How to Mop Floors the Right Way, According to Cleaning Experts

published Aug 30, 2023
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No matter what type of floors you have, mopping is one of the most effective ways to keep them looking clean (and, just as importantly, prevent the spread of germs throughout your space). But with all the mop options out there — and all the cleaning agents you can find — it can be tough to figure out the best method for mopping your floors. And once you do land on the right tools, what’s the best way to get the job done? 

If it’s time to mop your space but you’re not quite sure where to start, we’ve got you covered. Below, everything you need to know about how to mop, no matter what type of floors you have. 

What to Consider Before Mopping 

Before you get started, make a plan. The tools (and technique) you use ultimately depend on your floor type — and choosing the wrong one could risk damage to your floor (or, at the very least, a shoddy job). 

First determine what kind of floor you have — hardwood, laminate, vinyl, linoleum, tile, or something else. Then choose a cleaning agent that works best on your flooring. For example, you may be able to use store-bought, chemical-based cleaners on tile floors that won’t work on more porous floors, like wood. And generally speaking, you’ll want to use less moisture on wood floors to avoid the risk of warping and discoloration, says Prerna Jain, founder of the Ministry of Cleaning.

Once you land on the best cleaner, decide what type of mop you’ll use. Flat mops are usually best when you don’t want a lot of moisture, such as on hardwood or laminate floors. String or strip mops hold more water, so they’re better on flooring types where moisture isn’t an issue. 

Depending on the type of cleaner and mop you choose, you may also need to consider using a bucket. And when it comes to drying, a squeegee can help speed up that process.

What You’ll Need 

Again, the tools you need may vary based on the type of floor you’re mopping (and the mess you want to clean up). Here’s a quick, general list of what you’ll need when you mop.

  • Mop 
  • Cleaning agent 
  • Water (optional)
  • Bucket (optional)
  • Squeegee (optional)
Credit: Carol Yepes / Getty Images

How to Mop 

Here’s a step-by-step guide to mopping your floors.

Step 1: Identify your flooring.

First, determine what kind of floors you’re working with, so you can properly choose your tools. 

Step 2: Gather your tools.

Next, get all your mopping tools. If you’re mopping a hardwood floor, grab a flat mop in either microfiber or sponge material, so you don’t spread excess water around the surface. If you’re working on a linoleum or tile floor, then you can use a traditional mop. 

Step 3: Prepare your cleaning agent. 

Depending on what type of floors and mop you’re using, choose your cleaning agent. If you’re using a flat mop on a wood floor, you’ll want to avoid harsh chemicals like ammonia or vinegar, which can harm the surface. Colin Matthiesen, a cleaning expert at PR Cleaners, recommends using a gentle, wood-safe cleaner mixed with warm water. For tile floors, he says you can use dish soap and warm water, and the same goes for vinyl. When she’s cleaning vinyl floors, Jain likes to add a small amount of baby oil to the cleaning mixture to restore shine and add an extra layer of protection against scratches and wear. 

Step 4: Pre-clean. 

Before you mop, be sure to remove any debris from your floor with a broom or vacuum. Otherwise, you’ll just be spreading it around and making a bigger mess. 

Step 5: Get the mop wet.

Add the cleaning agent of your choice to your mop. You want it to be wet, but not dripping, so you don’t end up with excess moisture on the floor. This may mean wringing out a string or strip mop before you get started. If you’re mopping a wood floor, aim for moist rather than fully wet. “Instead of soaking the mop in the cleaning solution, I lightly dampen it to prevent water from seeping into the wood and causing damage over time,” says Jain. “This also ensures a quicker drying process and minimizes the risk of warping or discoloration.”

Step 6: Apply the cleaner to the floor.

Now, it’s time to mop. Typically, flat mops require mopping in straight lines, while string and strip mops are best swished around in circular motions. “Always remember, regardless of the floor type, to start mopping from the furthest corner of the room and work your way towards the exit,” says Matthiesen. “This prevents you from walking on freshly cleaned floors.”

Step 7: Rinse or add more cleaner as needed.

As your mop collects dirt, you may need to rinse it in your bucket or the sink. Once it’s rinsed, add more of your cleaning solution and keep mopping. Repeat as necessary. 

Step 8: Allow the floor to dry.

Finally, once it’s clean, allow the floor to dry before anyone walks on it fully — that could take up to 20 minutes, depending on your floor and how wet it got in the mopping process. A squeegee may help speed up the process. 

Step 9: Put everything away. 

To finish, rinse your mop, then dump your bucket and rinse it out. Now you can revel in the peace of a clean floor — that is, until next time.