Gel Kitchen Mats: Are They Worth It?
So, we just encouraged you to get rid of unnecessary kitchen paraphernalia, and any product reviews we do here at The Kitchn are done with the Cure in mind! We examine products in our own kitchens, asking, is this helpful, well-made, and beautiful? That was the question we approached this WellnessMat with. We have reviewed several gel mats now, and this time our question was really: Are gel mats worth the high price tag?
First of all, let's look at this particular mat. WellnessMats are a brand of gel mats similar to GelPro and other gel mat makers. The idea of a gel mat is to make long periods of standing in the kitchen a little easier. They cushion hard floors and achy joints.
These mats are definitely more expensive than an off-the-shelf vinyl or fabric mat from the store. They are usually made from leather or high-quality vinyl, and are designed to be non-skid and quite heavy.
I've tested two different versions of these mats now: A leather mat from GelPro, and a polyurethane mat from WellnessMats. I like the WellnessMat marginally better, but mostly because it comes in a smooth, non-patterned finish that I liked more than the crocodile and basketweave patterns from GelPro.
Aesthetic questions aside, these mats are pretty similar. The real question is: Is it worth it to spend a $100 to $300 on a mat for the kitchen? Does it really make that much of a difference? The first time I reviewed this sort of mat I did so rather grudgingly: They seemed a little gimmicky, in a pseudo-healthy sort of way.
But I did find, after all, that standing on one of these mats really helps, especially over long periods of time.
When I received the WellnessMat for testing, I was currently without a gel mat (I no longer had the GelPro mat I initially tested) and I was at the end of a long, intense period of testing recipes for a new book. Several nights a week I would spend up to 8 hours in the kitchen — mixing, chopping, baking, and washing dishes. In spite of comfy, supportive shoes and lots of stretching, my body was sore and achy after these marathon cooking nights!
Near the end of this testing period, the mat came, and I started to use it during my evening testing sessions. I almost immediately noticed a difference. My knees and the backs of my legs were less sore. We moved the mat from my cooking station to under the sink, where it sits now, and my husband really appreciates it during his own marathon dishwashing sessions! We both have found there is an element of cushion it gives to your joints during long sessions of standing in the kitchen.
Added note: Also, the WellnessMat is technically a little different than GelPro and other gel-filled mats; the mats are 100% polyurethane, with one-piece construction. The 7-year warranty on these mats actually guarantees that the mats won't curl, lose their finish, or compress. So they don't actually have a gel insert; the construction is quite different. But their purpose is the same.
So, overall, is there a distinct difference? Yes. Is it worth $100 for a small mat? That depends on the length of time you spend in the kitchen on any given day. If you do a lot of extended standing and working in the kitchen, on the order of over an hour a day, I would really recommend one of these mats.
As to which brand I prefer, I really can't say. Do some shopping around, too; you can find these online at various stores and shops, and sometimes you can find them for great prices. I've definitely noticed a big difference with the WellnessMat, though, and like I said, I liked their color and finish options. I also like the 7-year warranty. If a customer felt that the mat was getting compressed and losing its "squishiness" or supportive qualities, the mat will be exchanged.
A couple more tips on purchasing: I have used a big, long mat, and a small mat. For most small kitchens, you really do the majority of your chopping and cooking in one fixed position, so personally I feel like a small mat really does the trick. You can always move it around too! Also, I think of this as a great gift request. It's a small luxury, but one that is genuinely useful in the kitchen. It's a great gift to ask for if you are scratching your head at Christmas, trying to give you family some ideas of what you want. (This is just something my family appreciates: They like to have very specific requests!)
Do you have a gel kitchen mat? Have you found it a worthwhile purchase? Any tips on brands, good deals, or good options?