Cleaning & Restoration Association News

The Cotton Wet Mop

September 13, 2000
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A cotton mop head is an integral part of the hard floor maintenance technician’s toolbox. Because of its relatively low price and versatile application, the cotton mop head can be an asset.

The professional hard floor maintenance technician understands the value of specialized tools, but also understands the importance of a tool that can be used in diverse situations. The cotton wet mop is a tool that fills the multiple service function needs nicely from solution application to mild agitation, solution removal and coating applications. In the case of coating applications, the wet mop is to the hard floor maintenance technician what the paintbrush is to the artist.

Mop Heads

The most important segment of the mop is the mop head. The string mop consists of multiple strings or yarn (synthetic, rayon, cotton or a blend) sewn into a material backing. The headband material (canvas, nylon or a synthetic mesh) attaches to the yoke, clamp or handle. The length and weight of the strands vary depending on the material used and the intended use. The style of the mop can be either a cut- or looped-end with or without a tail band. Cut-end mops have individual strands or strings cut squarely at the end of the mop; loop-end mops have loops at the end. All these aspects affect the overall weight and performance of the mop, as well as the way it’s laid on the floor.

The selection of the mop head, generally determined by the technician’s personal preference, is important for physical fatigue as well as results. The technician may try several before deciding on what works best for him/her, and some may choose to use different mop types for different chemical applications.

The Cotton Mop Head

Cotton, as the most absorbent material used in the manufacture of wet mop heads, can hold more than seven times its weight in liquid. Several grades of cotton are available, which allow you a selection depending on the environment and the intended application. Lower grade 4-ply cottons are excellent for industrial capacities where mopping large, very soiled areas is required. However, this type isn’t recommended for applying coatings. The coarser fibers have a tendency to leave lint and streak. Whereas a higher quality, long staple, tight twist 8-ply yarn can be used in any environment and is excellent for coating applications.

Coating Application

Most technicians will agree that the cotton mop is a great tool to mop with, but will argue about the properties of coating application. This is generally due to inexperience with using the proper cotton mop head and inappropriate curing techniques. In my opinion, the best overall cotton mop head is a 24-ounce, high quality long staple tight twist 8-ply cut-end yarn with a narrow headband. This particular mop head type can be used for all mopping applications.

For wet mopping procedures, the cotton mop head can carry sufficient solution to ensure cleaning is taking place. The weight of a cotton wet mop head is more than that of a synthetic, rayon or blend, which means you get more contact. The fibers have more texture than their synthetic counterparts; thus better agitation and cleaning ability. And, because of the absorption ability, soils are caught in the fibers and removed rather than passed over and left behind.

For coating applications, the cotton wet mop holds more seal/finish, therefore allowing more coverage before having to replenish with coating chemical. The weight of the mop head holds it to the floor more closely and allows a uniform application. If the mop head is properly cured, the softer fibers allow a smoother application with less likelihood of streaking.

Curing the Cotton Mop

The biggest problem with the cotton wet mop head is that most technicians do not know how to cure them for optimum performance. Cotton mop heads are protected with a chemical that needs to be removed. To remove this chemical, fill a receptacle with approximately 10 gallons of water, mix in one cup of neutral cleaner and two cups of bleach. The cleaner breaks down the chemical while the bleach softens and whitens the cotton fibers. Place the mop heads in the solution and allow them to soak overnight, you can expedite this process if necessary. If you use plastic or fiberglass handles with plastic yokes you can attach the mop heads to the handles; if you use mop handles with a metal yoke, soak the mop heads first and place them on the handle for rinsing. Metal yokes tend to corrode in bleach mixtures.

After the mop heads have soaked, rinse them thoroughly. This can be accomplished by using an empty mop bucket and wringer and an empty five-gallon pail. Fill the pail with two to three gallons of clean water and churn the mop up and down in the water. Take the mop out and wring the excess into the empty bucket with the wringer. Now, pour the soiled water from the pail and repeat the process. Do this until the mop bucket is full of soiled solution, at this point, the mop should be thoroughly rinsed and ready for action. If it’s not, repeat the process until you are satisfied.


The mop head is an integral part of the hard floor maintenance technician’s toolbox. The cotton mop head can be an asset because of its relatively low price and versatile application. Remember that all mop heads are not the same, so find one that suits you best. You may feel that cotton mop heads don’t meet your needs as a professional, but properly cured cotton mop heads may be something you have never experienced before. If you have never used a cotton mop, I encourage you to look into the possibilities offered.

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