Get your floor clean without leaving a sticky mess or streaks by choosing the right mop and using it properly from start to finish.
How Often Should You Mop?
It’s best to sweep or vacuum and mop floors at least once a week. In busy households or those with pets, you may need to clean your floors more often to keep them free of debris and grime. If more frequent cleaning is not possible, try to touch up high-traffic areas every other day.
Before You Begin
• The dirtier the floor, the longer it will take to clean. To keep dirt under control, clean high-traffic areas frequently. High-traffic areas on your floor are in front of seating areas, entrances, the kitchen sink, appliances, and toilets. Use a spray bottle of soapy water and a damp cloth for these in-between cleanings, and you’ll find mopping day goes much faster.
• Don’t skip pretreating stubborn areas (step 3). You’ll avoid stick floors and your bucket of cleaning solution will remain fresh longer.
• Pay attention to measurements when mixing floor cleaners. Too much cleaning product can leave a residue that feels sticky, attracts dirt, and makes your floors look dull. If you’re using dish soap, do not use more than a couple of drops. You’ve used too much if you can’t see the water through the suds.
• Keep separate mop heads for separate purposes. With dedicated mop heads, you can use your mop to clean things besides floors.
Steps to Mopping Floors
When your floor feels sticky and dull, you probably reach for the mop to deal with the mess. But using it the wrong way can leave your floors just as sticky or even covered with streaks. It may seem like a simple, straightforward process, but many people overlook some of the steps and then wonder why their floors look so bad. Let’s make sure you’re cleaning yours the right way.
Step 1. Prepare the Floor
If you’re only concerned with cleaning high-traffic areas as part of a daily tidying routine, you can simply clean around things without moving them. On the other hand, if you’re mopping as part of a weekly house cleaning routine, you need to clear the floor by picking up toys, pet bowls, small rugs, and even moving small furniture if you live in a dusty environment, have pets, or have allergies.
Step 2. Sweep or Vacuum
It’s important to sweep or vacuum before you mop to remove dust — otherwise, your cleaning solution will turn that dust into mud and leave streaks on your floor. If you’re just doing the high-traffic areas, an electrostatic floor sweeper like a dry Swiffer can do the trick. When it’s your weekly cleaning session, you’ll want to be more thorough and vacuum the right way from wall to wall.
Step 3. Pretreat if Needed
Pretreat dried-on spills by wiping them with warm water or a cleaning wipe. This step keeps the mess from contaminating your cleaning bucket and makes floor cleaning go faster. Pretreating spills on your floor can also help reduce streaks when you’re mopping. Try my homemade soft scrub for this.
Step 4. Choose the Right Mop for Your Floor
Whether you use a bucket or not depends on the type of mop, and which one is best for you depends on your floor type.
For hardwood, engineered wood, and laminate floors, a microfiber mop and a spray bottle of floor cleaner are ideal since they don’t use a lot of liquid. If you prefer using a bucket, choose one with a wringer or spinner to extract excess moisture. Avoid using steam since the heat can damage your floor.
For ceramic tile, vinyl, linoleum, and stone floors, you’ll get the best results with a string mop and bucket of cleaner, or a microfiber mop with a built-in sprayer, since they can get in all the nooks and crannies. Steam mops should only be used on ceramic tile or natural stone floors since their heat can damage adhesives and polyurethane finishes. If your grout or tiles are cracked, avoid using steam or string mops since they can saturate the floor and damage the subfloor.
Step 5. Prepare Your Cleaning Solution
Mix your floor cleaner in a bucket or spray bottle, and have a second container filled with clean water for rinsing if needed. Hot water with a few drops of liquid dish detergent is enough for most floors since dish soap is formulated to cut through grime quickly.
In bathrooms and kitchens, you may also want a commercial floor cleaning product that offers disinfection. Or use my germ-removing homemade floor cleaner that works on all flooring types (no rinsing required).
With steam mops, you do not need an additional cleaning product since the heat also removes grime and kills bacteria.
