String mops and buckets are still common tools in a janitor’s closet, but their effectiveness is being called into question: Are they in fact re-depositing dirty water on the floor rather than aiding in its removal? For many, the answer is “yes” — even when soiled water is changed frequently.
The traditional string mop and single-chamber bucket with wringer are an antiquated cleaning combo, says Mike Gosson, president and owner of Parish Maintenance Supply Corp., Syracuse, New York.

It’s a system that, by design, forces the user to dunk a dirty mop into the cleaning solution, thereby contaminating the  water.

“When someone mops the floor, and they immerse the mop back into a single-cavity bucket, the contaminant goes back into the solution, and any grease and oil that was picked up will flood to the surface,” says Christopher Meaney, vice president of sales and marketing for ABCO Cleaning Products, Miami. “When [a user] re-immerses the mop, the mop will absorb [the soil], so the last thing that comes out of that bucket is dirty water.”

But is a little dirty mop water such a bad thing when mopping a floor? After all, mops are for cleaning floors, not high touch points. According to distributors the answer is a resounding “yes,” as the effect of dirt on floors goes far beyond appearance.

“It’s not just about cleaner floors, it’s about safer floors,” says Meaney. “In a restaurant environment, for example, any organic contaminant, oil, or grease will seal out the porosity of a quarry tile and create a condition where the static coefficient of friction is going to diminish, so you’re going to have a higher likelihood that the floors will be slippery, especially when they’re wet.”

Using dirty mop water can also aid the spread of soil to other areas of the building.

“The problem with dirty mop water is it allows the dirt to be tracked throughout the rest of the facility,” says Scott Uselman, director of sales for High Point Sanitary Solutions in Houston. “Just like cross-contamination with hands, the same thing happens with feet. They take that dirt from the surface and track it onto the carpet.”

Using dirty mop water can also increase the custodial staff’s workload by making it more difficult to clean the floor the next time around, or by requiring additional cleaning processes to undo damage caused by mopping.

“If you’re working in a building that has floor finish, all you’re doing is putting a skim coat of dirt back onto the floor, and very quickly that floor finish is going to discolor,” says Meaney. “That’s going to force the custodial staff to strip the floor because of the aesthetics.”

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Dual-cavity Buckets Separate Clean From Dirty Water