When there is high demand, but a shortage of supply, it’s difficult to keep the price of a product from skyrocketing. That’s exactly what has happened in recent years with cotton. Natural disasters in the United States and across the world have resulted in a shortage of cotton crops, driving the cost of the raw material to levels never before seen.

Just like how cotton is vital in the fashion industry to produce clothing, cotton is a major staple in the cleaning industry, too, mostly used in the manufacturing of mops.

Traditionally, considering only upfront costs, cotton has been the cheapest mopping option available. But as cotton prices have risen, demand for low-priced alternatives in the mop world has accelerated.

“A price spike in a commodity like cotton is just going to accelerate the move to alternative products,” says Ed Corr, owner of Corr Distributors Inc., Tonawanda, N.Y. “With that, the amount of purely cotton mops we’re selling is declining.”

As a result of the turbulent cotton prices, mop manufacturers have created substitutes to the traditional cotton wet mop that have an upfront cost of 10 to 15 percent less than its cotton counterpart, but have shorter lifespans.

Alternative Movement

Today’s alternative mops are considered to be more economical than traditional cotton wet mops. That’s because manufacturers are now producing mop heads that are composed of 100 percent post-industrial material such as recycled rayon and poly synthetic nonwoven materials. These blends exhibit 70 percent greater absorption than conventional plied cotton products, and due to increased absorption, the same cleaning results may be achieved while using less material. By reducing the amount of material used to make the mop, costs are thus reduced, as is the material entering the waste stream.

These alternative synthetic blend mops, otherwise referred to as single-use or disposable mops, are most often used in settings where budgets are tight and laundering is not an option. They work well as general cleanup and disinfecting mops, and as stripping mops in industrial, institutional, foodservice and educational facilities. The mops also are an ideal fit in healthcare applications where they can be used only once in situations such as a bloodborne pathogen cleanup and then disposed of as a biohazard. Because the alternative blends have very low lint they have also been a low cost choice in certain cleanroom applications. So, not only do they replace a standard cotton mop, they also serve as a low cost option to many traditionally higher priced products.

Because these mops have zero cotton content, a major advantage is they don’t require a break-in period like cotton mops and will absorb liquid immediately out of the package, says Erick Petterson, regional sales manager with Central Paper Co., in Birmingham, Ala. Cotton, on the other hand, naturally has oils in it, so cotton mops have to be soaked in water for an amount of time for the oils to dissipate before use.

Eric Cadell, vice president of operations for Dutch Hollow Janitorial Supplies Inc., in Belleville, Ill., says he’s noticed facilities mostly use these synthetic disposable mops to clean up oil or grease in facilities that otherwise would clog up a cotton mop and render it useless.

“If you have a place that if you use a cotton mop and are going to have to throw it away because it can’t be cleaned, like oil, synthetic is your answer,” says Cadell. “You clean it up and dispose of it. Why waste the money? If it’s going to destroy an expensive cotton mop, don’t buy it, use the cheaper alternative.”

Single-Use Microfiber Mops

Single-use mops have also infiltrated into the microfiber market. There are instances where a throw-away flat microfiber mop head is desired and makes more economical sense than a traditional, launderable microfiber mop head that costs three times more.

Most times, end users don’t want to launder a mop that is saturated with floor finish, so they throw away the launderable mop. In a healthcare environment especially, these mop heads can be used to clean up infectious waste and can be disposed of, rather than laundered and reused.

Some facilities that have hard floors may not have the equipment or the space available to have laundering equipment, thus using a disposable mop can better fit their needs.