serving as a larger and unavoidable barrier to ensure that operators get the requisite 6 step or three-wheel rotations needed to provide effective particulate control in clean and critical areas,  reducing the risk of health and safety issues associated with trip and falls—a common concern with tacky mats, and decreased plastic waste which contributes significantly to a company’s sustainability efforts. Dycem mats feature antimicrobial properties as well as natural electromagnetic forces (van der Waals) which attract up to 75% of airborne particulate to the surface of the mats, further decreasing the risk of environmental contamination.  


Interviewer: How does the upfront investment of Dycem contamination control mats compare to shoe covers and sticky mats? 

CCS: While Dycem mats may typically require a larger upfront investment, they often result in cost savings over time, with studies showing that Dycem is a cost-saving option in approximately 80% of comparisons. The return on investment typically favors Dycem mats in the long run. I typically see cost savings of anywhere between $1,000 and $85,000 depending on the size of the facility, the amount and type of traffic, and the peeling frequency.   


Interviewer: From your perspective, what are the potential cost implications of relying on shoe covers and sticky mats versus investing in Dycem contamination control mats? 

CCS: The potential cost implications are significant. While Dycem mats may require a larger upfront investment, they offer long-term benefits in terms of effectiveness and cost efficiency. Tacky mats and shoe covers may seem cheaper initially, but they typically end up costing about double the cost of disposable solutions due to ongoing expenses. Additionally, it’s essential to recognize that Dycem is not just a financial investment—it serves as a health and safety solution, safeguarding the well-being of operators and minimizing contamination risks in the facility. 


Interviewer: Can you discuss any specific instances or case studies where the use of shoe covers and sticky mats failed to adequately control contamination, leading to negative consequences or outcomes? 

CCS: We’ve had successes with numerous companies that have moved away from sticky mats and are much happier with the results they see. We recently put out a case study on a customer who switched to Dycem due to concerns with sticky mats, as well as a different study from Cardiff University demonstrating the success of transitioning to a reusable alternative.

You can find more information on these success stories at the following links:

  1. Case study: Applying Strategies for Contamination Control and Combating Stray Macro Plastics
  2. Cardiff University study: A Customer Insight into Why Your Facility Should Switch from Peel-off Mats

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