How to Clean a Floor

A mop being dipped into a bucket

The Spruce / Taylor Nebrija

Project Overview
  • Total Time: 1 hr

Traditional damp mopping remains the best way to clean many types of floors. While flat mops like Swiffers are great for daily cleanup of dust and light soil, only a good, thorough weekly damp mopping with a proper cleaning solution and a mop can really provide the deep-down cleaning a floor needs.

Damp-mopping is by far the best method for cleaning vinyl sheet flooring, vinyl tile, and ceramic or porcelain tile. Properly sealed woods or laminates may tolerate an occasional damp wipe, but heavy mopping with water is not advised for these floors.

Here we show you the proper mopping technique to get a sparkling, clean floor, from getting the right mop for your type of flooring to the two bucket method.

How Often to Clean a Floor

As a general rule, floors in high-traffic areas, such as kitchens, dining areas, bathrooms, entryways, and hallways, should be swept or vacuumed every one to three days and mopped once a week. While a good mopping is essential for keeping floors clean, regular sweeping or vacuuming is critical for maintaining the finish and life of the flooring. This is because it removes dirt and grit that can damage the floor as it's walked on. When it comes to mopping, the best time to clean is when the floor looks like it needs it.

Most people imagine they already know how to mop a floor, but a key mistake often made is to neglect to use a second bucket for rinse water. It is very common to use only a bucket of wash water and to rinse the mop in the same water used to wash the floor. The better method is to use two buckets—one for a solution of water and detergent, and another with clean rinse water. You can also use one bucket for wash water and fill a sink basin with fresh water to rinse.


Click Play to Learn How to Clean a Floor

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Vacuum cleaner or broom and dustpan
  • Mop
  • 2 mop buckets
  • Rag as needed


  • Sponge
  • Mopping detergent
  • Household cleaner (optional)
  • Paper towels (optional)


supplies for cleaning a floor

The Spruce / Taylor Nebrija

  1. Choose a Mop and Buckets

    Choose a mop based on your floor type. If you have a floor with a lot of texture, such as some ceramic tile floors, you'll want the more classic string mop or a strip mop. If you have a smooth floor, a sponge mop will work well. Mop buckets with built-in wringers work well if you are using a string or strip mop, but any bucket with a handle will work fine if you are using a sponge mop.

    Choosing the right mop and buckets

    The Spruce / Taylor Nebrija

  2. Choose a Cleaner

    Select a cleaning detergent that is designed for your flooring type. Avoid products advertised using phrases such as "mop and shine," as these can lead to a buildup that yellows over time.

    Choosing a floor cleaner

    The Spruce / Taylor Nebrija

  3. Sweep or Vacuum First

    Prevent your floor from becoming a sticky, muddy mess by sweeping or vacuuming the floor thoroughly before ever touching the mop to the floor. This is also a good time to pre-wash sticky or gunky spots that you notice when sweeping or vacuuming. Do this with a sponge and soapy water or your favorite household cleaning solution (just make sure it's safe for your flooring).

    Vacuuming the floor

    The Spruce / Taylor Nebrija

  4. Fill the Buckets

    Fill each bucket with hot water, which cleans better and quicker than cold or warm water. Add the mopping detergent to the wash bucket. Avoid the temptation to double up on the amount of detergent in an effort to boost cleaning power (or speed). This is not a good idea, as extra-concentrated wash water will not clean any better, and it will just be harder to rinse. Always follow the instructions on the detergent label.

    Filling buckets with cleaner and water

    The Spruce / Taylor Nebrija

  5. Dip and Wring the Mop

    Dip your mop in the bucket and wring it out with a wringer or by hand. The mop should be damp, not sopping wet. Too much water dripping from the mop can damage a floor and dramatically extends the drying time.

    Dipping and wringing out the mop

    The Spruce / Taylor Nebrija

  6. Begin Mopping

    Begin mopping the floor, working from one end to the other, and moving backward so you are always standing on an unmopped area to prevent tracking. Mop in straight lines if you are using a sponge mop. For rag mops, mop in a figure-8 motion to use the design of your mop most effectively.

    Beginning the mopping process

    The Spruce / Taylor Nebrija

  7. Stop for Stubborn Spots

    When you encounter tough or sticky spots, rub back and forth rapidly over the spot, applying downward pressure to remove the grime. For hard-to-reach corners and edges, you may need to squat down and scrub the floor with a sponge or paper towels.

    Addressing sticky spots when mopping the floor

    The Spruce / Taylor Nebrija

  8. Rinse the Mopped Area

    After scrubbing each small area of the floor, rinse your mop thoroughly in the rinse bucket. Dunk the mop up and down a few times, then wring out to remove as much dirty water from the mop head as possible.

    dipping the mop in preparation to rinse the area

    The Spruce / Taylor Nebrija

  9. Continue Mopping

    Repeat the mopping and rinsing process for each section until you've completed the floor. As you work, keep an eye on both the wash water and rinse water. When they become visibly gray or dingy, empty and refill the buckets. Using dirty wash water or rinse water only spreads dirty water over the floor and complicates the rinsing process.

    Continuing to mop the floor

    The Spruce / Taylor Nebrija

  10. Do a Final Rinse

    At this point, your floor should now be quite clean, with little or no detergent residue left. But for an extra cleaning step, you can mop over the entire floor a final time using nothing but fresh hot rinse water. If your rinse water gets at all dirty or sudsy, you will know the final rinse has been necessary.

    Continuing to mop the floor

    The Spruce / Taylor Nebrija

  11. Let Everything Dry

    Thoroughly rinse out your mop and mop bucket and allow them to dry completely before storing them away. Let your floor dry completely before walking on it.

    Putting away mopping supplies

    The Spruce / Taylor Nebrija

  • How many times a week should you sweep and mop your floors?

    Floors should be swept and mopped at least once each week in areas that are used on a daily basis. If you see that they are accumulating dust, dirt, or animal hair, during the week, plan to do it more often.

  • Should you clean your mop after mopping the floors?

    That mop has just gone through the wringer getting your floors clean and should be dunked in a bucket of clean, hot water and mild soap, then rinsed thoroughly in a separate bucket of clean, hot water. Some mop heads are machine washable and can be detached and cleaned in a washing machine.

  • How often should you replace your mop?

    The mop itself doesn't need to be replaced unless the mop head is not detachable. The mop head should be thrown away and replaced approximately every three months, or if it is looking dirty and won't come clean, replace it sooner.