How To Protect Your RV Flooring From Pet Damage
Now that laminate floors are installed in most new RVs, those traveling with dogs might be wondering, is there a way to protect these floors from pet damage?
The vast majority of RVers travel with one or more pets (we’re part of that majority). Historically, RVs were sold with wall-to-wall carpet, and if you have pets you know that combination can be problematic at best. Managing the hair is bad enough, but the dirt generated by dozens of trips in and out of the rig is virtually uncontrollable in a carpeted RV.
When it’s raining outside, we humans can take off our rain gear and wet shoes, but our pets have twice as many feet, which they never clean when they come into the RV. Even if you have a rug at the entryway, it only takes a short time for that to become a saturated mess, which fails to protect the carpet and is in itself difficult to clean and maintain.
Traveling with pets
In our case, we travel with four Australian Shepherds. That is 16 wet or muddy footprints with every movement, and in our older motorhome it was a constant battle trying keep the carpet clean.
We traveled with a large heavy vacuum cleaner and a carpet shampooer, neither of which was convenient to stow anywhere in the motorhome or in the basements. However, these were necessary tools for keeping the carpet clean. The reality of their wet muddy paws is bad enough, so I don’t need to get into an exhaustive discussion of what it’s like when a dog gets sick and the floor is covered in carpet.
Let’s be real. Dogs do get sick, and they throw up more often than people. If you’re not traveling with pets you probably can’t relate to this, but for those of you who travel with a dog or two, you know why we kept a portable carpet shampooer handy.
RV carpet vs laminate flooring
In 2019, we traded our older carpeted RV for a new 38-foot Newmar with laminate floors. We were excited to finally be getting an RV without carpet, since we were still traveling with our four canine companions. But we weren’t sure how to protect the dogs on the laminate floor or how to protect the floor from the dogs. After all, besides the 16 dirty paws to contend with, there are 64 sharp toenails, all scratching at the floor when they get excited.
We soon discovered (after moving into the Newmar) that our oldest dog was unable to remain standing on the laminate floor. Her feet would just slide out from under her in all directions. The other three had difficulty standing on the laminate floor but Gracie just couldn’t keep her feet under her. We knew we had to do something to give them some traction and to mitigate the slickness of the hard surface.
Rugs vs rubber mats
Rugs were not an option. To be effective, we would need to virtually cover all of the exposed laminate flooring with rugs, which was almost like having wall-to-wall carpet.
We knew how delightful the carpet had been in our other motorhome, and we didn’t want to replicate all of that negativity with rugs. Additionally, rugs can be a tripping factor, which is why they are not recommended for the living spaces of the elderly.
Finally, rugs are difficult to wash and dry, and while they are being cleaned, the dogs would again be exposed to the slick surface of the laminate floor—unless we had two sets of rugs, which would be a storage and logistical challenge.
In the process of trying to solve this problem, we discovered square rubber mats that can be fastened together into a grid pattern. They are primarily designed to form a cushioned play area for children or to be used as padding in an exercise area. With products of this nature, however, we were concerned about exposure to harmful chemicals via off-gassing, so we continued searching until we found mats that were the right color and thickness and made of non-toxic material. In our opinion, the mats are a much better alternative then rugs for protecting the laminate flooring.
They’re not ideal. The mats give our new motorhome a bit of an industrial look and feel. Although, we love the look of the laminate floors, it’s just not practical with four Australian Shepherds. These non-toxic rubber mats were the best compromise that we could find for our particular needs.
The mats serve two purposes. They protect the RV flooring from the toenails of the dogs, and they provide perfect traction for our canine companions. The mats also warm up the surface of the floor so we’re not walking around on a cold hard floor, and the mats provide extra insulation under the dog beds, which is necessary, since we spend most of our winters in places where it freezes at night.
Cleaning the mats
The mats are easy to pick up and stow on travel days. In emergency weather conditions (like high wind or approaching hail) we can quickly pick up the mats, vacuum the floor, and pull in the slides, in a matter of minutes.
Since the mats are not absorbent, if the dogs come in with wet or muddy feet, the surface of the mats can quickly be wiped down to remove the dirt. If a dog gets sick, the mats can be easily cleaned, and if necessary, taken outside and washed off with a stiff brush and soapy water. Once the soiled mats are washed and dried, they can be replaced right back into the pattern on the floor.
We also have a few extra mats that we use to protect the carpet under the dinette where Gracie sleeps. The only carpet in our RV now is on the living room slide, which includes the floor under the two recliners and the floor under the dinette. The dogs can’t get to the carpet around the recliners, and to protect the carpet under the dinette, we just use more rubber mats. Consequently, if we need to take a mat out to wash it, that space can be easily filled with one of the extra mats.
Cut to fit as needed
Finally, these rubber mats are easy to cut. We trimmed several of them to fit into the unique spaces below the refrigerator, sink, and fireplace and simply wrote on the back of each trimmed mat where it goes so when we’re rebuilding the mat grid, we know exactly how it goes together.
In our motorhome, these mats extend from the engine cover between the captain and co-captain’s seats all the way back to the rug in the bathroom at the back of the coach. That gives the dogs traction throughout the RV and the grid keeps the mats in place because they fit snuggly to the walls and counters.
The mats give a full layer of protection for all the laminate RV flooring and provides excellent footing for all four of our traveling canine companions. But best of all, the mats are easy to keep clean. So we were finally able to get rid of the carpet shampooer and the heavy vacuum cleaner, but are still able to keep our coach clean, even with four enthusiastic Aussies on board.
For more tips on RVing with dogs, check out this video from Keep Your Daydream: