Ask a Clean Person: It’s Time to Talk About Your Floors

I give up; I can’t keep fighting you. You’ve utterly defeated me. So fine, let’s talk about how to clean the floors.

You guys? No but really you guys? I need you to really hear me when I say this: I absolutely hate cleaning the floors. I hate even thinking about it.

It has to be done, though, and I do it all the time, so today we’re going to go through the basics of (1) what cleaning products to use, (2) what type of surfaces to use them on, and (3) how to use them. Real talk: This is going to be an overview. Questions about micro problems, unusual flooring types, the time you played beauty parlor and got leg wax all over your floors? Send all those to cleaning@thehairpin.com. Well. Don’t send the one about the leg wax because I’ve already got one of those and we’ll get to that next week and also God bless, I love you crazy bitches.

With that said, let’s break this baby down.

What kind of cleaning solution to use on…

Wood Flooring & Parquet: dishsoap & water solution; ammonia & water solution; Murphy’s Oil Soap; Pine Sol; Fabuloso.

Tile & Grout: OxyClean & water (greenies! This is your product of choice, OK? OK!); bleach & water; bleach-based cleaning products (think Tilex, Clorox Clean-up and the like).

Linoleum: dishsoap & water; ammonia & water; Pine Sol; Fabuloso.

Laminate: vinegar & water; glass cleaner & water.

Lacquer or Shellac: microfiber mop with a spray-on cleaner like Bona. (As an aside, I grew up in Boston and cannot read the word ‘Bona’ without giggling like a 12-year-old boy.)

Marble, Terrazo: dishsoap & water.

The big thing to get here is to try different things out. Find the product that you and your floors love the best! You do you! We’re all special snowflakes and so are our floors! But it’s important to be an informed experimenter… which leads me to what I think will be the most useful thing I’ll ever tell you and why haven’t other Clean People thought of this before?!? (Because I understand you and your needs better than other Clean People do, that’s why.)

What never to use on…

Wood Flooring & Parquet: wood furniture spray (like Pledge or Endust); very hot water; excessive amounts of water.

Tile & Grout: vacuum with a beater bar; abrasives.

Linoleum: wax-based products.

Laminate: ammonia; soap; abrasives.

Lacquer or Shellac: water.

Marble, Terrazo: ammonia; vinegar; lemon; abrasives; oils & fats.

What technique to use on…

Wood Flooring & Parquet: Sweep or dry mop first, then either damp mop or handsies & kneesies wash, then polish with a dry cloth.

Tile & Grout: Sweep or dry mop first, then handsies & kneesies scrub, then polish with a dry cloth.

Linoleum: Sweep or dry mop first, then either damp mop or handsies & kneesies scrub.

Laminate: Sweep or dry mop first, then damp mop, then polish with a dry cloth.

Lacquer or Shellac: Sweep or dry mop, then every-so-slightly damp mop, then polish with a dry cloth.

Stone: Sweep or dry mop first, then mop or handsies & kneesies wash.

But, like, how…?

Sweeping: Grab a broom. Sweep the floor. Move all the grunge into a little pile. Sweep the little pile into a dustpan or vacuum it up.

Dry Mopping: Dry mops are the pre-cursor to the Swiffer and honestly? They’re kind of gross, even though they’re good at what they do! Mostly because the mop-y part picks up a boatload of hair and dust bunnies and then? That needs to be dealt with? If you’re a super lucky person who has her own washer/dryer then this is fine! Because you can just detach the mop-y part and launder it, along with your dirty rags and enjoy your life of privilege while the rest of us envy you and wonder what to do with this dust animal living in our home. I say stick with sweeping.

Damp Mopping: Ladies listen up! You know how you’re always all Jolieeeeeee!! How do I mop??? The biggest thing I want you to know about mopping is that this is a DAMP process. Not a wet one. Wet is great in many, many circumstances ifyouknowwhatImeanandIthinkyoudo but not when it comes to cleaning your floors. Damp. We’re going for damp here.

With that said, here’s how you mop:

Get a mop! You can either go for a sponge mop or a string mop. Regardless of which one you choose, the idea is the same — you’ll need to put your cleaning solution in a receptacle big enough to fit the mop, so… a bucket, the sink, your tub, a trash barrel, a punch bowl? I dunno! WHATEVER WORKS FOR YOU! OK then you’re gonna stick your mop in it. GO AHEAD AND DIRTY TALK THE MOP! “Awwww yeah mop. Stick it in there.” Wait. Why are you looking at me like that? You mean to tell me that you’ve never smut talked your cleaning products? Cripes, ladies… live a little!

