Even with the best precautions, some dirt will get in, and once it does, the best remedy is a good mopping. Cleaning is an endless cycle, and floor care may be the most relentless, but a little vigilance goes a long way.
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Meet Your (Mop) Match
Even with the best precautions, some dirt will get in, and once it does, the best remedy is a good mopping. Cleaning is an endless cycle, and floor care may be the most relentless, but a little vigilance goes a long way. Learn the types of mops, how to do it the right way, and how often to do it, all from "Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook."
First, know your mops (or at least the three basic types). The sturdier the mop, the better. The particular type you use is a matter of personal preference. Choose one that is both convenient and effective. Your choices are: the all-in-one mop (especially convenient for quick touch-ups), the sponge or rag mop (which can be used for applying wax and other surface sealers), and the string mop (best for absorbing big spills immediately and covering a lot of surface area).
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Here's what you will need: a plastic bucket (choose one that is best suited to your mop -- round buckets are common, but a rectangular one will better accomodate a typical sponge mop), rubber gloves (to protect your hands from dirty water and soiled mop heads), and a light-duty nylon scrubbing pad (these are useful for removing scuff marks the mop can't budge).
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How Often Should You Mop?
High-traffic areas such as the kitchen, baths, hallways, and entranceways 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, as long as they're vacuumed weekly, which will remove dust and grit. An all-in-one mop is an easy way to touch up floors in between moppings. 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.
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Caring for Mops
Keeping a mop impeccably clean is essential -- not only will this ensure cleaner floors, but even a little bit of leftover soil can result in a sour smell. After washing the floor, rinse the mophead thoroughly in a bucket of clean, hot (but not boiling water). 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. Do not set mops on the floor or put them in closets while damp. The more quickly the mop dries, the less likely it is to become malodorous. Replace the mophead when it becomes stained or has an odor that rinsing well will not remove. When buying a new mophead, be sure to choose one that’s labeled machine-washable and launder it about once a month.
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How to Mop: Step 1
Before mopping any floor, sweep or vacuum it well to remove grit, hair, and other large particles. Removing the everyday accumulation of dirt 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.
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How to Mop: Step 2
Fill a bucket with warm water (unless floors are waxed, in which case you should use tepid water) and a small amount of cleaner -- generally, a squirt or two is sufficient. Using too much cleaner can leave behind a residue, which will make floors look dull.
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How to Mop: Step 3
Start in the farthest corner from the entrance and work your way backward, toward 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.
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How to Mop: Step 4
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.
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How to Mop: Step 5
After several passes, immerse the mop in the bucket, wring it out, and continue. If you're working with a two-sided sponge mop or a string mop, turn it frequently to avoid redepositing soil onto floors. As soon as the water becomes murky, replace it with fresh (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.
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How to Mop: Step 6
You should have to get on your hands and knees to scrub a floor with a brush only if it has been neglected for some time. Frequent mopping will make this unnecessary.
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