How to Clean a Mop Head

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When we clean something like a floor, the dirt and germs that we are removing end up in the towel or mop that we used. A towel is easy to throw into the washing machine after we are done, but what happens with a mop?

With the added issue of a long handle, we might have to come up with different ways to clean a mop head.

How to Clean a Mop Head

Even though the action of mopping floors includes soap or floor cleaner, that doesn’t mean that every bit of grime magically falls off into the bucket. Floors are non-porous, so the germs sit on top of it. A mop has a porous texture by design to hold water to clean and re-capture it when it is dirty.

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Regardless of the wringing method you use to get all the dirty water out of your mop, there will be a buildup of microbes that the simple act of cleaning floors will not remove. Even worse, if your mop is already dirty from cleaning tile grout from your vinyl floors, the possibility of adding germs to your flooring is more likely than removing the ones that are already there.

Cleaning a mop head correctly is an important thing to learn in order to keep your house clean and your family healthy.

The First Step in Cleaning Your Mop Head

After you finish mopping your concrete floor, be sure to wring out as much of the dirty water and cleaner as possible. Normally you might immediately rinse the mop head, but when you are preparing for a deep cleaning there are some other steps you can take to improve the cleaning process.

At the end of your floor cleaning process, prepare a bucket or other large receptacle by filling with hot water and white vinegar. The proportion should be about a half-cup of white vinegar per gallon of water. Add about 2.5 cups in the large 5-gallon orange bucket sold at a popular nationwide chain of hardware stores.

Soak the mop head in the water and vinegar solution for about 10 minutes, agitating every few minutes with a pushing and twisting motion from the mop handle. This will help break down and release any oil or grease that has made a home there. Take the mop head out of the bucket and rinse under warm to hot water until the water runs clear.

Cleaning Different Types of Mop Heads

Not every mop is the same. With different materials being used in the cleaning fibers, and different construction with some mop heads being removable, there is not one single answer. The basic concept is that you need to both clean and disinfect the mop head to the best of your ability.

Here are the different methods to clean different mops that you will normally find in a home or workplace environment.

Detachable Mop Heads

When you can remove the mop head from the handle, a lot of different options open up for cleaning methods. You will need to determine what general type of material is used in the cleaning surface of the mop head to decide which of these methods will suit you best.

Learn how to clean a mop head

Cleaning Mop Heads Made of Yarn, Towel, or Cloth

Most of the time when you need to clean a mop head made out of these materials, you can just throw them in the washing machine. Some of the more poorly made towel mop heads may shred when put through a washing machine cycle, so try to check the manufacturer’s instructions before you throw away the packaging.

Use hot water and add about the same amount of bleach you would for a regular load of laundry. Since we are talking about a fairly large range of products, we do not have a specific setting for your washing machine, but permanent press seems to be a fairly safe bet.

Be sure not to put the mop head in with your regular laundry! There may still be gunk on the mop fibers that you won’t want to transfer to your clothes, and some removable heads have metal pieces that can scratch or tear everyday materials when placed in an agitating cycle.

Do not put your mop head in the dryer.

Cleaning Sponge Mop Heads

Mop heads made out of sponge material do not deal well with the agitating motion of a washing machine. Thankfully, the high temperature of a dishwasher can help sanitize them. You can combine cleaning your mop head with the recommended dishwasher maintenance of running an empty vinegar cycle once every other month or so. 

You could clean it at the same time as your daily dishes, but there is a possibility that food debris could get caught in the mop head.

Place your sponge mop head in the top rack of your otherwise empty dishwasher. Add a cup of white vinegar either to the dishwasher’s detergent dispenser, or to a dishwasher safe container placed on the top rack.

Fixed Mop Heads

It would be very hard to put an entire mop assembly into a home appliance like a washing machine or dishwasher. With a fixed head mop, we need to look at different options.

Similar to the soaking method described above, the best option is to use a bucket combined with a sanitizing solution of equal parts bleach and water. Because of the large amount of bleach, be careful not to spill any on your clothes or skin. If you splash some bleach on your skin, rinse off with cool water.

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While the head is in the bucket, move it around a bit so that all surfaces absorb the solution, but do not agitate it too much. Let the strong bleach solution do the work.

Dry Mops

There are other mops we use around the house that don’t have much contact with water, like a dust mop or a mop specifically made for applying wax. On a regular basis, it is important to take these mops outside, or to an area that is easy to sweep, and shake them until we get as much dust and debris possible out of them. For a little bit better cleaning process, carefully vacuum the dry mop head.

It is recommended to deep clean a dry mop when they become exceptionally dirty, in some cases a few times a year, especially if they get heavy use. A washing machine or hand wash with mild detergent should do the trick.

After Cleaning a Mop Head

  • Squeeze out all excess water.
  • Allow to dry completely either in a well-ventilated place indoors (bathroom tubs work nicely since they will contain any dripping water), or ideally outside in the sun with the mop head facing up.
  • Store in a dry place with the mop head off the ground.

Mopping Tips

  • Replace a mop head about every 3 months, or any time it smells musty even after cleaning and drying.
  • If using removable heads, separate the head from the handle and hang the mop head for storage.
  • After washing floors, be sure to rinse, agitating the mop head, until the water runs clear.
  • Consider using two buckets when mopping – one for the cleaner, and the other for clean water.
  • Mop the bathrooms last so they do not spread bacteria to the rest of the house.


There are a few different types of mop heads so one solution for cleaning them, in this case, does not fit all. As long as the basic ideas are kept to – removing grease, sanitizing, and drying completely, your mop will perform well for a long period of time.

Allen Michael is the Founder and Editor of Home Viable, a website that he started to provide readers with tips on home efficiency and automation. He draws on his engineering background combined with his family-of-four experiences for his articles.