The right mop can make getting a clean floor less of a chore
Keeping your hard floors clean is one of the big pains -- and big necessities -- of life. To really remove all the dirt and gunk hiding in your hard floors, you have to use some combination of hot water and scrubbing -- adding some type of dedicated floor cleaner can also help you clean more deeply and disinfect your hard floors.
Unless you really love getting down on your hands and knees and putting your back into the job, a good mop will be your best friend when it comes to keeping your floors sparkling. The best mops are easy to push around, have a system for wringing out the water, are maneuverable enough to get into corners and under cupboards, and won't buckle under when you need to lean in and use a bit of muscle to scrub. Some mops can even be used as a dry dust mop to prepare the floor.
The one feature that a mop really needs -- with the exception of spray mops (see below) -- is a way to wring it out. Otherwise, the mop will be heavy, the excess water will pool on the floor, and the mop won't absorb that liquid so it will take forever for the floor to dry. All of the mops in this report either have some type of integral wringing technology, or include -- or can be paired with -- a bucket with a built-in wringer.
The one drawback to any mop if you use a single bucket (again, except for spray mops) is that the water in the bucket will get dirtier as you mop. The solution for that is to either use two buckets (one for cleaning, one for rinsing), use a double sink (which means you have to keep walking back and forth to the sink), or do one pass for cleaning and a second pass for rinsing, changing the water in the bucket in between the two passes.
Of course, before you can wet mop you have to start with a dry cleaning to remove the bigger bits a mop can't handle. That means either sweeping with a broom, dusting with a dust mop, or using a good vacuum cleaner designed for hard floors. We cover vacuums that will get your floors ready for wet mopping in our separate reports on upright vacuums, canister vacuums and stick vacuums. Also, if you really need a deep cleaning, we recommend some good steam mops for that task as well.
Types of mops
Basic wet floor mops are the most common type. They have either a set of strings, strips of cloth or a sponge for cleaning and absorbing spills. They are also variously known as string mops, rag mops or sponge mops. String and rag mops need a system for wringing out the excess water or they can be used with a bucket that includes a wringer. You can also wring by hand, but it can be difficult both to grasp and twist the mop head and to get all of the excess water out. Sponge mops generally have some sort of device to squeeze the excess water out of the sponge, either on the handle or at the base. The most popular material for floor mops are microfiber strips; these are very effective at cleaning, wring out thoroughly, and can be tossed in the washing machine. That said, traditional cotton string mops are still around and many swear by them.
Spin mops are just regular floor mops, but they include a system for wringing out the excess water in the mop, usually a bucket with a wringer that is operated either by a foot pedal or by placing the mop in the wringer, causing it to "spin." Some actually squeeze and wring the mop out, while others just use centrifugal force to spin the mop dry. The latter type is superior because it does a better job of squeezing out excess moister. Spin mop heads are round and the strings or strips are made from lightweight, absorbent materials. Thanks to a swiveling head and lay flat handle, they maneuver well and can get under even narrow spaces. Both basic mops and spin mops can be used with any type of floor cleaning liquid, or just with hot water.
Spray mops are very convenient because they include a container for cleaning solution that's attached to the mop handle, and pads that attach to the base. Just spray, mop and discard the pad when it's dirty. There's a cost to this convenience, of course; pads and liquid refills can be expensive, and the mops operate on battery power so the batteries have to be replaced occasionally. Some people also worry about the environmental impact of all those disposable accessories, although some mops have refillable containers that can use any type of cleaning solution and washable, reusable pads. Also, spray mops are just for cleaning, they will not absorb water like a traditional mop.
How we found the best mops
There are no comparative professional reviews of mops, so we carefully analyzed thousands of owner reviews we found at retail sites, such as Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Target.com, to name just a few. These user reviews give a thorough overview of how each type of mop operates in real-world, long-term use. In evaluating these reviews, we consider performance, convenience, ease of use and durability. For spin mops, we also found quite a few independent "does it really do that?" tests that were helpful in narrowing down the many offerings of this popular type of mop. The great thing about mops is that they are relatively inexpensive, so unless you are on the tightest of budgets, don't be afraid to try a few to find the perfect mop for you.
Elsewhere in this report:
Best Basic Mops | Best Spray Mops | Buying Guide | Our Sources