As a new recruit in the military, my drill sergeants were obsessed with our platoon maintaining absolutely spotless living quarters. This was as much an exercise in discipline as it was an exercise in cleanliness. No corner of the barracks went unchecked during daily inspections, and it was impossible to “cut corners”. From floor to ceiling, and from wall to wall, the most challenging area to keep clean in the 52-bed barracks was also the most visible area: the white tiled floor.

Learning how to mop a floor was as much a part of becoming a warrior as learning to fire an M16 rifle. This blog post will steer clear of the latter and focus entirely on the former:

The Eight Steps of Mopping

Step 1: Choose the Correct Cleaner
First, it should be noted that our shoes track in an incredible amount of filth, including unseen biohazards. Mopping is not just the process of cleaning a floor, but it also serves the vital purpose of disinfecting. A clean-looking floor does not always equal a “clean” floor. To be truly clean it must also be germ-free.

There are an abundance of options for floor cleaners, but (to be blunt) stay away from cleaners with harmful, toxic chemicals like bleach—unless you want to damage your lungs. Mopping is already an unpleasant experience. Don’t add more unpleasantness by including bronchitis and emphysema to the mix. Instead, consider such options as Clean and Gleam, one of the Melaleuca Products that has no harmful chemicals and is powered with biodegradable ingredients.

Step 2: Choose the Right Mop
The list of mop-types can get a little overwhelming. When choosing a mop, you don’t need a Rolls Royce version. A good old-fashioned flat mop or string mop will suffice. As long as you’re able to wring the water from your mop, and your mop has a handle, you’re set!

Step 3: Sweep before Mopping
Sweeping is an important part of mopping. Even if you don’t see crumbs and other obvious items, you’ll want to give the floor a good sweep prior to deploying the mop. Otherwise, you’ll merely be spreading around a bunch of dirty water on the floor instead of cleaning and sanitizing.

Step 4: Pre-soak Trouble Spots
Sometimes sweeping won’t clear up certain spots that have “caked on” or sticky stains. And often these trouble spots are too much for a mop to solve without a little pre-soaking. While you’re sweeping, keep a bottle of vinegar water with you, such as Green Gobbler available from Ace Hardware. A quick spray will soften those trouble spots so that by the time the mop arrives, they’ll be gone with one-fell-swoop.

Step 5: Use Warm Water and Wring Out
Add your cleaning agent to warm water, and be sure to wring out the mop enough that the mop isn’t dripping excessively when taken out of the bucket. The mop should be wet, but not dripping wet.

Step 6: Start at the Far End and Move toward the Door
Start mopping at the far end of the room, and work your way back to the room’s entry.

Step 7: Use the Right Motion
According to The Janitorial Store and from my own experience, the best mopping motion is a side-to-side motion making a figure-eight. Avoid circles and avoid pushing the mop forward and backwards.

Step 8: Hang the Mop
When finished, rinse out your bucket, wring out the mop, and hang the mop with the mop-head UP. Don’t store the mop with its head resting on the ground. This will help keep your mop clean for the next deployment!