How to Clean a Floor

Man Cleaning a Kitchen Floor With a Mop and Bucket
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Traditional damp mopping remains the best way to clean many types of flooring. While Swiffer-type pads combined with sweeping are great for daily cleanup of dust and light soil, only a good, thorough weekly damp mopping with a proper cleaning solution 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. However, it is not a good idea to use water on any type of wood floor or on laminate, cork, bamboo, or any other type of flooring where the manufacturer discourages contact with water. Properly sealed woods or laminates may tolerate an occasional damp wipe, but heavy mopping with water is not advised for these floors.

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 thee 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.

What You Need

Supplies

  • Vacuum cleaner or broom and dustpan
  • Sponge
  • Household cleaner (optional)
  • Mop
  • Mop buckets (2)
  • Mopping detergent
  • Rag or paper towels (as needed)

How to Clean a Floor

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.

  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.

  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.

  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).

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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.