Step 6. Dip and Wring
If you’re using the two-bucket method, dip your mop in the bucket of cleaning solution to dampen it, then wring it out. After cleaning a section, dip the mop in the water bucket to rinse it, then dunk it into the cleaning solution and wring it out before proceeding. With other types of mops, you should rinse or change the pad as soon as it looks dirty.
Step 7. Use Long and Wide Strokes
Take care not to mop yourself into a corner. Instead, start at the side of the room opposite the door and work backward, so you don’t walk on an area you just cleaned. With string mops, work in a figure 8 motion to lift dirt, then back and forth to clean the surface. With microfiber, sponge, or steam mops, work forward and back in straight, overlapping strokes.
Step 8. Move and Repeat
Once you’ve cleaned a section, move to the next one. Watch your buckets for signs you need to change the rinse water or replenish the cleaning mixture. You may need to dump and replace it if it begins to look gray or dingy. Pour the used mixture down the toilet and rinse your bucket before refilling it.
Step 9. Rinse As Needed
If you kept the dish soap to a minimum or used my homemade floor cleaner, you won’t need to rinse. But if you used a commercial product that advises a final rinse, do not skip it. Leaving unrinsed cleaner on the floor can attract more dirt and damage the surface. If your floor is grimier than usual, or you don’t mop regularly, a final rinse with fresh water is a good idea.
Step 10. Decide About Drying
Steam and spray mops don’t leave behind much moisture, so your floor should be dry within minutes. If you used a string or sponge mop, dry any areas of excess water with a towel. Then, let the rest of your floor air dry or speed up the process with a towel or fan and reassemble the room. How long it will take your floor to dry depends on your method, but 20 minutes is usually enough.
Step 11. Put Your Equipment Away
Clean your cleaning equipment after use. Dump buckets down the toilet or sink and rinse them well inside and out. Some string mops and microfiber pads can go in the washer with other cleaning cloths, or wash them by hand in hot, soapy water. Sponge heads require hand washing in hot, soapy water. Squeeze out excess moisture, then prop your mop end-up to dry. Drying it in bright, direct sunlight provides added disinfection.
Below are some of the questions I’m most frequently asked about mopping floors. Please feel free to leave additional questions in the comments. I routinely update the Common Questions sections to provide readers with accurate, thorough solutions for their homes.
Why are there streaks on the floor after mopping?
Streaks result from not vacuuming or sweeping first, using too much floor cleaner, or both. It is important to vacuum or sweep floors first, or the dust on your floors will turn into muddy streaks when you mop. Also, when you make your cleaning solution, follow the product label’s measurements since too much product can leave a sticky residue that causes streaks.
How often should you replace a mop?
String mops need to be replaced when they have collected debris that won’t wash out, or they remain grimy looking despite cleaning. Replace microfiber pads when they develop permanent stains or lose their scrubbing texture. Sponge heads should be replaced every 3 months or immediately if they tear. f your handle isn’t broken, you only need to replace the mop head.
Why is the floor sticky after mopping?
There are three reasons floors feel sticky after mopping. One reason for stickiness is using too much of a cleaning product or not rinsing a product that requires it. Another reason floors feel sticky is because there is still grime on the surface — this is a sign you need to mop more often. Always pay attention to product directions, rinse if needed, and mop regularly to keep your floors in peak condition.
Is it okay to mop floors with bleach?
For generations, people have cleaned floors with 1/3 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of cool water. If you use bleach, you must use adequate ventilation and rinse with fresh water afterward. Also, bleach is not suitable for laminate or natural stone flooring since it can etch the surface and cause permanent damage, and its use may lighten hardwood floors over time. Avoid using bleach if anyone in your home has chemical sensitivities or respiratory issues because its fumes can be harsh irritants. Never combine bleach with other cleaning products.
Is it okay to mop with Pine-Sol?
Many people enjoy the smell of a floor cleaned with Pine-Sol, but people with pets should reconsider using it since pine oil and phenols are among the oils not safe for dogs and cats. If you do use Pine-Sol, pay attention to the product directions, use adequate ventilation, and always rinse with fresh water afterward.