There’s a smart and a not-so-smart way to tackle even the simplest of chores. This is certainly true when it comes to mopping your floors. Going about the job the wrong way can mean wasted effort, dirtier floors and even damage to your surfaces. Here’s how you can work smarter, not harder, when it comes to mopping up around the house. 

Choose the right cleaner

Don’t assume that a stronger cleaning product or a larger quantity of it is the way to get your floors the cleanest. Too much cleaner can leave behind messy residue, too much water can damage certain floor types and the wrong cleaner altogether can harm some surfaces. Choose the right supplies and amounts for the type of floor you’re cleaning.

  • Hardwood: Find out if your floors are finished with wax or polyurethane. For waxed floors, use a damp (nearly dry) mop no more than once a week as even a small amount of water can lead to warping or staining. If your floors are sealed with polyurethane, choose a mild or pH-neutral soap with water. Stay away from natural or commercial cleaning products that contain acidic additives as these can damage wood with repeated use.
  • Laminate: Like with hardwood, use minimal water when mopping laminate to prevent moisture from getting beneath the planks. Damp mopping and spot cleaning are recommended. Do not use commercial floor cleaner with polish.
  • Vinyl: A solution of apple cider vinegar and water is one of the most effective cleaners for vinyl floors. The acidic vinegar removes dirt and disinfects without leaving buildup behind.
  • Linoleum: This surface is not as durable as vinyl and therefore requires a gentler cleaning solution. Add a few drops of dish soap to hot water in a spray bottle. Next, spritz the linoleum in sections. Finishing by damp mopping with clean water.
  • Stone tile: Choose a pH-neutral, non-chelating cleaner to avoid a reaction that can damage the minerals in the stone. Stay away from bleach, ammonia, and vinegar – these can harm the seal on stone tile floors.
  • Ceramic tile: White vinegar and water are a great combination here. This solution will clean, disinfect and eliminate odors in a non-toxic fashion.

Choose the right mop

String mops (also known as yacht mops) and sponge mops are the two most common types of mops. String mops can carry and reabsorb more water but require lots of wringing. Sponge mops hold less water, which is favorable for laminate and hardwood floors.

Mop the right way

Before you begin to mop, you should always sweep or vacuum the floor. This will clear away the loose debris that a mop will often fail to pick up.

Start your mopping by dipping the entire mop head into your cleaning solution. Allow the mop to absorb the cleaner before wringing out most of the moisture. The ideal mop is damp, not soaked. For hardwood, laminate or linoleum floors, you’ll need to wring the mop out until it is nearly dry.

Two buckets are better than one. Use one bucket to hold your unused cleaning solution and a separate in which to wring and rinse the mop when dirty. Replace the contents of either bucket when they become too dirty, dumping the liquid in a utility sink or toilet rather than a sanitary kitchen or bathroom sink.

Mop your floor as if you were painting it: starting in one corner and working your way toward an exit so you don’t step on any wet surfaces. Also like painting, the pattern of your passes is important. Mop with the grain on hardwood floors, and use small figure eights for floors with more textured surfaces. Leave stubborn stains for later when you can come back with some cleaner and a cloth to scrub them off.

To disinfect your mop for the next time you use it, soak the mop head in a mixture of bleach and water for 10 minutes. Then, rinse the mop, and wring out the remaining water. Do not leave your mop in the bucket to dry as this will trap moisture and allow bacteria and mold to form.


Mopping is few people’s favorite pastime, but by tackling this job the right way, you can save yourself from needless frustration. Clean smarter, and clean better!

  • By: Draper and Kramer Mortgage Corp.
  • In: DIY, How To, Tips
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