The mop and bucket were arguably the first tools used to clean, but as the industry progresses and advances, so do the tools. The mop and bucket are no exception. In fact, in just the last couple decades, the jan/san industry has witnessed substantial advancements to this area of cleaning.

According to some reports, mops date back as early as the Roman times, but the earliest patented mop was reported in the late 1900s. Not much different from what is used today, that mop was made up of a string-style head and clamping system that secured the head to the handle, allowing release for laundering.

Roughly 50 years later, innovation came again with the introduction of the sponge mop (mostly used in households). The quick and easy wringing of this innovation made the sponge mop an instant success, but it never quite replaced the commercial benefits of the more traditional string mop.

Within the last two decades, manufacturers have unveiled one of the more substantial advancements the industry has seen thus far with the introduction of microfiber. Used as a flat mop, microfiber can absorb up to six-times its weight in liquid and grabs and holds dirt and debris better than any of its predecessors.

Mops Moving Forward

“The introduction of microfiber and flat mopping have benefited the cleaning industry immensely in the form of labor and cost savings,” says Eric Cadell, vice president of operations at Dutch Hollow Janitorial Supply in Belleville, Ill. “They leave cleaner floors, while reducing labor time and minimizing user fatigue.”

In fact, the newer mopping versions allow users to cover a larger surface area in a shorter amount of time. According to Cadell, newer systems disperse the weight of the mop more evenly, making it easier for cleaners to move around while reducing fatigue.

This is significant because user fatigue contributes to an decrease in cleaning efficiencies and a reduction in cleaning times. And as cleaning managers can attest, labor can add up to roughly 90 percent of the cleaning budget — meaning any savings on labor will be a savings for the department.

Karen Adams, owner of The Mop Bucket based in North Kansas City, Mo., mirrors Cadell’s statement, commenting: “The technology in microfiber allows for better friction on flooring and ultimately better cleaning. In essence, it cleans better with less effort.”

In addition to cleaning efficiencies and labor savings, custodial managers will experience budget savings from newer mopping systems. For instance, newer mop heads come with a longer life expectancy than past models, reducing the frequency of product replacement. Specifically, these newer mop heads allow for easier and more frequent laundering before replacement is necessary.

“Flat mopping systems can be washed more and because it is easy to do so, people are more apt to wash it,” says Adams. “The older string mops are left dirty more often than not.”

The Buzz On Buckets

In regards to the mop and bucket system, the bucket has come a long way since it was first introduced. Starting off as a simple pail used to hold water and soap, the mop bucket has steadily improved over the years to become an asset to cleaning crews.

“The mop bucket has evolved immensely in recent years,” says Cadell. “I would even go so far to say that we are to the point that they have evolved too much and have started to become too cumbersome.”

Certainly, selection has gotten difficult due to the vast varieties of buckets available in the market. There are metal or plastic buckets, buckets that offer multiple chambers and features and attachments that suit every need of the commercial cleaner.

“One of the key advancements to this area are the buckets that are designed not to tip over or minimize splashing and sloshing,” says Adams. “In mopping, you hit a lot of bumps and buckets have been known to tip or splash, dumping all your water and causing a safety hazard. These specialized features prevent that from happening.”

Other useful innovations include filters at the bottom of buckets allowing debris to drain away from mop heads, minimizing resoiling. The drainage plug on the bottom of buckets is also relatively new. It allows for quick, easy and ergonomic disposal of used water — assuming the facility has floor drains. Wringers, strainers and bucket caddies are also very popular additions to the traditional bucket.

“Of all the advancements in this area, the multi-chamber bucket is the best,” says Cadell. “It helps control and reduce cross-contamination and the spread of disease and dirt by keeping clean water away from dirty water.”

This feature prevents cleaners from contaminating the clean water and resoiling mops, which would ultimately transfer that back to floors. In other words, this advancement prevents cleaners from pushing around dirt.

Safety And Health Factors

As cleaning for health gains momentum and cleaners do even more to keep bacteria and grime out of their facility, products that promote healthy cleaning become top-of-mind.

“The multi-chamber systems and flat mopping are a great place to start when concentrating on reducing cross-contamination in the facility,” says Cadell.

These types of advancements have helped make safety and cleaning for health an easy and attainable reality for cleaners. Chamber buckets make separating fresh and soiled waters easy on the cleaning staff. And microfiber is easy to change out between areas, takes up less room for storage and is easily laundered.

Not only have advancements to today’s mopping systems aided in improved health, but they also assist in maintaining a safe environment for both employees and building occupants.

To aid in ergonomics and reduce workers compensation claims from heavy lifting, manufacturers have updated buckets in recent years so the majority are toilet height. This allows cleaners to empty used water easily into toilets and dump sinks using leverage instead of heavy lifting.

As mentioned earlier, buckets that feature drainage plugs come with great ergonomic benefits, but some cleaners find them to be impractical.

“Drains on the bottom of mopping systems are very popular, but many departments aren’t able to benefit from their use,” says Cadell. “Many facilities lack proper floor drains for cleaners to dump the water. Therefore, cleaners still have to pick buckets up and put them in dump sinks for drainage.”

The idea is a great one in that minimizing lifting of heavy buckets would reduce worker fatigue and potential injury, but many cleaning departments have not yet been able to benefit from this safety advancement.

There have also been ergonomic advancements to mopping handles that make the systems easier for cleaners to use while reducing fatigue.

“The more ergonomic mop handles move with just the twist of the wrist instead of using the whole body,” says Cacell. “Managers might not realize it, but those small body movements can account for many hours of work, creating cleaning efficiencies and reducing cleaning times.”

Time Savings

Creating cleaning efficiencies and reducing cleaning times is a goal for every in-house manager. Time is money, after all, and advancements to mopping systems have resulted in dollars saved for departments.

Taking mopping systems one step further, some manufacturers offer bucketless microfiber all-in-one systems that house cleaning chemical in the mop handle and dispense at the push of a button — eliminating the bucket all together.

Advancements such as these can save cleaners time and improve safety. This tool offers freedom for cleaners to work in tight spaces or areas such as stairways where all workers have to carry is the mop.

“You can get rid of the bucket full of water,” says Adams, “and get cleaning done quicker and more effectively.”

Regardless of the system used, switching to microfiber has the potential to cut labor dollars in half, say experts. There is less back-and-forth to the custodial closet and floor cleaning is completed quicker.

Manufacturers have also added features such as the bucket caddy that provide space to carry items such as extra microfiber mops or sleeves to contain dirty microfiber. Features such as these save time by reducing trips to storage to replenish supplies as cleaners move throughout the facility.

Although these products can come with a higher price tag, with the right training from distributors, the return on investment can be great. Once this training is accomplished and the systems are used properly, departments will begin to see substantial savings. Experts comment that the process traditionally takes three to six months before savings are noticeable.

“Overall, the advancements in this category have substantially helped the end user,” says Cadell. “They don’t have to work as hard, but continue to experience elevated performance levels, reduced costs and a cleaner building.”