The Grooves On Escalator Stairs Have An Actual Purpose

People are only just realising what the purpose is for the little grooves on escalator stairs.
Credit: Alamy

People are only just realising what the purpose is for the little grooves on escalators.

I’m sure almost everyone in the world has taken an escalator at one point or another.

Yet, as it’s something we usually take for granted, few of us have stopped to consider the small details of it and all of the mechanisms involved – such as the small grooves you see on them.

But it is a little perplexing when you think about it. Sure, the deep, grey lines make an escalator’s metal stairs more appealing to the eye, but regular stairs don’t have any grooves like these so why do escalators need them?

Well, it turns out those grooves serve a more functional purpose than you originally thought.

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Anyone who has ridden an elevator will have noticed the ridged yellow lip at the top of the escalator—the one you have to keep an eye out for if you’re wearing sandals so you don’t fall over.

But while you were probably busy trying to avoid getting your feet trapped, you may not have noticed that the escalator’s steps begin to flatten (or you have noticed and chose not to think too much about it).

This is known as the comb plate and it is important as it sweeps away any rubbish and litter that might have fallen on the stairs.

Then what happens is that those grooves lock the step and comb plate together, which will make it difficult for any hazardous and damaging materials to slide underneath the lip.

The grooves in an escalator actually have a purpose that not many people are aware of. Credit: Alamy

This prevents foreign objects from getting stuck in that gap, potentially causing the escalator to stall, or worse, break down completely – and we all know how inconvenient a broken escalator is.

But impressively, this is not the only purpose of those grooves.

The dents in the ground are also a good place for liquids to pool together, protecting you from a nasty fall on the slick surface and causing further damage to the steps.

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People have taken to social media to react to this, with one person writing: “I’ve always thought it was to keep them aligned and clean.”

“I can’t be the only one that uses the brushes at the side to give my shoes a wee polish,” quips someone else.

But now you’re one fact smarter and can show off your new piece of information next time you take an escalator – or a pub quiz.

Or you can just forget everything you’ve just learnt.

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Written by Rosario Monachino

Rosario is a content editor at IGV who specialises in film, TV and entertainment news. He has a degree in English and Film from the University of Salford and a masters in Journalism from Liverpool John Moores University.