Stop the Mop: Telltale Signs that “Clean” Floors are Actually Dirty

By Amy Milshtein

Stop the Mop: Telltale Signs that “Clean” Floors are Actually Dirty

Hard-surface floors are designed to take a beating and still look good. That’s why you find them in lobbies, hallways, kitchens, restrooms and other heavy-use areas. Materials like ceramic tile, vinyl, laminate, concrete and terrazzo make sense. They hold up and are easy to maintain; just sweep, mop, air dry and they look good for years, right?

Well, no.

Old fashioned cleaning tools like mops don’t actually clean. They leave hard floors looking worn and dingy. More importantly, they don’t remove soils and pathogens completely. Is it time to stop the mop at your facility? Here’s some telltale signs.

What Stinks?

Have you ever walked into a just-cleaned restroom that smelled less than fresh? Blame your mop. Restrooms are typically floored with tile and grout. This on-trend combination looks good and the tile holds up to heavy wear. But grout is porous and absorbs and holds on to liquids. Mopping only makes the problem worse. The tiles act like a squeegee, drawing contaminate-filled water from the mop strings and depositing it on the grout. And there the urine-and-pathogen-filled sludge sits, stinking up your restroom and encouraging bacterial growth.

Tile and grout is not just for restrooms. The combination is found on kitchen, lobby and restaurant floors too. Designers love the look and are specifying smaller and smaller tiles to add style. While charming, this trend requires more grout per square foot which potentially leads to more bad smells.

Streaks and Five O’clock Shadow

A brand-new, hard surface floor looks bright and shiny. But if the surface darkens over time or starts to look streaky don’t take blame the material. Blame the mop. Mops leave streaks for many reasons: using too much cleaning solution, using too little cleaning solution, using the wrong cleaning solution or not changing the cleaning solution as it gets dirty.

That last one is a bit misleading. Cleaning solution gets dirty as soon as mopping begins and gets progressively dirtier as the job continues. Some facilities try to combat the problem by using the double bucket method, where one bucket holds solution and the other has a clean rinse water. While this alleviates the problem a bit, it’s still not enough. Soils are not fully removed from the mop and are passed from floor to rinse to cleaning solution and back to the floor.  

For more visual proof walk into a freshly mopped room and look at the baseboards. Is there a line of dirt and grit that extends up the wall? That’s five o’clock shadow, left by dirty water that splashed from the mop.

Do you want really clean interiors that look and smell great? Click here for ideas and stop the mop. 

Amy Milshtein

Amy Milshtein

Amy Milshtein covers design, facility management and business topics for a variety of trade publications and consumer magazines. 

Her work has won several awards, most recently a regional silver Azbee Award of Excellence.

She lives in Portland, OR with her family and Clyde, a 15-lb tabby cat. Once an avid hiker, these days she finds herself on the less-challenging -but-still-exciting 'creaky knees' trails.

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