How To Clean Your Junk Mat (Because It Probably Needs It!)

I’m going to show you how to clean your junk mat. It’s dirty. Kind of gross actually. Yes…you. Now, don’t point at that other person’s junk mat! Yours is just as nasty.

Think about it. Even with the best intentions and the cleanest hands, dirt tracks in. Spills can happen, and someone didn’t wipe the traces of oil of their fingers after downing that snack between draws. Someone used it as a writing surface when filling out that orasu sheet and left a stroke of ink behind. Four sets of hands rubbing on the mat surface when you are all washing tiles. Hand after hand, game after game. Do we even have to talk about club mats or those used in public?

The grime builds. So let’s talk about getting that thing cleaned up, shall we?

Before we begin I want to emphasize that you should not scrub your mat vigorously or apply too much pressure. Doing so may stretch the material and cause it to form permanent wrinkles and “stretched out” spots. Those of you in the habit of repeatedly moving mats laden with a full set of tiles from one surface to another already know what I’m talking about. Wipe your mat gently and avoid pulling on the material as much as possible.

The standard junk mat is foam neoprene coated in a nylon fabric, and it is the nylon surface that we need to clean the most.

Spot Clean

First look for any specific marks or stains that stand out. One of my mats has an ink-mark as a couple of small drip stains that may or may not be coffee.

Wet a soft cloth with some rubbing alcohol and gently work it into the stain. The surface will dry quickly but may leave a ring, like a water stain, around the area. How clean that spot is compared to the rest of your mat may also be an indication of how grimy your surface is!

Wipe Down The Surface

Alcohol is not practical for the entire mat, but there are a couple of solutions I have used that will get the job done.

First, mix just a little laundry detergent in a bowl of warm water. I used about a 1/2 teaspoon of laundry detergent in about 2 cups (1/2 liter) of warm water. Soak a washcloth in the solution and wring it out so it is still wet but not trailing water. Working about 1/4 of the mat at a time, wipe down the nylon surface and gently work the solution into the surface until it has soaked in. Do the entire mat.

Alternatively, I have also had good results with a spray on upholstery cleaner. Spray it over the surface to dampen it, then gently wipe it with a warm, wet cloth.

Next, rinse the cloth in clean water and wipe the surface down to lift any dirt and excess detergent. Rinse your cloth frequently, and remember not to apply too much pressure. Take this opportunity to wipe down the frame and clean out the tembo wells.

Leave It To Dry

Once the surface has been cleaned, pat dry the entire mat with a dry towel. It is important to lift as much water as possible. Otherwise the mat may dry unevenly which will leave water stains. Finally, set the mat out to dry, propped up somewhere with good air-flow. Leave the frame intact instead of hanging it over something so the mat won’t stretch.

Now you know how to clean your junk mat, and your mat will no doubt reward your thoughtful care with a lucky yakuman. (Yakuman not guaranteed!). House rules regarding food and drink around mahjong tables will help keep them that way, or follow Gemma’s tried and true tip!

I don’t let people get pen marks on my things by screaming at them.

Do you have any other tips or methods for cleaning your junk mats? Leave a comment!