Mopping Basics That Everyone Needs to Know
Even with the best precautions, dirt will undoubtedly find its way into your home. And once it does, the best remedy is a good mopping. While cleaning is an endless cycle—and floor care the most relentless—a little vigilance goes a long way. But before you begin mopping at random, develop a plan to maximize your efforts. To help you do so, Martha has shared some of her best mopping tips, culled from her book, Homekeeping Handbook: The Essential Guide to Caring for Everything in Your Home ($27.40, amazon.com). Ahead, she shares her best mopping advice, from the types of mops you need to know about to the best ways to tackle the chore itself—plus, she speaks to how often you really need to clean your floors, room by room.
Of course, sparkling floors begin with the correct tools. Start by selecting a mop—and be sure to inspect its coordinating mophead accordingly. Look for eco-friendly, machine-washable options that can be easily cleaned, and then stock up on other essentials, like floor detergent and a bucket (be sure to choose one that speaks to the shape of the mophead). The preparation work doesn't stop there: Before you begin the mopping process, give your surfaces a thorough once-over with your vacuum. Removing dust, debris, hair, and other large particles is the next step towards clean floors (skipping this step negates the hard work that follows!).
When you are ready to begin mopping, consider your method. Set yourself up properly by beginning at the back corner of the room and work backwards—this ensures that you don’t walk directly onto an area that you've already cleaned. Ahead, more of Martha's best mopping tips, including the rest of her methodology.
Choose the Best Tools
Sparkling floors begins with selecting the best-possible mop. We prefer Libman's Wonder Mop, which can tackle virtually any surface, including vinyl, wood, linoleum, laminate, marble, stone, and ceramic tile. Its Microfiber GRIPSTRIPS lift stubborn dirt with ease, while the power wringer helps remove excess water. Best of all? The head is machine washable—which makes it an eco-friendly addition to your home—and composed of antibacterial material.
As for the other tools to add to your floor cleaning arsenal? Purchase a plastic bucket (choose one that is best suited to your mop; round buckets are more common, but a rectangular option will better accommodate a sponge mop), rubber gloves (to protect your hands from dirty water and soiled mop heads), and light-duty nylon scrubbing pads (these are useful for removing scuff marks that a mop can't budge).
High-traffic areas, like kitchens, bathrooms, hallways, and entryways, require weekly mopping. Infrequently used rooms, such as formal living areas or guest rooms, can be mopped every other week, or even once a month, so long as they're vacuumed once ever seven days (this will remove dust and grit). An all-in-one mop is an easy way to touch up floors in between cleaning sprints. It will allow you to whisk away kitchen spills or muddy foot or paw prints without going to the trouble of dragging out a bucket.
Care for Your Supplies
Keeping your mop impeccably clean is essential, since even a little bit of leftover soil can result in a sour smell or breed bacteria. To keep yours in good shape, rinse the mophead thoroughly in a bucket of clean, hot (but not boiling) water immediately after mopping. If the mophead is easily detachable, you can rinse it in a utility sink, instead (to avoid spreading germs, never rinse mopheads or other tools used for cleaning in the kitchen sink).
Hang the mop to dry in a well-ventilated area. Most importantly, do not set mops on the floor or put them in closets while damp. The quicker a mop dries, the less likely it is to become malodorous. When your mophead has reached the end of its lifecycle—indicators of this are stained fibers or a permanent odor—dispose of it appropriately. When shopping for a new one, be sure to choose an option that’s machine-washable (and launder it about once a month).
How to Mop: Step One
Before mopping, sweep or vacuum the floor to remove grit, hair, and other large particles. Removing the everyday accumulation of dirt first makes the task of mopping less arduous. Be sure to blot dry any wet areas before sweeping or vacuuming; otherwise, you'll dirty the floor further by spreading the grime.
How to Mop: Step Two
Fill a bucket with warm water (unless your floors are waxed; in this case, you should use tepid water) and a small amount of cleaner—generally, a squirt or two is sufficient. Using too much can leave behind a residue, which will make floors look dull.
How to Mop: Step Three
Start in the corner farthest from the entrance and work your way backwards, towards the door. Keep the bucket on an unwashed portion of the floor. Immerse the mop in the bucket, remove it, and wring it out well. No floor benefits from copious amounts of water, which can seep between cracks and under baseboards, causing serious damage. A mop that's too wet will also merely swish the dirt around, instead of lifting it off the floor—and will leave water marks as it dries. You'll know you've wrung the mop sufficiently if the mopped areas dry almost immediately.
How to Mop: Step Four
Begin mopping along the edge of the baseboard in back-and-forth strokes. Move to the open area of the floor, overlapping the back-and-forth strokes as you work. Make two passes over each area—once to wet and to spread the solution, and again to remove it. If you don't pass a second time, detergent may remain, leaving the floor sticky and cloudy. Remove any tough scruff marks with a light-duty nylon pad (be sure to keep separate pads for floors and dishes). If you can't get into tight corners without hitting baseboards, wipe them by hand with a damp cloth.
How to Mop: Step Five
After several passes, immerse the mop in the bucket, wring it out, and continue. If you're working with a two-sided sponge or string mop, turn it frequently to avoid redepositing soil onto floors. As soon as your bucket becomes murky, replace it with fresh water—but never dump dirty water down sinks, where it can spread germs and contribute to clogs. Flush it down the toilet, instead. When you've finished, mop again with clear water to remove any cleaning-solution residue. If the room is very large, mop and rinse the floor in sections.
How to Mop: Step Six
You shouldn't have to get on your hands and knees to scrub a floor manually—only spaces that have been neglected for some time require this. Luckily, frequent mopping will make this task unnecessary.