According to the main material that constitutes the crawling mat, we roughly divide the crawling mat into two categories: fiber materials and foam plastic (polymeric foam).
1. Fiber (fabric) crawling mat
Most fiber crawling mats will be sold online under the name of “cotton crawling mats”. In fact, most of these crawling mats are not really all cotton. The typical structure is a sandwich structure: the fabric is usually pure cotton, the bottom material is polyester fiber (with non-slip particles), and the main body material in the middle is polyester fiber (PET synthetic fiber) or absorbent cotton (natural fiber).
The fiber crawling mat has obvious advantages, such as being flexible and multi-purpose (can be used as a mattress), easy to store, 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 very obvious, such as not being waterproof, not resistant to dirt, and not easy to clean. For babies in the crawling stage, these disadvantages mean that if the crawling mat is not cleaned, it is easy to breed bacteria and mites. On the other hand, due to substandard workmanship, some crawling mat manufacturers may have quality defects such as fiber leakage and excessive formaldehyde.
The foamed fabric crawling mat came into being because of this. Foamed crawling mats originated in Japan and South Korea and gradually became popular in Taiwan.
Foamed crawling mats are divided into EVA, PE (EPE, XPE), PVC, and other materials according to the main foamed fabric. Most parents do not acquire enough knowledge about chemistry, so they are frightened when they see this kind of English abbreviations. What are they all about?
Simply put, these are common plastic particles. In fact, they often appear around us. For example, the soles of slippers we often wear are made of EVA material.
2. EVA frame crawling mat
Ethylene-vinyl acetate copolymer is referred to as EVA. EVA plastic itself is a non-toxic and environmentally friendly material, but EVA will add foaming agents, lubricants, and other auxiliary additives during the foaming process. These auxiliary additives, commonly known as small materials, are likely to contain or produce toxic and harmful ingredients.
For example, azodicarbonamide, a commonly used foaming agent, is likely to cause residues of formamide, which can irritate the tender and delicate skin of babies and easily cause allergies. What is more harmful is that it can cause irreversible damage to children’s reproductive health.
In addition, it is easier to make all kinds of splicing crawling mats because EVA crawling mats are relatively hard and solid. This kind of crawling mat generally adds 1 kind of pigment to make a pure color crawling mat; there are also products that make rich patterns by printing. Whether it is paint or ink, there may be heavy metals that endanger the health of the baby.
Therefore, we do not recommend buying EVA crawling mats because they are likely to cause quality and safety risks.
3. EPE frame crawling mat
Regardless of EPE, XPE, or IXPE, the raw material is PE (polyethylene plastic). It’s just that the foaming or crosslinking process is different. For example, EPE uses physical foaming, XPE adopts chemical crosslinking foaming, and IXPE uses electron radiation crosslinking. Among them, IXPE foam has a small pore size and compactness, which is not suitable for baby crawling mats.
Don’t ask me what PE (polyethylene) is, you can search it on Google. It should be said that PE materials are relatively environmentally friendly and safe. Most of the cling films we use are PE films.
Regardless of EPE or XPE crawling mats, a 5-layer structure is most common. The main body material in the middle is PE foam, then the pattern layer and the outermost layer is PE film or similar protective film to avoid direct ink contact with the baby’s body.
EPE is a kind of foam produced by physical foaming of LDPE (low-density polyethylene) raw materials, adding nucleating agent-talcum powder, setting agent-monoglyceride, foaming agent-butane agent for physical foaming Material, commonly known as pearl cotton. This process has low entry barriers and low prices. Most of its manufacturers used to make packaging materials before starting to make crawling mats.
EPE crawling mat has many advantages such as low price, environmental protection, and earthquake resistance. But after using it for a period of time, it is easy to compress and deform, which means it is not durable. And because it uses combustible gas for physical foaming, this kind of crawling mat has poor flame retardancy and is highly flammable.
4. XPE frame crawling mat
XPE crawling mat differs from EPE crawling mat in the way of foaming. EPE uses physical foaming, while XPE uses a chemical foaming process. Compared with other types of foam materials, it has many excellent properties such as fine and uniform cells, strong and tough, great heat insulation, sound insulation, high corrosion resistance, good resilience, low water absorption, and comfortable hand feeling. Its material production has a high barrier to entry, and the most mature production technology is in Japan and South Korea. The price of this kind of crawling mat is a bit more expensive than EPE crawling mat, but the softness, resilience, and durability are better. Among the crawling mats, it’s the most cost-effective.
However, there is also the problem of formamide residue because this kind of crawling mat may also use AC foaming agent, so the technical threshold of the foaming process is relatively high.
5. PVC foamed crawling mat
One of the biggest characteristics of PVC crawling mats is that they are expensive. The price of the same brand is nearly double 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. But its foaming process also requires the addition of various chemical additives, such as foaming agents, anti-aging agents, and so on. These foaming agents such as AC foaming agents are also prone to residual formamide. At the same time, it is extremely easy to decompose hydrogen chloride during the processing of PVC (polyvinyl chloride plastic). Therefore, it cannot be ruled out that the hydrogen chloride gas will be released during the use of the PVC crawling mat, which will cause harm to the baby.