Glenn Rasin

By: Glenn Rasin on October 22nd, 2020

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Flat Mop vs String Mop: The Benefits of Using a Flat Mop

Hard floors are common in many commercial facilities, requiring weekly and in some cases daily maintenance. Mopping is an age-old floor cleaning technique and is still one of the most common methods to clean commercial hard floors. 

There are several common types of mops for cleaning commercial hard floors, but two of the most common are flat mops and string mops. 

String mops are the most traditional mop type and are a staple in many facilities. However, string mops are often used with improper procedures leading to an increased risk of cross-contamination and dirty floors. Flat mops can replace string mops providing a better, more hygienic clean. 

In this article and video, we’ll review the difference between flat mops and string mops, and why you might consider a flat mop versus a string mop.

String Mops Vs Flat Mops

String Mops 

Blend Mop

String mops are the oldest mop in the industry. There are two common types of string mops used for cleaning: cotton and synthetic.

Cotton mops are the most economical string mop. Although they are cheap, they are not extremely effective at cleaning hard floors for a variety of reasons. 

Cotton string mops should primarily be used for cleaning up wet spills. 

Synthetic, sometimes referred to as blended string mops, are more expensive than cotton string mops but are more effective for cleaning. Although more effective than cotton string mops, they still pose a greater risk of cross-contamination and are more likely to leave behind dirt than flat mops. 

Flat Mops


Unlike string mops, flat mops are long pads which do not require a bucket of solution and water for cleaning like the common string mop. 

They can be made of many different yarn types, most notably disposable and reusable microfiber. 

When to use a flat mop vs string mop

Flat mops are a better choice than string mops for daily cleaning. Flat mops are not susceptible to the same problems that make string mops less effective. 

Below we’ll review some of the most common problems with wet mopping using a string mop, and how flat mops can help your staff achieve better, cleaner results. 

3 Common Problems with String Mops 

Problem #1: String Mops Must Be Used With a Bucket System

The biggest reason string mops are ineffective at cleaning floors is because they are used with the wrong cleaning procedures. 

When mopping with a string mop you are either using the single or double bucket system. Both techniques run the risk of spreading contaminants. Mop Bucket

In the single bucket system, there is one pail for clean and dirty water. As a result, when you dip the mop back into the bucket the solution becomes soiled. Every time the mop is used on the floor and brought back to the bucket for rinsing, the solution becomes more and more contaminated. Dirty water is unavoidably brought back to the floor as the mopping procedure continues. The only way to avoid this is to constantly change out the solution, and in most cases, this is not feasible due to time, labor, and other resource restrictions. 

The double bucket method is a better mopping method given that there are separate cleaning and rinsing containers on the mop cart. However, even though there are two separate compartments, the mop fibers still trap and absorb contaminants from each pass which can aid in the spread of dirt and pathogens throughout the building.  

With a bucket there is also an increased risk of water and chemical spills. 

Rubbermaid Pulse Flat Mop SystemThe Benefit of Flat Mops: 

Most flat mops can be paired with on-board chemical solutions, eliminating the need for a mop bucket. On-board chemical dispensers have a container mounted on the handle of the mop that holds the solution. When a lever or trigger is pulled, the unit dispenses the chemical directly to the floor. 

This system helps your staff perform cleaning procedures more quickly and with better accuracy. Additionally, it greatly reduces the risk of cross-contamination by eliminating the need to dip the mop in a bucket of dirty solution. 

There is also no chance of water or chemical spills from the mop bucket. 

Problem #2: String Mops Trap Contaminants and Increase the Risk of Cross-Contamination When Used In Multiple Areas 

The mop and bucket method is often used for several areas of the building which may include the kitchen and the restroom. However, when mops are used in multiple areas, there is an increased risk of cross contamination. 

Mop fibers are designed to trap dirt and germs. This becomes an issue because instead of cleaning they can actually spread dirt and germs throughout your facility. 

In many cases, the mop is not properly laundered or washed at all between uses. 

The Benefit of Flat Mops: 

Many flat mops are disposable. Disposable flat mops make it easy to change the mop between areas. Mop pads should only be used in one area of your facility then disposed of to eliminate the risk of cross-contamination between areas. Reusable Microfiber Mop

They are also more efficient in cleaning tight areas where string mops would not be effective such as tight corners. 

Reusable microfiber mops are more effective in removing soils from the floors, but must be properly laundered to minimize the risk of cross-contamination. 

Pro Tip: Microfiber is difficult to wash. Microfiber is easily damaged by heat, certain chemicals, and too much agitation.


Learn more about the differences between disposable microfiber and reusable microfiber in this article:  

Disposable vs Reusable Microfiber Mops: 6 Considerations for Choosing

Problem #3: Cotton String Mops Have a “Break-In” Period 

One of the inherent properties of cotton is that it can “lint” or leave behind fibers on your floor.Cotton Mop

When trying to mop your floor clean with a cotton string mop, you may find that your floors have strands of the mop on them causing them to look dirty.

With cotton string mops you may also find that they leave behind a layer of cottonseed oil. 

The Benefit of Flat Mops: 

Flat mops are synthetic, and eliminate the chance of linting. 

Additionally, they do not have a break in period so your staff won't have to worry about the mop extruding oils. 

Final Thoughts 

When it comes to choosing a mop head, cotton string mops remain a common mop choice given its long history.  Yet, it is not the best choice for daily cleaning. 

Traditional cotton string mops are great to use because of their absorbency and scrubbing power. However, they are not the most efficient. They are often used with ineffective cleaning procedures and are difficult to clean, leading to increased risk of spreading dirt and germs. Additionally, cotton string mops tend to fall apart more quickly. These inexpensive mops will be best for small area spill clean up. 

The flat mop is optimal for daily cleaning and getting hard to reach areas such as corners. They do not lint, and are durable. Flat mops eliminate the need for a single or double mop bucket, and increase the level of clean in your facility. 

EBP has been the leading provider of commercial cleaning products and janitorial cleaning equipment for over 100 years. 

EBP has been a leading distributor of commercial cleaning supplies and janitorial cleaning equipment for over 100 years. EBP has an unrivaled selection of commercial cleaning products and janitorial cleaning equipment to help you build the most effective floor care program.

To help you better understand the different types of commercial mops and where to use them, we put together a quick reference guide:

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About Glenn Rasin

Glenn Rasin is the Chemical Specialist for EBP Supply Solutions and Lead Trainer for the EBP Training Academy, which offers CMI-certified training courses for supervisory and front-line cleaning professionals throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. He is an ISSA CMI-certified trainer, with over 35 years of experience in the janitorial and sanitation industry.