Mop Head and Handle Buyers' Guide

How to Choose the Right Mop Head and Handle

From cleaning up spills to applying a fresh coat of wax, each floor maintenance task requires the right tool for the job. Mop heads come in five different materials and nearly as many sizes. Add the choice between cut-end and looped-end heads, and three different types of headbands and the business of choosing a mop head can seem daunting. This guide aims to arm you with the knowledge you need to pick the right mop for the job.

Mop Head Lingo

There are a few bits of lingo associated with mop heads that you'll need to understand before you can make an informed buying decision. These words describe parts or properties of a mop head:

  • Yarn ply describes how many individual threads of fiber are twisted together to form an individual strand of mop yarn. More threads per strand result in a strong mop, but also tend to decrease the mop's ability to absorb liquids.
  • Twist is another characteristic of a mop's yarn. Some yarns are twisted more tightly than others. In general, a more tightly twisted mop head will last longer, but that comes at the cost of absorbency since the material is made more dense. A tight twist can also help prevent linting.
  • Launderability describes a mop head's ability to withstand being cleaned in a commercial washing machine. The better launderability an item is said to have, the more wash cycles it can go through before it begins to degrade. Materials with the highest launderability are microfiber, synthetic, blend, and rayon.
  • Absorbency is a material's ability to absorb liquid, which translates into its ability to clean up spills and dry floors quickly and thoroughly. Materials with good absorbency are blend, cotton, and microfiber.
  • Release is a material's ability to release its liquid as it's mopped across floors or wrung out. Mop heads with good release can be wrung out thoroughly and are ideal for applying cleaning solutions, wax, and finishes to floors. Materials with high levels of release are microfiber, rayon, and synthetic.
  • Cleaning power describes a material's ability to clean dust, dirt, and residue from floors. Materials with a good deal of cleaning power include microfiber, synthetic, and blend.
  • Each thread of a cut-end mop comes to an end at the mop's tail. This type is the least expensive, but isn't launderable and won't provide the same service life as a looped-end mop, nor will it provide the same amount of coverage.
  • Each thread of a looped-end mop is bound on both ends by the mop's headband. Looped-end heads offer better floor coverage than cut-end mops. Looped-end mops are made with tailbands that prevent mop yarn from bunching up, keeping it flat on the floor to provide better surface coverage compared to cut-end mops.

Mop Head Materials

Manufacturers use a number of different materials to make their mop heads. Each comes with its own benefits and drawbacks.

Cotton mop heads are the most economical and some of the most absorbent. Cotton mop heads dry slowly, so they're prone to mildew and quick deterioration if they aren't dried thoroughly after each use. Cotton is a good choice for spill pickup and light-duty cleaning.

Blend mop heads are made with a blend of cotton and synthetic fibers. This combination gives blend heads a good balance of affordability and performance. A blended mop head is a good choice for everyday cleaning and disinfecting.

Rayon is a semi-synthetic fiber made from cellulose with a texture similar to nylon. This material offers good absorption and release, dries quickly, and resists mildew. The downside to rayon is that it shrinks when laundered unless the product you choose has been preshrunk. Rayon is a good choice for applying floor finishes and disinfectants.

Synthetic mop heads are made with man-made fibers that provide the greatest strength out of all the available materials. This material will not lint, is highly resistant to mildew, and can be bleached without damage. Those properties make synthetic heads popular in healthcare facilities that must be disinfected and cleaned thoroughly.

Microfiber mop heads are made with very fine synthetic fibers. Microfiber is highly absorbent and offers good cleaning power. Microfiber mop heads tend to be expensive, but are some of the most durable available, so they can be laundered again and again without deteriorating. Microfiber is a premium choice for general-purpose cleaning.

Which Properties for Which Applications?

For general cleaning and spill cleanup, choose a mop with absorbency, release, and cleaning power. Cotton is a good low-cost choice for general cleaning. Premium cleaning mops are made of synthetic microfiber. Mop heads with cut ends are suitable for spill cleanup, but looped-end mops save time.

Finish mopping requires mop heads with good absorbency and release to efficiently and evenly spread finishing solutions across a floor. For thorough coverage, choose a head with looped ends.

Disinfection procedures require a material with good release, chemical resistance, and launderability. Synthetic, blend, and rayon are good choices for disinfecting floors.

Cleaning rough floors requires a tool with excellent abrasion resistance. Manufacturers offer specific products for mopping rough textures, like Carlisle's Rough n Ready, and Rubbermaid's medium and large rough wet mops.

Headband Styles

Mop headbands determine how the head is attached to the mop handle. There are three types to choose from.

  • Narrow headbands measure 1 to 114 inches wide and attach to quick-release handles, which are sometimes called stirrup-style or gate-style handles. These come at a lower price than wide-band mop heads. Despite the name, they're not as quickly changed as wider-headband mop heads.
  • Wide, 5-inch headbands attach to jaw-style handles that grip the mop head tightly. These wider headbands contribute to a more durable mop. These are quick and convenient to change, but slightly more expensive.
  • Screw top headbands attach to mop handles via threaded screws. These are the most economical, but since they're made with metal components, they can never be laundered.

Mop Head Colors and Sizes

Tailband and headband colors are used to indicate the size of a looped-end mop head.

Looped-End Headband Sizes

  • Yellow for small
  • Green for medium
  • Red for large
  • Blue for extra-large

Cut-end mops are sized by their approximate weights in ounces. Common sizes are 16-, 24-, and 32-ounces, and you're likely to come across sizes in increments between those.

Approximate Loop-End/Cut-End Size Equivalents
Small8-10 oz.
Medium16-20 oz.
Large24-32 oz.
Extra-Large32-40 oz.

Mop head yarn is often available in different colors, too. These don't usually designate any physical characteristic of the mop itself, but rather can be used in-house to designate each mop to a specific task. For example, blue heads may be reserved for cleaning up water and red ones for cleaning up potentially hazardous substances. Alternatively, mop head colors can be used to designate them to certain areas of the building.

Mop Handle Options

As we discussed above, each mop head's headband determines which style of handle it can be used with, but there are several options among each style to choose from. Many models of mop handles are color coded for the same reasons as mop heads, to designate certain ones to specific tasks or parts of your building. Mop handles are also made with different materials:

  • Wooden handles are the most economical options. They're fairly light, but their rigidity means they'll break or shatter if mishandled.
  • Aluminum mop handles are lightweight and economical, but can become bent if mishandled.
  • Fiberglass is a good balance between durability, weight, and price.