Choosing the Right Mop For the Right Job

March 26, 2001
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A mop is one of the most utilitarian of tools available in the hard floor maintenance industry today. It has lasted for generations with only a few but significant changes. In the last 20 years, the institutional cleaning industry has become more sophisticated in the development of chemicals for enhancing the sanitary conditions and appearance of our surroundings. The primary tool for applying these chemicals has been and continues to be the ubiquitous mop.

As these advances have been made and as we have become more sophisticated in their application, we have become more aware of the costs associated with their use. In relation to the costs associated with the application, it has been determined that the greatest of these is often the cost of labor to accomplish the task. Most times, this is actually greater than the chemical cost itself and certainly more than the cost of the mop.

The greatest determinate in choosing the right mop for the right job is understanding what you want done. Damp mopping, stripping floor finish, applying floor finish, flooding the floor, or drying the floor; each process can be done more quickly and with a greater degree of quality by choosing the right mop yarn and mop construction. Remember, “it is not the price of the mop but the cost of the one holding the mop that costs you more in sanitary maintenance.” How can the task be completed in the shortest time, with the least cost, and the best results?

Mop Yarn and Applications

There are multiple yarns available for each of the above applications. I want to focus on the characteristics of a variety of mop yarns that will help you select the right tool for your job.

Today’s mop yarns are produced on three different types of spinning machines: roving, open end, and Dref. Each technique has distinct characteristics for mop use. A variety of fibers are used in the production of mop yarns: cotton, polyester, rayon, acrylic, and antimicrobial fibers.

Each of the spinning processes offers strengths and weaknesses. Roving spinning produces yarns with high absorption, soft hand, higher bulk, superior tensile strength, and good launderability. Consequently, they also may appear more uneven. Open end spinning produces yarns with good tensile strength, abrasion resistance, uniform appearance, and moderate cost. Dref spinning allows the use of very short fibers in the production of economic yarns having low tensile strength with a smooth appearance. Due to the means by which this yarn is formed, it is also conducive to spinning lower cost color wrap yarns. This allows color fiber to be wrapped on the outside of the yarn with the inside being some lower cost fiber.

There are other characteristics that spinning impacts in your determination of the proper yarn for the intended job. Keep in mind that yarns with greater amounts of twist are more abrasion resistant and hold up better on rough surfaces. They generally tend to have higher tensile strength, less linting, harsher hand, and lower absorption. These yarns include some 4-ply yarns, as well as those of 8 or 16 plies (plies are the number of strands twisted together). These are generally best used on rough surfaces, for stripping floors, for applying floor finish, and general-purpose applications. Softer twisted yarns have greater absorption, less shrinkage, more linting, and are less abrasion resistant. These are more conducive to damp mopping applications, where maximum absorption, floor drying ability and launderability are important.

Mop Fibers

The fiber or combination of fibers used in the yarn maximizes the characteristics of the spinning process. Cellulose fibers, cotton and rayon, offer the greatest absorption qualities. Synthetics such as polyester offer strength, while acrylic and polypropylene offer bulk, color, and antimicrobial treatment. Cotton has natural oil (pectin) on the outer sheath and must be rinsed out with warm soapy water prior to achieving its maximum absorption. Rayon, however, is purified cellulose and achieves its maximum absorption on its initial wetting.

This shows that the optimum mop would consist of a blend of the variety of fibers to achieve the benefits of each while minimizing their negatives. However, keep in mind that as far as cost is concerned, cotton fiber is the most economical followed by polyester, white acrylic, rayon, colored acrylic, and antimicrobial. As a yarn is engineered, the percent use of these fibers in a blend influences the cost and performance. Today, we are finding many that are attempting to market yarns or mops as rayon, which in truth contain 20% or less rayon. Don’t be fooled by fiber games. Understand the fiber makeup of the yarn you choose for your application.

Mop construction is the other component in determining the correct mop for the intended task. Depending on the size of the area to be cleaned, tail-banded mops with a nice spread will maximize the coverage area completed per unit of labor. Looped end mops will decrease shedding and reduce lint left on the surface of the floor. This will extend the life of the mop and in many cases allow for the laundering of the mop. Straight cut-end and deck mops lacking tail bands may offer lower cost but will require more labor units per area cleaned; therefore, increasing the cost to complete the task.

With all this in mind, it quickly becomes evident that the quality of the work and the quantity of time required to do a cleaning job are often dependent on the applicator, or in this case, the mop.

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