This is the most underrated accessory for your desk — and it’s super cheap

An overhead shot of a desk with a desk mat
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

There are a ton of different ways you can easily customize a desk to make it your own. While you can add fake plants to liven up your space or even a reed diffuser to make your home office smell great, I prefer to only have electronics on my desk. For instance, I added a monitor stand to my desk for better ergonomics, put a smart display under my monitor to help improve my productivity and I’ve even built a DIY macro pad to make it easier to adjust the volume on my PC.

Of all the accessories I’ve added to the best standing desks over the years though, my favorite would have to be a desk mat. Not only are desk mats easy to clean but they can even help add a bit of personality to your desk. They’re also very inexpensive and can give your desk a more organized look.

If you’re in the middle of spring cleaning and want to give your desk an easy makeover, here are five reasons you should consider adding a desk mat to your setup.  

1. It keeps your desk protected

An overhead view of a standing desk with a monitor and desktop PC

(Image credit: Future)

First and foremost, just like any other piece of furniture in your home, your desk is an investment you want to properly care for. Keeping it clean is important, but what about protecting it from scratches and scuff marks? This is where a desk mat can help.

Most desk mats are around 30 inches in length and 15 inches wide. Even with one of the best keyboards and a mouse, you’ll likely have more than enough space. As your keyboard and mouse can damage your desktop over time, a desk mat underneath them can help protect your desk. The same goes if you’re using one of the best laptops instead of a desktop computer.

2. More space than a mousepad

A picture of a SteelSeries gaming mouse pad

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Even though they were quite popular in the 90s with a trackball mouse, mousepads are now mostly used by gamers that want their mouse cursor to be able to effortlessly glide across the screen while playing. The best gaming mousepads are still worth checking out, but a desk mat has some added benefits they don’t offer.

Desk mats are much wider and besides giving your mouse plenty of space, you can put your keyboard, a coaster and even a phone stand on one with loads of room to spare. They also have a cleaner, less geeky look to them. Plus, unlike with a mousepad, everyone can benefit from having a desk mat on their desk.

3. It adds a bit of personality

When picking out one of the best desks or even a standing desk, chances are you chose a solid-colored desk that blends in with the rest of your furniture. Maybe it’s light or dark brown, white or even black. Even if you wanted a flashy desk with lots of color, you likely decided against it as it wouldn’t mesh well with everything else you already own.

By adding a desk mat to your desk, you can give your setup some extra color or even a bit of extra personality. Desk mats come in all kinds of different designs and it’s easy to find one that showcases your interests. Perhaps you want one with your favorite sports team or video game franchise, though you can also get them with patterns, shapes and other designs.

A picture of a computer desk with a desk mat

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

While there are plenty of desk mats available online from places like Amazon, all of mine come from NovelKeys which specializes in custom mechanical keyboards, keycaps, mechanical keyboard switches and of course — desk mats or deskpads as they call them. Besides the NASA desk mat pictured above, they currently have both a Star Wars and even a Ghostbusters one available. Whatever your interests, chances are you’ll likely be able to find a desk mat that goes with them.

4. The perfect place for accessories

A macro pad next to a mechanical keyboard

(Image credit: Future)

Besides giving you plenty of room for your keyboard and mouse, a desk mat can also be used to keep all of your accessories in one place. Maybe you want to have a controller close at hand to jump into a quick game or a notebook nearby to write down your ideas. A desk mat is perfect for this as it gives you plenty of space to keep all of your desk accessories neat and tidy.

Wacom Intuos in use

(Image credit: Future)

I recently tried using a drawing tablet as a mouse for a few weeks and my desk mat provided a nice, soft surface to use it on. Another good thing about using a desk mat with your desk is that it acts like a wrist rest when typing on your keyboard or laptop. 

5. Great at reducing the sound of a mechanical keyboard

A mechanical keyboard next to a trackball mouse

(Image credit: Future)

If you’ve fallen down the mechanical keyboard rabbit hole, then you’re likely already familiar with desk mats as the two often tend to go hand in hand. However, besides aesthetics, there’s actually a good reason for this.

Depending on the type of mechanical switches your keyboard has and how you use it, they can be a lot louder than the membrane keyboards you typically find in offices and libraries. Not only are the switches themselves noisier but so too are the keycaps, which clack when you press them all the way down. 

Putting a desk mat between your keyboard and your desk can help quiet things down a bit as this will dampen the vibrations that occur when you type. There are more complicated ways to reduce the noise your mechanical keyboard but it’s worth trying out a desk mat first before you go messing with O-rings or try replacing your switches.

Easily swappable and not that expensive 

A picture of a mechanical keyboard on top of a desk mat

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

In addition to all the benefits a desk mat can add to your desk, it’s also really easy to swap your desk mat for a different one when you want a new look. Having two or even multiple desk mats also makes sense as you can clean one while using the other. While there are custom and premium desk mats out there, a good desk mat will set you back anywhere from $10 to $20 and they also come in a variety of different sizes to suit all manner of desks.

I know adding a desk mat to your desk may seem like a no-brainer to some, but if you haven’t heard about them before or have never seen one in person, you may not even know they exist. Now that we’re working at our desks more than ever before, a cheap, little upgrade like a desk mat can make a world of difference.

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Anthony Spadafora
Senior Editor Security and Networking

Anthony Spadafora is the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to password managers and the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. Before joining the team, he wrote for ITProPortal while living in Korea and later for TechRadar Pro after moving back to the US. Based in Houston, Texas, when he’s not writing Anthony can be found tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home. 

  • BoognishMang
    But what if my desk isn't one of the best desks?

    And to further compound matters, what if my keyboard and laptop are also not one of the best keyboards / best laptops?

    Surely there must be hope for myself and others whom find themselves in a similar predicament?