For some places, such as residences where sanitary conditions aren’t at a priority, the only thing that really matters is whether a floor looks clean. For those purposes, a broom to sweep, and a mop to swab will usually get the job done.
However, even with a mop and a bucket full of cleaning product, a simple swabbing of the floor with a mop may not actually be satisfactory if there are stringent sanitary requirements. Because of the unavoidable role, the floors play—we step on them after walking around outdoors—there are contaminants being brought in on a daily basis. Is a mop actually enough to deal with that?
The answer is “no,” and here’s why.
The biggest weakness when it comes to cleaning floors with mops is the fiber making up the mop head itself. Mops are absolutely a good idea for one very specific type of cleaning; removing liquid messes. The absorbent properties of the mop mean that liquids are effectively removed in a fast, easy manner. However, cleaning with a mop, while good at removing visible, liquid messes, is not necessarily hygienic.
The fibers that make up the mop head, while good at absorbing liquid, also retain the bacteria that have been absorbed through the liquid. Even when a mop is rinsed and squeezed, the contaminants that enter into the fibers remain. This means that, over time, a mop accumulates more and more possible contaminants, and every time it is put to use, it is just “pushing around” those contaminants on the floor.
For facilities with more strict sanitary requirements, such as hospitals or even restaurants, there are real dangers to having too much bacteria accumulate on the ground. Contracting bacteria or a virus can take place through two means; direct and indirect contact. Direct contact is easy enough to understand. If someone kneels down, and some exposed part of their body makes contact with the floor, such as touching something with a hand, that is direct contact.
Indirect contact is far more common, however. Reaching down to tie shoelaces, for example, is indirect contact. Whatever contagion may have been on the floor transfers to a shoelace. Now a person who notices the undone shoelace ties it back up, making direct contact with that shoelace. In this way, contaminant transfer still occurs.
This is not to say that mops should be eliminated from cleaning. If mops are thoroughly sanitized with disinfectant, then quickly dried, as opposed to being stored wet, to dry out naturally, this can properly sterilize them.
However, other solutions, such as spray-and-vac, or “no touch” cleaning systems do a safer, faster, more efficient job of cleaning floors to healthy, sanitary levels. If you’re curious about whether your floor surfaces are safe, try using an ATP monitoring system on your floors. These are usually deployed for testing food preparation services like counters but can do a similar job of telling you what type of bacterial levels you may be looking at for seemingly clean kitchen and bathroom floors.