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Once upon a time—aka last year—I rarely thought about how clean my floors were. Then, I had a baby and the coronavirus hit, and now I’m constantly reminded of the crumbs, hair and weird smudges around the wood floors in my kitchen and the tiles in my bathroom. And while mopping might seem like the easy way to keep your floors clean, it’s pointless if all you’re doing is swirling around dirty water. So I asked Melissa Maker, founder of Clean My Space (and the hit YouTube channel of the same name, which currently has over 1.3 million subscribers) to critique my mopping technique. And as it turns out, I was doing almost everything wrong.

How to Mop Hardwood Floors

For hardwood, Maker recommends using a flat-head mop with a microfiber cover, but a microfiber string mop will do the trick too. Either way, make sure that the head or cover is machine washable, so you can ensure you’re starting with a clean mop every single time. “If I’m using a solution for hardwood, I would use some pH neutral soap in a bucket filled with warm water,” Maker tells us. “Make sure to use very little soap (like ¼ teaspoon) to avoid too much product being used.”

Because store-bought products can create a build-up on your floors over time, Maker doesn’t recommend them. Regular steam cleaning is also a no-no, because the extra moisture can damage the wood. You’re better off sticking to warm water, with a bit of soap added, if needed.

  1. Vacuum or sweep the floor first. (Don’t skip this critical step!)
  2. Dip the mop in the warm water and soap solution and wring it out as much as possible before working in small sections of the floor—think 10 square feet at a time.
  3. Dip the mop and wring it out again. If the water starts to look cloudy, dump it out and refill the bucket.
  4. Don’t forget to mop yourself out of the room, rather than mopping yourself into a corner, or you’ll end up with footprints. (Guilty.)

How to Mop Laminate and Tile Floors

Remember Maker’s handy recipe for hardwood floor cleaner? You can use it on tile and laminate floors too, but she also suggests adding 1 cup of vinegar per bucket of warm water. She also recommends using a steam mop to get everything squeaky clean. “You have to be careful on what type of floors you’re using it on, to avoid damage,” she adds, so check the mop’s instructions first. It’s a little bit of an investment (most steam mops are around $100), but the heat of the mop will kill germs and lift tough stains. Worth it? We think so.

  1. Vacuum or sweep the floor. (Again, we can not stress how important this step is.)
  2. Put a fresh mop pad on the steam mop. You may need to use multiple pads, depending on how large your floor is.
  3. Add the soap and vinegar solution if desired, turn on the steam mop and run it across the floor, working in small areas.
  4. Mop yourself out of the room so you don’t get stuck.

Wait, Why Should I Vacuum or Sweep Before Mopping?

Have you ever swept a floor you thought looked pretty clean, and wound up with a surprisingly huge pile of dirt, dust and hair? If you don't sweep or vacuum your floor before mopping, you're just pushing all of that gross stuff around on your floor, defeating the whole point of mopping. So right before you start, grab the broom and dustpan.

What About Disinfecting?

“Floors are one of the last places to have worrisome germs (assuming you don't wear your shoes inside),” Maker says. “If you have kids or pets, you might want to think about using a vegetable-based enzyme cleaner as opposed to just water when you mop, but on a regular basis there's no reason to use bleach. In the event that you have something that requires disinfecting, you should disinfect that area specifically and not the whole floor.” Phew, good to know.

How Do I Keep My Floor Clean Longer?

Aim to mop the floors of high-traffic areas, like the kitchen and bathroom, once a week. Areas that aren't used as often, like the bedrooms, can be mopped every other week. While it’s definitely not a replacement for an old-fashioned mop and bucket, using a disposable mopping pad like the Swiffer Wet is great for in-between cleanings, Maker tells us. And she had one more game changing tip that completely blew my mind: The oils on your bare feet will create extra build-up on your floor, making them get dirty faster. She suggests wearing slippers and socks around the house to keep your floors looking as shiny as possible. Now if you’ll excuse me, my baby is trying to eat an old Cheerio she found under the couch.

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