The most complete knowledge so far about baby crawling mat purchasing

Fiber (cloth) crawling mat
1. Fiber (cloth) crawling mat

Most fiber crawling mats sold online are under the name of "cotton crawling mats". In fact, they are not really pure cotton. It has a sandwich structure: the fabric is usually pure cotton, the base material is polyester fiber (with non-slip particles), and the main material in the middle is polyester fiber (PET synthetic fiber) or absorbent cotton (natural fiber). 

The advantages of fiber crawling mats are obvious, such as flexibility and multi-purpose (can be used as a mattress), easy storage, and washable. In addition, due to the fiber-based main material, it also has good air permeability and elastic recovery ability.

However, its shortcomings are also obvious, for example, it is not waterproof, not resistant to dirt, and not easy to clean. For babies in the crawling stage, this means that if the crawling mat is not cleaned immediately, it is easy to breed bacteria and mites. On the other hand, some crawling mat manufacturers may have quality defects such as excessive formaldehyde due to unqualified craftsmanship.

Because of this, foam crawling mats came into being. Foam crawling mats originated in Japan and South Korea, and gradually became popular in Taiwan. In recent years, with the development of the economy, foam crawling mats have gradually become popular in China (mainland). And loved by Chinese parents. The monthly sales of crawling mats for brand sellers on Tmall alone (excluding Taobao individual sellers) reached 300,000. If you search for the keyword "crawling mat" on Taobao, most of the results are foam crawling mats.

Foam crawling mats are divided into EVA, PE (EPE, XPE), PVC etc according to the main foam material. normally if persons are not professional in material, when they see such English abbreviations, they feel confused. What are they? In simple terms, these are common plastic particles. In fact, they often appear around us. For example, the soles of the slippers we often wear are made of EVA material.

EVA foam crawling mat

2. EVA foam crawling mat

EVA, short for Ethylene-vinyl acetate copolymer. EVA plastic itself is a non-toxic and environmentally friendly material, but during the foaming process, foaming agents such as lubricants and other  additives have to be added. These additives are small ingredients, and they are likely to contain or produce toxic and harmful ingredients.

For example, azodicarbonamide, a commonly used foaming agent, is likely to cause formamide residues, which has an irritating effect on the baby's tender skin and is likely to cause allergies. What is more harmful is that it will cause irreversible damage to children's reproductive health.

On the other hand, in order to save costs, some enterprises use recycled EVA materials, such as shoe soles, bags and other recycled materials, to make crawling mats. The sources of ingredients in recycled materials are complex, which is extremely harmful to the baby's body.

For example, in July 2015, CCTV exposed that the formamide content of most EVA splicing floor mats exceeded the standard, up to 11 times.

In addition, because the EVA crawling mat is relatively hard, it is easier to make various splicing crawling mats. This kind of crawling mat is generally added with pigment or inks to make colorful products. Whether it is pigment or ink, there may be heavy metals, which will endanger the baby's health.

Therefore, for EVA crawling mats, we do not recommend buying them because they are likely to cause quality and safety risks.

EPE foam crawling mat

3.EPE foam crawling mat

No matter EPE, XPE, or IXPE, its raw material is PE (polyethylene plastic). Only the foaming or cross-linking process is different. For example, EPE uses physical foaming, XPE uses chemical cross-linking foaming, and IXPE uses electron radiation cross-linking. Among them, IXPE foam has a small and dense pore size, which is not suitable for baby crawling mats.

PE materials are relatively environmentally friendly and safe. Most of the plastic wrap we use is PE film.

No matter it is EPE or XPE crawling mat, the common structure has 5 layers. The middle main material is PE foam, outer is the pattern layer, and the outermost layer is PE film or similar protective film which can avoid baby’s body to contact ink directly. 

EPE is made of LDPE and additives—-talcum, GMS and butane by physical foaming process. This process has low barriers to entry and low price. Most of its manufacturers used to focus on packaging materials, and then started to make crawling mats.

EPE crawling mat has many advantages such as low price, environmental protection and shock resistance. But after a period of time, it is easy to compress and deform, that is to say, it is not durable. And because it uses butane as foaming agent, this type of crawling mat has poor flame retardancy and is flammable when it catches fire. (Click to see what are the complete sets of equipment for the EPE climbing mat?)

XPE Foam Crawling Mat

4. XPE Foam Crawling Mat

The difference between XPE crawling mat and EPE crawling mat is in the way of foaming. EPE uses physical foaming, while XPE uses chemical foaming process. Compared with other types of foam materials, XPE has many excellent properties such as fine and uniform cells, strong toughness, good heat insulation and sound insulation effects, high corrosion resistance, good resilience, low water absorption, and comfortable hand feeling. The entry threshold for its material production is high, and the most mature production technology is in Japan and South Korea. The price of crawling mats made of this material is a little more expensive than that of EPE crawling mats, but the softness, resilience and durability are better. Among the crawling mats, the price is the most cost-effective.

However, since this type of crawling mat may also use AC foaming agent, there is also the problem of formamide residue, so the technical threshold for foaming technology is relatively high. When you choose XPE crawling mats, you still need to pay attention to the test results of the latest batch (such as formamide residues, heavy metal content, etc.). (Click to see What equipment needs to be purchased for the Xpe climbing mat?)

5. PVC foam crawling mat

One of the biggest features of PVC crawling mats is that they are expensive. The price of PVC foam mat with the same brand is nearly twice as expensive as that of XPE crawling mats. Its typical structure is similar to EPE and XPE crawling mats, and it is also a 5-layer structure, except that the elastic material in the middle is PVC.

The biggest advantage of the PVC crawling mat is that it is very soft and comfortable, suitable for babies to crawl on. But its foaming process also needs to add various chemical additives, such as foaming agent, anti-aging agent and so on. These foaming agents such as AC foaming agents are also prone to residual formamide. At the same time, PVC (polyvinyl chloride plastic) is very easy to decompose hydrogen chloride during processing. Therefore, the PVC crawling mat has possibilities that hydrogen chloride gas will be precipitated during use, which will cause harm to the baby.

Summary in one sentence:

At present, all kinds of material climbing mats on the market have toxic and harmful risks. Relatively speaking, EPE crawling mats are more cost effective. 

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