Cleaning & Restoration Association News

Letters to the Editor: The Cotton Wet Mop

December 4, 2000
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Re: “The Cotton Wet Mop” (September 2000 ICS) I was made aware of an article that was published in your September issue of ICS Cleaning Specialist by a mop manufacturer in the industry. He was concerned with some of the points made in the article and how they were at odds with industry norms.

I am a third generation manufacturer of yarn used for the production of mops. Our company began in 1936 to supply cotton and blend yarns for use in wet mops and dust mops. Today we are the largest producers of yarns for mops in the US and some believe the world. I say this only to give some validity to my statements that follow.

Within the article I found several misstatements regarding cotton mops. It was stated that cotton is the most absorbent material used in the manufacture of wet mop heads. It went on to say that they can hold 7x their weight in liquid. Cotton is a cellulose fiber and as such will absorb a great deal of liquid. However, due to oils found naturally, not chemicals added, cotton must be broken in and these natural oils known as pectin, removed, before achieving maximum absorption. After break-in, the cotton fibers will absorb in the range of 4 to 5 times their weight. Rayon, on the other hand, is also a cellulose fiber. However, it differs from cotton in that it is purified through a man made process and possesses no oils or pectin's. Rayon is actually made from wood pulp. Because it is purified and because there are no oils found on it, it will achieve its maximum absorption on its 1st wetting without the need for breaking in. Rayon will absorb approximately the same or slightly more liquid than cotton.

Furthermore, the amount of twist in the yarn, the type of spinning utilized, and the type of fibers within the yarn can significantly affect the maximum absorption of the yarn. In many cases, a blend of an assortment of fibers will achieve a higher absorption level than a yarn consisting of a single fiber type. When considering the right tool for the application of floor finish, we have found over years of work with the industry that the ideal tool will be a blend of rayon/polyester/acrylic in a tightly twisted yarn. There are many reasons for this. The primary purpose of the tool is to transport finish from the bucket to the floor, apply it evenly, and leave no trace of the tool on the floor. Small, tightly twisted, cotton yarns, when well rinsed and prepared can be used.

However, we have found that the time invested to prepare the cotton mop correctly costs much more that the price of a mop made from a blend of fibers whose sole purpose is to lay finish. We have also found that few people actually prepare a cotton mop correctly. A poorly prepared cotton mop can leave fiber, seed particles, and streaks; thus leaving a lackluster job. Blended yarns require no preparation other than to be rinsed in tap water to remove any lint that may be clinging to the outside of the yarn. After use they can be rinsed and stored in air tight bags for re-use at other times. Many of these yarns are color coded with a candy stripe effect to denote its use for solely laying floor finish. This diminishes the chance for mixed use and contamination. Use of the correct tool speeds the process and produces a better-finished product. I might also add that the type of spinning used to manufacture a yarn for mops makes a significant difference in the characteristics of the yarn. Spinning types affect absorption, abrasion resistance, strength, and appearance.

Furthermore, the use of bleach on a cotton mop may make it look brighter but it will decrease the life of the mop. Bleach attacks and breaks down the cellulose structure of both the cotton and rayon fiber. It can also discolor some synthetics. Over drying of a laundered mop can also cause premature deterioration of the mop. I look forward to seeing more of your work in our industry in the months and editions ahead.

W. Ralph Jones, III

President & CEO Jones Companies Ltd. Stanley Quentin Hulin responds: Thank you for clearing up the facts on my unintentional misstatements regarding cotton mops. I appreciate the condensed lesson on mop fibers as well as the time you spent on responding to this article. The information in your letter is exactly what the hard floor maintenance professional needs to make knowledgeable decisions regarding one of the most critical tools that they use in their day-to-day lives. Is there any published information regarding mop yarns that may be of interest to the hard floor maintenance professional? Thank you for your time and attention.

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