Updated February 2011

Wet, dry or something in between?

Wet mops, including string mops and sponge mops, typically provide the most thorough cleaning. They are good for tough jobs that require scrubbing and for cleaning up spills. Experts say sponge mops are less absorbent than string mops, because string mops have more surface area for soaking up liquids. Some newer wet mops (notably Swiffer mops) offer convenience features such as disposable cleaning pads and cleaning solution that can be sprayed directly from the handle. Experts say this new generation of mops is best suited for regular, light-duty cleaning jobs in between deep cleanings with string and sponge mops. Some floor mops are designed specifically for hardwood floors. These generally have flat cleaning heads that can be used either wet or dry; the mop heads can be washed and reused.

Dry mops, also referred to as dust mops, can be used on all hard surfaces including walls, ceilings and furniture. They are great at removing dirt from hard-to-reach places, especially corners, but they aren't as effective at scrubbing stuck-on dirt. Unfortunately there isn't a lot of information about dust mops, nor are there any reviews of specific models. But many mops, including the Libman Wonder Mop and the Rubbermaid Reveal Spray Mop, can also be used dry, so they can double as dust mops.

Steam mops are popular cleaning tools that rely on electricity and water to generate steam in order to clean floors. Steam mops, however, can be messy to use, and it takes longer to clean a floor with a steam mop than with a regular mop. Furthermore, steam mops can leave floors very wet and are not recommended for hardwood floors. For more information or to see which models are top-rated, see our separate report on steam mops.

Reviewers say the following about shopping for a floor mop:

  • Consider ongoing costs. Most mops are relatively inexpensive, but some require replacement pads and cleaning solution, and accessories can become costly over time.
  • String or sponge mops for deep cleaning. String and sponge mops need to be wrung out frequently and can be heavy. Some models use lightweight materials and have convenient features such as wringer sleeves to make it easier to wring out dirty water. String and sponge mops can clean larger areas than flat-head mops, and they're better for deep cleaning.
  • Flat-head mops for everyday cleaning. Mops that use either disposable pads or washable microfiber covers are a good choice for cleaning small areas.
  • Consider total floor area. For larger areas, mops that use disposable pads aren't very efficient, since you'll need several pads. If you have lots of floor space, consider a mop with reusable pads or a string or sponge mop.

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