If your floors are looking icky and sticky, it’s probably time to mop. But in order for your mopping to be effective, knowing how to mop floors the right way is key, since cleaning professionals say it’s not as simple as grabbing a mop and bucket.
So, what do you need to know? For starters, how to prep your floor for mopping (hint: you’ll want one of the best vacuums or robot vacuums), what cleaning agents to use, and what type of mop is best for your flooring. That’s right—there’s a difference between how to clean wood floors and how to clean vinyl floors. You might also be wondering if the stellar Shark steam mop you read about will be a good fit for your floors, or whether the best robot mops or vacuum mop combos will truly make your life easier.
We told you there was a lot to consider! But we’re about to make your life a lot easier with these step-by-step instructions. We’ve laid it all out—from the expert-recommended ways to mop your floors to the best cleaning solutions—so your floors will be sparkling in no time.
Step 1: Identify your floor type
“The starting point is identifying the type of floor that you’ll be working on and choosing the right mop, bucket, and cleaning product for the job,” says Jodie Hamilton, a certified cleaning expert at Amazing Services. The cleaning tools and solutions you’ll need differ depending on the floor type. Using the wrong type of mop for your floors won’t ruin them, but it won’t clean them either—it will only push the dirt around. Using the wrong cleaning solution, however, can cause a bit more of a mess. For example, if you use a solution that’s not suitable for hardwood floors, you could strip the finish, or if you use a waxy cleaner on tile, it could leave your floors feeling slippery or looking hazy.
Step 2: Choose the right mop for your floor type
If you thought that picking a mop was merely a matter of personal preference, think again. “The choice of the mop depends on the type of floor you have,” says Natalie Barrett, a cleaning professional and quality supervisor at Nifty Cleaning Services. “For example, ceramic tile floors call for a strip mop, while a smooth floor (such as hardwood) calls for a sponge mop.” The reason? “If you don’t use a strip mop on ceramic tiles but instead use a sponge mop, you risk pushing the dirt from the tiles into the grout. A smooth or hardwood floor doesn’t have any grout or openings—this is why a sponge mop is best.”
For ceramic tile or textured flooring, grab the Yocada Looped-End String Wet Mop, which has nearly 1,300 five-star reviews on Amazon and is rated for commercial use (which means it’s durable enough to stand up to any household messes). For hardwoods or other smooth floors, try the Libman Nitty Gritty Sponge Roller Mop; it has a built-in scrub brush that tackles stuck-on gunk, as well as a built-in wringer.
Step 3: Select the right cleaning product for your floor type
“Some cleaning agents will leave behind oily stains if they’re not properly chosen,” Hamilton says. “For example, if you’re cleaning a wood surface, it’s not advisable to use cleaning detergents with ingredients like ammonia, vinegar, and oils. Stone, on the other hand, does not go well with lemon or vinegar-based cleaners.” Check the label of your cleaning product to see what surfaces it’s recommended for before getting started.