Help me, I'm mop impared...
June 18, 2006 9:00 PM   Subscribe

Can you teach me how to mop?

When my Grandmother taught me how to clean floors, she taught me to do it with a scrub brush and a bucket, on your knees. This technique has served me well for many years in both our (very small) bathroom and our (equally small) kitchen.

But now I can't get down on my knees so easily, and my kitchen and bathroom floors are a mess. I tried using a regular old Sponge Mop today, but quickly realized I had no idea how to use the blasted thing, and it felt very much like I was just making the dirt wet and then moving it around. (Yes, I swept the floor first.)

I'd prefer not to buy one of those newfangled Swiffer thngs, since it seems like people have been using regular sponge mops with good results for decades...

So what am I missing? How, exactly, do you mop?
posted by anastasiav to Home & Garden (25 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
We had one of those in my old student dorm/apartment/coop... You have to rinse it often. It looks like you're moving around dirt, but the dirty water also gets on the sponge, yes? Then you squeeze the sponge out (you could even use a second bucket for the dirty water so you don't make the clean water dirty again) and some dirt is gone from the floor.
This actually works better than a Swiffer.
posted by easternblot at 9:09 PM on June 18, 2006

Soak the floor with soapy water. Soak it. Use the mop to clean up the water. The floor will shine afterwards.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:13 PM on June 18, 2006

Sponge mops aren't very good, IMO. A lot of rinsing, a lot of wringing.

My suggestion is to get a loop-end mop, the kind you often see custodians using. They fan out, covering a lot of floor area, are durable, and very absorbent.
They also save time by having two mopping surfaces which means fewer trips to the bucket to rinse it out.

Swiffers are cumulatively expensive, very wasteful, and boar tit useless.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:30 PM on June 18, 2006

I used to wonder the same thing. Then someone pointed me to the Sh-mop. I know it sounds ridiculous--but it is legitimately a significantly better type of mop. I am not being a b.s. informercial.

You take the terrycloth cover and dip it in your cleaning solution (for wood floors, ammonia and water, or for other things use water and whatever cleaner you like). Wring the cover so it is still wet but not dripping. Cover the rectangular head with the cover. Push it back and forth over the floor. When the cover is dirty, get a clean one (you should have 4 or so on hand), put it in the cleaner, repeat.

The advantages:
1. you never have to rinse the mop
2. you never put a mop from dirty water back onto the floor
3. you can throw all the covers into the wash with bleach at the end
4. the floor does not get soaking wet
5. it's a much bigger mop head so you are done faster
posted by underwater at 9:45 PM on June 18, 2006

I don't get the swiffer hate --- I use a traditional mop in the bathroom and kitchen, but the swiffer is fantastic on the wood floors in the rest of my apartment. I don't look at it so much of a mop as a wet dust mop.
posted by nathan_teske at 9:46 PM on June 18, 2006

Spork's girlfriend writing:

I have found a good way to get dirty bathroom floors clean but I'm sure I'm not the first to come up with it. It also works for the kitchen but it usually isn't necessary because the floors aren't as dirty.

I get the floor a little bit wet by just dropping about 1/2 cup of water from a cup or a sponge. Then I sprinkle Ajax or Comet on the floor and spread it around with a broom that has stiff plastic bristles. Then after scrubbing pretty well with this you can use a sponge mop or string mop to get up all the cleanser.

You have to rinse out the mop a lot in the bathtub because it is like a paste but the floors come really clean and you don't have to get on the floor to scrub.

I use a similar technique for a short cut when washing the shower stall and bathtub, still no bending over.

In general, I recommend rinsing the sponge mop in the sink or bathtub instead of a bucket. Just be sure to clean the sink afterwards to get out all the germs.

A broom with stiff bristles is the key.

This also gets your broom very clean.
posted by spork at 9:55 PM on June 18, 2006 [2 favorites]

They also save time by having two mopping surfaces which means fewer trips to the bucket to rinse it out.


This is by far the most common mopping mistake people make. When you wipe a floor with a loop-end mop, the dust and detritus is pulled up into the mop. If you turn it over and mop with the other side you merely dump everything you just mopped up that back onto the floor again!

I highly recommend a wring-bucket loop-end mop setup, but never turn it over!

Another big mistake people make is push mopping, which I find doesn't work as well and is a great way to scratch floors. Push broom, pull mop!

The other common mistake is over suds/bleaching and under wringing. When you make up your bucket, a capful of ammonia per gallon of (obviously hot) water is plenty. Or if you use a specialized floor cleaner, read the mixing instructions carefully, and follow them. Next, dunk your mop in the water, and give it a good shake for luck. Next, hold your mop over the wringer, so that just the bottoms of the loops touch the bottom of the wringer. Now, as you lower the mop into the wringer, twist it so that the mop coils up in the wringer. This will allow for more effective wringing - think about the twisting motion you use to wring out a t-shirt, for example. Finally, squeeze the ass out of that thing. You want the mop to be as dry as you can get it -- otherwise you're sloshing, not cleaning.

