5 Features You’re Going to Want in a Cleaning Bucket (Trust Me, I Regret It)

published Mar 24, 2021
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I put a lot of thought into what kind of vacuum cleaner I wanted to use, and the kinds of rags I use to clean. I know that having the right tools to clean with makes even the dullest chores seem a little brighter. And if you really put thought into your cleaning-tool-shopping, you might even find tools that are, dare I say, a joy to clean with because they’re efficient, ergonomic, and aesthetically pleasing.

But I have to admit: I never thought much about my buckets.

I have an old one for general use, a few small rectangular plastic bins that I use mostly for soaking things, and then my specialized O-Cedar mop bucket that I don’t use for anything but mopping. When I started using Go Clean Co’s Tide-bleach-water solution in various places around the house, though, I began to take notice of the humble bucket. I mixed the solution in one of my soaking bins but found that I had to walk carefully or it would make waves as I walked and slosh out. That was no good.

Since that incident, I’ve begun thinking about bucket features and, from one person who never thought much about her buckets to another, it’s worth some consideration — especially if you’re in the market for a new one, which (warning) is where you might find yourself after reading this!

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Here are some bucket features, why they’re worth thinking about, and some options for getting your hands on them if they’re important to you. It’s not about finding one bucket to check every one of these boxes, but more like a jumping-off point for you to decide what’s most important to the way you clean your home.

A Spout for Pouring

When it comes time to dump out that dirty cleaning or mop water, a spout keeps mucky water going exactly where it needs to go. Without a spout, you risk spilling dirty water, especially if you’re pouring it out into a small or tricky spot, as is often the case with a utility sink or toilet.

If you’re tired of using a bucket that results in unintentional waterfalls, this 12-quart Rubbermaid bucket is the perfect solution. It’s small enough to carry around for manual cleaning jobs with a rag or brush, and its handle and spout make pouring out dirty water straightforward and efficient.

To add a spout to an existing bucket without one, try attaching a spout like this silicone slip on pour spout one used for draining cooking water from pots.

A Comfortable Handle for Easy Moving

Most buckets designed for cleaning have handles. But if you’re using something that’s not actually a bucket as a cleaning bucket, like my plastic bins, consider how much easier a handle might make your bucket-carting. Instead of pushing a bin or bowl or lifting it with two hands, you can simply grab a handle with one hand and move your bucket quickly. Some handles are more ergonomic than others, so if you want to prioritize a good, comfortable grip, look for something with a soft non-slip handle, like OXO’s Good Grips Mop Bucket. (The handle also features a mop holder which will keep your mop upright — bonus!)

Liquid Measurement Marks

When I’m mixing up my all-purpose solution from Mrs. Meyers cleaning concentrate in my mop bucket or concocting a batch of Go Clean Co’s Tide and hot water cleaner, measurements are called for. Do I ever get a measuring cup and measure? Nope. Do I even know how much water my mop bucket holds? Also nope. My mop bucket has a max line, but if I don’t even know how much water it takes to reach it, I don’t know how much of my other ingredients to put in.

When buying a bucket, choosing one with measuring lines will make your cleaning chores so much easier. The top-rated OXO Good Grips Mop Bucket not only has measurement lines but displays them in an angled way that makes them easy to read from above. Built-in detergent markings in the bottom of the bucket are an added convenience.

If your bucket doesn’t have measurement lines, you can add your own: Fill a measuring cup or an empty gallon jug of milk with water and pour a gallon into your bucket. Mark the top of the waterline with a Sharpie or scratch it in with a screwdriver.

Just the Right Size

Fiinding the ideal bucket size is a Goldilocks situation. You want your bucket small enough so that it’s easy to carry, but big enough that the water doesn’t get dirty so fast that you’re either cleaning with dirty water or having to change it too often. Again, this is just something to be mindful of when you’re bucket shopping. If you prefer something on the smaller end, look for a 10- to 12-quart bucket (2.5 to 3 gallons). If you’d like something bigger to cover a lot of ground, you can go up to 5 gallons (20 quarts) or 6 gallons, or more. (If you need something really big, check out commercial or industrial stores).

Storage space is another factor to consider when you’re thinking about the ideal bucket. A bucket is bulky and an awkward shape. If storage space is at a premium, a collapsible bucket might be the answer. Just make sure it’s completely dry before you fold it down.

Wheels for Easy Rolling

While you won’t need wheels if you’re doing something small and focused like wiping down doors or baseboards, having a bucket with wheels is so helpful when you’re using a bigger bucket that you need to move around. I love my O-Cedar spin mop, but I do sometimes wish I could pull or push it to where I need it to go rather than having to lift and carry it.

If you think a bucket with wheels would help your cleaning efforts, this 20-quart (5-gallon) bucket from Target’s Made by Design line can be used for general cleaning or mopping. If you prefer a spin mop bucket with wheels, the Tsmine Spin Mop and & Bucket Floor Cleaning System is a great option with strong reviews.

Or maybe you prefer to use the buckets you already have and add wheels to them. In this case, a wheeled plant stand is a cost-effective alternative to the pricier but perhaps more steady, bucket dolly.

As with most things, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all bucket that will meet everyone’s various and specific cleaning needs and preferences. But, also as with most things, considering your options and making informed choices gives you the best shot at doing the best you can with what you either already have or can have.