To see a janitor laboring with a heavy cotton string mop, dipped periodically in a bucket of frothy brown water, only to be slapped down upon the floor once again in order to "clean" it, is enough to turn the stomach of most building service contractors. Dirty mops just don't clean floors. Using microfiber mops that have been soaked in small buckets of solution and changed out for each room cleaned are effective at picking up debris while preventing cross-contaminati on. Use of these mop heads, which are washed after each use, is becoming the status quo.

This is one of the most obvious examples of how far science and technology have helped advance and modernize cleaning applications to ensure they do, in fact, result in clean surfaces.

But behind every effective mopping system is a maintenance program that keeps it performing optimally. Proper maintenance of mop heads, frames, handles and buckets starts with making informed purchasing decisions.

Proper Use

For BSCs, converting to a new system or type of product not only means a potentially large initial investment — it also means having to train employees about how to use and maintain them. Fortunately, microfiber mop systems are popular with employees because they make the job easier and do not strain the body as much as cotton string mops do.

"The fatigue factor is lessened for them. They love it," says Mike Fisher, general manager at K-Tech Kleening Systems in Schofield, Wis.

Because of microfiber mops' ergonomic design — they're lightweight and are not meant to be handling heavy-duty work — they tend to last many years when used properly.

"It's a benefit to the employees because they're not dealing with huge buckets of water and heavy mops," Fisher says. "But like anything else, it's how you treat it."

Fisher adds that plastic handles and frames with metal parts such as swivels seem to stand up pretty well to constant use. With mop designs becoming so specifically ergonomic, making sure that mop handles and frames are clean and dry, is one way to avoid worker injury. Using tools as they're meant to be utilized can only be done when tools are clean and hands can grip handles properly.

Swapping out mop heads is also very easy — they slide on and off of the frame.

"The good thing is, the mop heads are easy to change out. There's not a lot of moving parts to it," Fisher says. "This is so simple, you can take off with a foot or a gloved hand."

There are many reasons to switch to microfiber mop systems — from worker productivity increases to environmental considerations such as reduced chemical and water use — but in order to properly maintain those tools, it's best for BSCs to keep in mind their own capabilities.

One of the biggest problems with cotton mop heads is that they are very difficult to clean, Fisher says.

"We just found that cleaning standard mops becomes such an issue and you struggle with, how do you wash them and take care of them. The process is laborious," he says. "With microfiber, it's pretty simple. They go in the washing machine."

Laundering Properly

The old way of cleaning mop heads was a pain, Fisher says.

"There's not a great way to wash them. We took zip ties and tied the bottoms together, otherwise they get all knotted up when they go in the washer," he says. "Then you hang them up to dry because there's not a great way to dry them."

Microfiber makes things much easier for BSCs. Dirty wet mop heads simply get thrown in the washer.

Dust mop heads also need to be washed; first, however, they should be shaken out or vacuumed in order to get rid of excess dust. Certain types of mop heads require washing in a netted bag for protection.

Dust and wet mop heads should be washed with a gentle detergent — no bleach — in hot water and rinsed before being dried. Dryer sheets and temperatures above 140 degrees can damage the microfibers, so treat the mop heads similarly to delicates, and dry on low heat.

Since most dust and wet mop heads need to be laundered on a daily basis, having a laundering site in a facility is ideal, but not required. Many BSCs run a laundry route to pick up used mop heads and drop off clean ones.

Others, such as Bob Croft, president of CBN Building Maintenance in Phoenix, have come up with their own solutions. At one account, Croft purchased a miniature washing machine that fits in a janitor closet for a few hundred dollars.

"It's three feet tall, no permanent hookups, uses a hose that goes to the floor sink," he says. "It'll fit in just about any janitors closet there is."

There, microfiber mops are washed after they're used, and they are hung up to dry overnight.

Mop heads can also be hand-washed and hung to dry.

In addition to proper laundering, proper use of mop heads helps extend their lives.

"If you're on ceramic tile where you've got the grout lines, it tends to wear and tear them," Fisher says. "There are ones made specifically for ceramic tile, and they have a nylon pattern; they're more aggressive."

Storage, Lifecycle

Space in most janitor closets comes at a premium. Microfiber mop heads fit well into most closets; those with flat heads can be stacked in containers, bags or on shelves very easily. They can even be stored in small mop buckets, also known as charging buckets, in which mop heads are rolled up in solution prior to use.

Many BSCs that wash mop heads off site at a main headquarters building deliver clean heads once or twice a week, as needed.

"Our guys doing routework deliver enough pads to last about a week," Croft says.

The lifecycle of microfiber mops is long — both K-Tech and CBM have been going on five years of consistent use with minimal replacements.

"Even the less expensive pads are supposed to be able to stand up to 250 or better wash cycles," says Croft. "And the better mop heads claim they've got a longer life than that."

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