How to Clean a Floor: A Step-by-Step Guide

By Jeneva Aaron Updated November 30, 2021

You’ll be floored by how easy floor cleaning is.

How to Clean a Floor: A Step-by-Step Guide

When you’re mopping your floor, do you get streaks? Do you find residue on your ceramic tile, porcelain tile, or vinyl flooring? Do you have water pooling on your hardwood or laminate that could damage the surface?

Damp mopping with a flat mop and using a proper cleaning solution can solve all of these problems! This type of mopping won’t damage your flooring or leave smudges behind. (But make sure you always check with your floor’s manufacturer before mopping or using chemicals!)

Our handy guide will teach you how to properly take care of your flooring so your house will sparkle.

How to clean a floor Infographic

How Often Should You Clean Your Floors

In general, you should regularly clean your floors. However, “regularly” depends on the type of cleaning you do and the type of flooring.

The best way to maintain your floors is to sweep or vacuum every day. Do this after you dust and before you mop with water. Removing excess dust and dirt will keep your floors looking their best, and you won’t have debris building up.

In high-traffic areas, you may want to sweep every day. These might be rooms like entryways or kitchens. If there is not much traffic, however, you might only need to sweep once a week to keep your floors sparkling clean.

Wet mopping is useful to deep clean your floors, but you don’t need to do it all the time. You should do it if you have tough stains, stubborn dirt, or sticky spots.

As with sweeping, mopping frequency depends on how much traffic a room has. If there’s not a lot of traffic, you can probably mop once a month. If there’s a lot of traffic, or if you have children or pets, you’ll probably need to wet mop once a week.

Also, keep in mind that wet mopping isn’t good for all floor types. You may want to consider using a spray mop for damp mopping, instead of a wet mop, if you have more delicate surfaces like laminate or hardwood floors.

How to Clean a Floor Properly

Our method for cleaning floors works well for a medium level of dirtiness. You won’t have to scrub very hard unless there is a lot of stuck-on dirt. For issues like that, you might want to use a scraper.

Note

Keep in mind that water control is very important. You don’t want to use too much water because this can hurt almost any floor type — even on a vinyl floor or on porcelain tiles. For more delicate surfaces such as a wood floor, we recommend using a barely damp mop.

You also need to make sure to rinse your floors. This is crucial because you don’t want to leave any chemicals on the floor’s surface. Cleaning products and other chemicals can ruin the finish on your floor.

What You’ll Need

With just a few tools, floor cleaning is simple.

1. Organize Your Floor Cleaning Session

Before you can start floor cleaning, you need to clear the area of any obstacles. Make sure you pick up objects or toys on the floor so that you don’t need to work around them.

Most of the time, you won’t need to move furniture to clean floors. However, you may want to move chairs away from desks or tables when cleaning under them.

2. Remove Dust & Dirt First

Before you mop the floor, you should always remove grit, loose dirt, dust, and small debris such as paper or cigarette butts.

You can do this with a broom, a dust mop, or a vacuum cleaner. We prefer to use a vacuum because brooms and dust mops can push dirt around rather than picking it up.

Regardless of the tool you use, you need to make sure that your floor is dry. If your floor is wet, you might have trouble using the broom or mop. You might even leave smudges or streaks that will dry on your floor. Plus, you should never use water with a vacuum (unless it’s a shop vac).

If there’s anything stuck to your floor, like gum or dropped food, use a putty knife or scraper to remove it. In addition, use a brush to remove dirt and debris from corners and under appliances.

Keep In Mind

If you choose to use a dust mop, never move the mop back and forth like a broom. You’ll sweep dust into the air, rather than picking it up. Instead, move the mop continuously in one smooth motion. And if you’re cleaning a large area, make sure you remove dirt from the mop head as you work.

You’ll know you’ve finished sweeping, mopping, or vacuuming when you can’t see any dirt left on your floor.

3. Choose the Right Cleaner & Mop

Here are a few things you should know about picking the right cleaning solution and mop.

For the Cleaner

When choosing a cleaner, make sure you select one that is designed for your type of floor.

For example, using a cleaner designed for stone floors on a wood floor might strip the finish. Or, if you use the wrong cleaner on tile floors, it could dull the surface or make it slippery to walk on.

You can also check with the manufacturer to find out what chemicals are acceptable for your flooring type.

Once you’ve selected the appropriate cleaner, read the instructions on how to dilute it and use it. Next, pour the appropriate amount into a measuring cup first, and then pour it into your mop bucket. Never pour your detergent directly into the mop bucket.

You may want to label your measuring cup or put it in a special place so that you don’t accidentally use it for food afterwards.

This Rejuvenate solution actually doesn’t need to be mixed. You can use it directly on multiple surfaces because it’s pH-balanced to be safe on finishes.

For the Mop

Choose the right type of mop based on your floor type.

  • Sponge mop: This type of mop is useful for uneven surfaces such as tile, or for a linoleum floor.
  • String or strip mop: These are good models for most surfaces because they are very soft.
  • Flat mop: This type of mop is useful for damp mopping a delicate surface like a laminate floor or a hardwood floor because you don’t use a lot of water. You can also use it as a dust mop.

It’s important to choose the right material for your mop head, as well. Mop heads are generally made of cotton, a blend of cotton and polyester, or microfiber.