That's pretty much it. Much like driving, mopping is a fairly simple process that amazing numbers of people manage to fuck up.
posted by ChasFile at 10:06 PM on June 18, 2006 [3 favorites]

Chas pretty much has it as far as mopping goes. Those big stringy mops with the squeeze buckets are THE way to go, if you have a big floor.

I disagree with him about the 'no push', however. If you have a hard spot, the only way to scrub it is usually by both pushing and pulling. Pull-only mopping only works for very light debris/spots.

Sponge mops work fine for small areas.... I have a small kitchen and one bathroom here, and a big mop would be overkill. I generally just use water, unless it's an unusual mess. I generally soak the sponge mop under the sink faucet, squeeze the first sponge worth of water out on the floor, and then start mopping. (If you have a tough job, many sponge mops have scrubber heads too.) Every couple of minutes, I rinse it clean, squeeze it out, and continue, adding water to the floor as necessary.

I find that the roller-squeeze sponge mops with the roughly triangular heads are much better than the flat sponge mops that squeeze side-to-side.

If it's a tough or big job, blue_beetle's suggestion of soaking the whole floor with soapy water first is a good one. Just don't overdo it. You can't carry much in a sponge mop. If you put too much down, you'll be mopping a LONG time.
posted by Malor at 11:02 PM on June 18, 2006

Sweep twice, then mop.
posted by wsg at 11:22 PM on June 18, 2006

I vacuum the floor first, then mop.
posted by shifafa at 12:26 AM on June 19, 2006

Don Aslett (Google for his site) has videos and books on housekeeping. He uses a floor squeegee to remove the water. This works well for larger floors. My mom swears by an old-fashioned string mop and a strong bleach solution (obviously not for hardwood floors). I vacuum first, then dust mop with a dry swiffer or a treated dust mop, and then wet mop with either a wet swiffer (for a quick, light cleaning) or a string mop for serious work. What is critical for wet mopping is a double bucket or two buckets -- one for cleaning solution and one for the dirty water. I prefer a bucket with a wringer for the dirty water. I only use bleach as a last resort. I use Simple Green for most jobs because I prefer the smell and it never burns my eyes or lungs.
posted by Didaskalos at 1:11 AM on June 19, 2006

I have a string mop with a built in-wringer - perfect for small floors. It works fine over a bucket or in the sink. No need for a big bucket with wringer.
Follow Chasfile's advice + this: after you've wrung out the mop, give it a good spin to open it up, and set it down on the floor with the loops as wide as they go. Pull the mop across the floor in front of you, then swing it back the other way so that you mop in a wide, squat S in front of you. Rinse. Repeat. Move to the next area.
posted by disclaimer at 4:16 AM on June 19, 2006

This is all useful, but I really have a perfectly good sponge mop and don't want to go out and buy a second (string) mop. Also, (see above) my bathroom and kitchen are both tiny. Too tiny for the string mop, I fear?

Sponge mop thoughts?
posted by anastasiav at 5:12 AM on June 19, 2006

I've found that spraying with something like Formula 409 (not sure of the exact variety. I think it is a white spray bottle with purple 409) and wiping up with with a damp sponge mop while rinsing often under running water in the sink/bathtub works well. I basically do the floor in sections - spray a section, mop/rinse/mop/rinse. Then move on the the next section. The last section I do is my path from the sink to out of the room.

This is for linoleum floors, but I imagine would work for tiles as well. Not wood obviously. I tried some "mop and glo" type stuff first, but found it left too much build-up over time.
posted by mikepop at 5:31 AM on June 19, 2006

To make sponge mops work well you just have to wring and rinse the mop quite frequently. Same principle as cleaning your counters, just with a long pole attached to save your knees. It helps if there's a scrubby edge to the sponge for tough spots. It's a lot of push-pull-push-pull to scrub the floor with it, though. Getting the floor quite wet is helpful (then go back over it with a completely wrung sponge to mop up the excess when you're done scrubbing.)

Swiffers are a godsend to people with lots of wood floors and pets as a dust mop. But it's not the right tool for what you're trying to accomplish.
posted by desuetude at 6:13 AM on June 19, 2006

I agree with everything desuetude said.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 6:22 AM on June 19, 2006

Get Pine-Sol or some similar floor cleaner. Follow the instructions for mixing.

