What Is Dry Mopping?

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There are many different ways, and possibly many different steps, to cleaning hardwood and other non-carpeted types of flooring. For daily cleaning, many like to sweep to get rid of surface dust, loose dirt, and animal hair. But dry mopping, or dust mopping, is a better way.

So what is dry mopping? This is a method of cleaning where using a specialized mop or mop head, you run the dry fabric (without water or cleaning solution) over the floor. These mops are designed to pick up dirt and catch it in its fibers, as opposed to flinging it all over the place when you sweep it with a broom.

What Is Dry Mopping?

Dry mopping is a very gentle process that can be used daily for keeping floors consistently clean. When performed regularly, it will reduce the amount of deep cleaning that your floor may require, and extend the lifespan of your flooring material.

Dry Mopping vs. Sweeping

In most cases, dry mopping can take the place of sweeping. Dry mop materials are softer than most brooms, so unless you have a broom that has very gentle and flexible bristles, stick with a dry mop on flooring surfaces that are prone to scratching, such as vinyl and laminate flooring.

Woman using a mop while wondering what is dry mopping

Other benefits:

  • Dry mops pick up most dirt, including sand, and holds it in its material instead of having to sweep it around the room.
  • Nobody likes using a dustpan. With a dry mop, you simply shake it out.
  • Since dust is held within the mop material, it can be easier on those with allergies. Sweeping with a broom usually flings dust and allergens into the air.

In situations where there are piles of dirt that would completely clog a dry mop, a broom would be the better choice.

Dry Mopping vs. Wet Mopping

To be clear, wet mopping cleans much more thoroughly than dry mopping. However, when you just need to refresh your floors, having a dry mop at your disposal is very useful.

As a precursor to wet mopping, dry mop your concrete floors to remove as much loose dirt and hair as possible. This will make your wet mop more efficient, and keep your mop water from getting dirty too quickly.

Person using a BISSELL Spinwave to mop her wooden floors

Dry Mopping Procedure

To use a dry mop, first make sure that the mop head is clean and free of dirt, hair, debris, or anything else that may have accumulated the last time(s) you used it.

  1. Adjust the handle to a comfortable length
  2. Start at a far corner of the room to be mopped
  3. Place the mop head on the floor, and move it backward and forward
  4. Keep the mop head on the floor – do not raise it
  5. Move sideways, with the mop head still moving back and forth
  6. Overlap the area that you have just cleaned so no spots are missed
  7. When the opposite edge of the room is reached, back up, and start going sideways the way you came, creating a new row
  8. After a while, lift the mop head to check for accumulated dirt and hair
  9. Note where you are in the room
  10. Remove strips of dirt that accumulate around the edges by hand and dispose
  11. Clean the mop head by shaking the remaining debris in trash or outside
  12. Alternatively, you can run a vacuum attachment (without rollers) over the dry mop head
  13. If you are using a disposable pad that is too clogged with dirt that cannot be shaken out, remove, replace, and dispose of the old pad
  14. Return to the spot you stopped at, and continue, repeating the previous instructions until the room is complete.

A Dry Mop Explained

Dry mops are constructed much like all other mops, with a rotating or swivel head and a long handle, meant to be used in an upright position. Unique to the dry mop is the shape and construction of the head materials, as well as the handle.

Dry Mop Heads

Since it is meant to be used without any liquids or cleaners, the head of a dry mop is designed in such a what that it can gather as many particles as possible and hold onto them, such as in instances where you need to clean your pet’s urine from the floor. The form and/or material used for dry mops contains nooks and crannies that keep dust and dirt from escaping.

Fabric Dry Mop Heads 

One way it does this is by using long cotton strings woven loosely next to each other. The overlapping of these strings, combined with the loose weave, helps keep particles captured within the head. These are normally washable mop heads that are able to be reused about 100 times.

Another typical setup of a fabric dry mop head is one made with microfiber. This material has even smaller hooks that can capture microscopic particles down to the level of bacteria. Sometimes these heads are formed to look like strings or cut into strands, and sometimes they are just material stretched over a flat head.

Some heads use a combination of these two materials for the best of both worlds.

BISSELL mop being used for dry mopping

Disposable Dry Mop Pads

Some systems use a velcro attachment whereby you can quickly attach and remove disposable mop pads. These can come in handy for small rooms or a quick cleanup, but over time they tend to add up in cost compared to replaceable and washable dry mop heads.

Combination Wet/Dry Mops

Mostly seen in the systems with disposable pads, with some mops you can swap the type of cleaning material used between those meant for wet or dry mopping. Mops with replaceable stretch microfiber cleaning pads that wrap around a head can often be used to mop either wet or dry, but we would recommend you keep one pad for each.

Dry Mopping With an Extending Handle

Dry mops are also known as dust mops for a reason – they can be used to dust surfaces as well, not just for mopping the floor. Many times these surfaces, such as the high corners of ceilings, cannot be reached with normal cleaning tools.

Most dry mop handles can extend far beyond the reach of an everyday mop, sometimes up to 72”. This can help you reach and clean the tops of many ceiling surfaces, including a lot of vaulted ceilings.

Keeping this in mind, one of the features you will find will a lot of dry mops is the lightness of the whole unit. When it is meant to be held overhead for periods of time, you will not want a heavy wood or steel handle that will tire you out quickly.


Dry mopping can, and in most cases should, take the place of sweeping. Wet mopping is more effective than dry mopping at deep cleaning floors, but using a dry mop can extend the amount of time between mopping with cleansers.

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.