  • Cotton: Cotton is excellent at absorbing water, but this can make the mop heavy. It can also spread too much water on surfaces such as laminate.
  • Cotton/polyester blend: Polyester doesn’t hold water like cotton does, but it slides well, and it’s more durable than cotton. Therefore manufacturers will blend the two materials to create mop heads that last longer than pure cotton ones.
  • Microfiber: Microfiber is also very absorbent, and it can hold up to 7 times its weight in liquid. In addition, the fibers attract and hold dirt as you work, and then you can wash it out afterwards. A microfiber mop generally removes soil efficiently, and it doesn’t leave streaks.

As an example, this Microfiber mop works on multiple surfaces and has reusable microfiber pads that are machine-washable.

One other thing to keep in mind is the length of the mop handle. A comfortable handle is as long as you are tall. For example, a person who is 5’6” would want a mop handle that is also 5’6”. With a handle that’s the right size, you can keep your back straight while you work, so you won’t strain your body (1).

4. Use a 3-Bucket System

Now that you have your floor swept and your materials ready, you’re all set to start wet mopping!

The best way to wet mop is to use a 3-bucket system. This is how professionals mop floors do.

  • Bucket 1: Fill with your favorite cleaning solution.
  • Bucket 2: Fill with plain water for rinsing.
  • Bucket 3: Keep it empty.

If you want, you can use a 3-chamber bucket like this one from Top Tier Products. Just follow the same filling instructions above.

To start, put your mop in bucket 1 to wet it. Then, wring out the extra cleaning solution into the empty bucket. Now you’re ready to start working with your damp mop.

Once you’ve cleaned a little bit of your floor, put the mop in the second bucket to rinse it. Again, squeeze out the extra water into the third bucket.

If you want to simplify the process, you can use just the first two buckets instead of all three. However, your second rinse bucket will get dirty very quickly.

5. Add Some Techniques

When you start mopping, the first thing you should do is mark out a small area to work on with your mop. Put your buckets at one end of this area, and work towards them, walking backwards.

Move your mop in a side-to-side motion as you walk. Also, make sure that your strokes overlap a little bit so that you don’t miss any spots. When you change from one direction to another, curve the mop in a “C” shape so that your work is continuous.

As you work, turn your mop every so often so that you’re using cleaner fibers. In general, do this 2 or 3 times in between mop rinses. When you reach the end of a stroke, turn your mop inwards, away from the wall or furniture.

6. Rinse & Wring Your Mop

Use your rinse bucket regularly to make sure you aren’t just moving dirt across the floor. If your floor is really dirty, you’ll need to rinse your mop more often than if the floor is cleaner.

Once you’ve rinsed, you can wring out your mop. To do this, use your left hand to place the mop in the wringer. Then use your right hand to pull down the wringer or pull the wringer handle.

Make sure not to twist the mop itself. The wringer will do the work for you! Then you can take the mop out and remove any extra fluff or mop strands that have come loose.

7. Dry the Mopped Area

Once you’ve completed your mopping, you should do a final rinse and go over the floor one more time with clean water. This will rinse the chemicals off your flooring. Make sure you use clean water and a clean mop.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to replace the whole mop! Just use a clean mop head or pad.

As you clean, follow the same pattern you did before. Also, make sure to change your water frequently so you’re not putting dirt back on your floor.

When you’ve finished rinsing, it’s time to dry completely the floor. Wring your rinse mop well, and then go over the floor again. This step ensures that you won’t have streaks.

8. Replace Furniture & Store Your Equipment

If you’ve moved any furniture, now is the time to put it back.

Then, you need to clean your equipment so you can put it away.

  • Bucket: Rinse out your bucket with hot water and detergent. Make sure you wipe away any dirt on the bottom and sides. Once it’s clean, dry it off before storing.
  • Dust mop: You can use your vacuum cleaner to clean your dust mop! Just run the vacuum nozzle back and forth across the mop pad to pick up as much dirt as possible.
  • Vacuum: Check the brush and hose for blockages, and clean them out if you need to. Also, replace the bag or empty the canister if the vacuum is full.
  • Mop: Never leave the mop in your bucket! This can make it grow bacteria and smell bad. Instead, wash the head in hot water. With some mops, you can put the head or pad in the washing machine. Always make sure to let your mop dry before storing it.

Once you’ve cleaned all your equipment, store it in a safe place.

FAQ

Just in case you still have questions about cleaning your floor, here are some frequently asked questions.

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Why Are My Floors Still Dirty After Mopping?

There are a few reasons why your floors might still be dirty:

  • You used the wrong cleaning solution.
  • You used too much floor cleaner. Sometimes just a few drops will do the trick.
  • You mopped with dirty water. If your water isn’t clean while you’re working, you can push particles across the floor, and the water leaves them behind when it dries. You can use the 3-bucket method to prevent this, or you can change your rinse water more often.
  • You didn’t get rid of loose dirt and dust before you started wet mopping.

If you’re still having problems, try using an appropriate cleaning solution to prevent streaks or dull flooring.

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Can I Mop the Floor With Just Water?

Yes, but you won’t clean as efficiently or effectively as you can with a floor cleaner.

If you have any grease on your floor, water alone won’t be able to clean it up. You’ll need a detergent to cut through the oil and remove it from the floor.

Therefore, if your floors are only a little dirty, water will probably be fine. But if you have very dirty floors, you’ll need detergent.

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What to Do if You Don’t Have a Mop?

Don’t worry! If you don’t have a mop, you can attach a microfiber cloth to a broom. This will make your very own microfiber mop!

You can also clean your floors the old-fashioned way on your hands and knees with a rag or soft cloth. Some people also use a sponge for this.

Jeneva Aaron

About the Author

Jeneva Aaron

Jeneva has over years of passion for home decorating and cleaning. She is the founder and CEO of thehousewire.com where she provides honest and objective reviews on home and cleaning products.

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