Now comes the most important part: You must wring the mop out. You absolutely do not want to be soaking your floors. Wring wring wring wring wring. OK now you’re ready to hit the floor, so! Working along the grain of the floor you’re going to push the mop forward while bearing down firmly but not too hard. When your mop starts to feel too dry or you notice that you’re just pushing wet muck all over your floor, stick it back in your cleaning solution, wring it a few times in the solution to release the dirt it just picked up, then remove it from the solution and wring wring wring wring wring. Then back to your mopping. Depending on how vast and/or filthy your floors are, you may need to change out your cleaning solution partway through the process. When you’ve mopped the entire surface, you’ll want to go over it with a dry cloth to get up any excess cleaning solution, dirt and to avoid streaking.

OK so that’s how you mop! Try it out, see if it works for you… but for whatever it’s worth, I don’t care for mopping. For one, it’s just miserable and awkward. For two, I feel like mops are super gross and so is the mopping water and uch. I just can’t abide it.

Handsies & Kneesies Scrub: This is your technique of choice for tile and grout, and I sort of see that your little faces just collapsed when I said that but hang tight! It’s not actually as bad as you think because I’ve got a secret to share with you! The real trick to dealing with tile and grout is to let the cleaning products do most of the work for you. If you’re using OxyClean, you’ll want to dissolve a cup of Oxy in two gallons of water and pour the solution all over the floor; if you’re using a bleach-based product, spray the floor liberally with it, making sure to wear rubber gloves to protect your delicate paws. Unlike wood floors, tile is an area where you should feel free to soak the surface with impunity. (By which I mean impunity-within-reason. Don’t flood your bathroom or anything!)

Once the cleaning solution is down walk away. Let it sit for 15–30 minutes, then go back in with a scrub brush and chh-chh-chh scrub away at it. It’s not a bad idea to have a toothbrush on hand to get into corners and up against the seam of the wall. Work in sections, going over the ares that you’ve scoured with a sponge or wet rag to wipe up the suds, then again over the area with a dry rag. Then walk away again. It might not immediately look as clean as you want it to be, but as the grout dries you’ll start to notice a major, major difference.

Handsies & Kneesies Wash: For my money, this is the best way to clean a floor. The first time you do it, you’re going to want to kill yourself. The second time, you’ll maybe want to cut yourself a little bit. But then? It just won’t seem that bad.

You’ll need a bucket filled with cleaning solution, a sponge or rag to dip in the solution, and a dry rag to polish the area you’re washing. Dip your sponge or rag in the solution, wring it out, and then go over the floor in sections, sort of working a wax-on, wax-off maneuver with the wet and dry rags. Just like with mopping, you’ll need to change the washing solution out when it gets really grody.

And finally … why I hate those blasted Swiffer products

My general objection to those blasted Swiffer products was summed up nicely by commentess karion, who noted, “I am going to guess that Jolie hates Swiffers because they give a false sense of clean — that is, they don’t really clean anything, they just pick up some stray dirt and mostly just push the piles of dirt around.”

That’s it, mostly, but to take it further, the problem is that I worry that the “shortcut” nature of them breeds laziness. They’re also expensive and not particularly earth-friendly. With that said, they can be fantastic products if you use them correctly. The first thing you need to accept is that one pad is not going to be enough. When you bring the Swiffer out, no matter if it’s a wet or dry version of the product, you also should plan to use at least two or three of the disposable cleaning pads. They pick up gunk and need to be replaced if you want to avoid spreading that gunk all over the place. But of course, in the time it takes you to Swiffer properly and change the pads out, you might as well have just gotten a rag and some cleaning solution and gotten down on your handsies & kneesies. I dunno. They’re mostly just useless and silly and a waste of time and energy unless you’re using them as daily maintenance in which case alkshlfshkgdhkhdlakslk YOU’RE DOING DAILY MAINTENANCE??? I’m so happy right now!

Also I just really like referring to them as “those blasted Swiffer products” and secretly I think you like it too.

OK so now it’s your turn! What do you love love love to use on your floors? What absolute disasters have you had?? How mad at me are you for telling you to wash your floors on your handsies & kneesies???

Previously: Grease Stains Everywhere.

Also: Floors in Art.

Jolie Kerr is not paid to endorse any of the products mentioned in this column, but she sure would be very happy to accept any free samples the manufacturers care to send her way! Are you looking for a green alternative to the suggestions found here? Because we’ve got some! More importantly: Is anything you own dirty?