Wet the floors beforehand with hot water if they're very dirty. Do this by soaking the mop head in hot water, squeezing it out as much as possible, then running it over the floor. You will have to periodically re-wet the mop and squeeze it out to rinse out the dirt and keep the mop wet. Rinse the mop by pulling it up and down, left and right through the water in the bucket. If the mop is very dirty you may want to run the head under the kitchen faucet or bathtub to wash it out.

Repeat this procedure, except with the floor cleaner mixture. Repeat again with more hot water if rinsing the floor cleaner off is necessary. If you end up dumping too much fluid on the floor, never fear! Simply squeeze out the mop and soak it up!

Basically, the secret to mopping (especially sponge mopping) is frequently rinsing the mop head and keeping it well squeezed-out.

This is the method that's worked for me. Some people like to slop water all over the floor and then just soak it up with the mop, but that doesn't get things clean enough for me--the excess water just washes dirt into the corners, where it's a bitch to get out.
posted by schroedinger at 6:56 AM on June 19, 2006

Spread diluted surface-appropriate cleaner around with a clean sponge mop, scrubbing where needed, then sop the pools up as much as possible, rinsing into the sink or bathtub. Then throw an old towel (reserved for this purpose) on the floor and shuffle around with it under your feet to get the rest of it. Have a stockpile of these towels so you're not shuffling a wet dirty rag around and making things worse.

But I agree that the hands n' knees thing is the only way to go if you're serious.
posted by kmel at 6:59 AM on June 19, 2006

I've tried using a sponge mop, but I have found that it never does the job very well. If you want a sponge mop to work, I think you need to do it really often - before anything builds up.
Hands-and-knees scrubbing is way WAY better than sponge mopping.

In fact, spraying a surface cleaner on the floor, dropping some paper towels on it, and using your foot on top of the paper towel to scrub is way WAY more effective than a sponge mop. You should consider doing that; your foot can be more precise than the mop-head.

This is the nth time I've heard the praises of the Sh-mop; I think I'm gonna get me one of those.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 7:36 AM on June 19, 2006

I have something exactly like the Sh-mop that I got at Target -- and that I really like. I think it might be Rubbermaid brand, and I'm sure it was less than $20US. Of course, I'm not finding on the website, but I bought it in the store. It works very well using the spray bottle technique.
posted by penchant at 9:33 AM on June 19, 2006

Back in the old days when a sponge mop was the most convenient way to go, I saw Don Aslett on TV demonstrating how to use one. One container holds the cleaning solution (water, ammonia and a bit of dish soap); another contains a lot of water for rinsing the mop. Dunk mop in cleaning solution, then squeeze it out and go over a smallish area of floor, maybe 2x2'. Rinse mop well, squeeze, and repeat. When the rinse water starts to get dirty, change it. If the floor is very dirty, you might want to go over the just-washed section with the mop you've just rinsed in order to pick up residue.

I used to do this and I guarantee that the extra steps will give you a much cleaner floor with less effort than using the one-bucket method.

(I now use a shmop-like mop.)
posted by wryly at 10:17 AM on June 19, 2006

As for actual technique, start on the edges and pull inward along the floor, then toward yourself. Keep the mop bucket next you your feet. I have a U-shaped kitchen and usually start in the middle of the U with the bucket next to me. I leave the mop fairly moist and do a quick, light run over the tile. Then I soak up the mop, wring it out, and start at a corner using a hook-shaped pull toward me. I continue this down the side several feet, and pull from under the counter in the front directly to me, rinsing and wringing every few strokes.

Once that territory is done I slide the bucket back and repeat. You want to create a border around the edges that slowly grows toward you. You should ideally end up painting yourself into a doorway or into the other part of the room that you don't mop.
posted by mikeh at 12:20 PM on June 19, 2006

In her excellent housekeeping manual Home Comforts, Cheryl Mendelson says, "Make strokes of the mop (on wood floors, along the grain of the wood) in one direction, or you will simply push the dirt back and forth. Lift the mop slightly to move it back for the beginning of a stroke."

(In contrast, she says not to lift a broom between strokes, to avoid flinging dust and dirt into the air.)
posted by mbrubeck at 4:54 PM on June 19, 2006

I have the same mop as disclaimer, and it works great. The best of both worlds: It works just about as well as a full loop-end mop with wringer bucket, but takes up no more space than a regular broom.

I've worked in restaurants and used to use the big mop with wringer bucket setup. For big floors, it's the way to go. I have never been happy with sponge mops, but dreaded getting the full, heavy, mop with the bulky wringer bucket for home use. The self-wringing mop is, in my opinion, the perfect compromise.
posted by Doohickie at 7:36 AM on June 20, 2006

String mop, wringer, hot water, and vinegar.
posted by footnote at 6:34 PM on June 20, 2006

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