Stains, Mopping, Wiping, Ironing, Cleaning/steam cleaning


QUESTION: Hi.  I'm not sure if you can answer this or not, but I have a question about steam cleaning.  I see advertisements for steam mops that are supposed to clean and sanitize floors with just water, but do they really work?  To me, it sounds like taking a hot shower with no soap.  Thanks

ANSWER: You are right, while some residues will rinse off with just water you cannot clean other types of every day residue unless you use a surfactant (detergent). Surfactants encapsulate residue and is what allows dirt to be rinsed away. This is especially true of grease and other most non water soluble residues. While hot water will sanitize (kill germs) that is not the same as also rinsing away that residue. (Example: you can buy sanitized soil if you are a gardener). So to be really clean there needs to be a detergent. Also, to avoid streaks there needs to be some way to pick up the dirty water (vacuum or separate rinse bucket and rag).

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QUESTION: Is there really no way to clean residue and sanitize floors(wood and tile) without using a mop and bucket?  What about the Swiffer WetJet products?

The quick answer here is that one step cleaning methods usually end up spreading the dirt around because the floors are not properly rinsed.

Specifically. the steam will sanitize the floor but as I said will not remove certain residues so you need a detergent. I believe the Swiffer Wet Jet has a solution tank that holds a cleaning solution. You spray it on the floor and the attached pad is supposed to pick it up all in one step. While that might work in a limited area, according to what I have read from Swiffer the pad is supposed to be good for two rooms. If your floors are really in need of a cleaning then I doubt that one pad will clean two rooms without eventually spreading the dirt on the floor once the pad gets saturated with soil. So you can either change pads more frequently (you will have to turn it over to see how dirty it is getting) or use something else to rinse the floor of the dirty water. The best way is to rinse separately. It could be as simple as using a separate sponge mop rinsed in a clean bucket of water  (be sure to change the water as needed) or run the sponge mop under the tap. Vacuuming it up is better than no rinsing but since the vacuum will not pick up 100% of the dirty water you may still get some spotting/streaks.

One last caution: be careful using water on wood floors (Swiffer or mop) as wood can swell/split with excess moisture.  

Stains, Mopping, Wiping, Ironing, Cleaning

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R Adams


3m Certified carpet cleaning instructor can answer questions regarding spots/stains on carpet and other floor coverings and possible ways to remove same. Can also answer questions with regard to upholstery cleaning. I do not recommend specific name brands, companies or products.


10 years as a Former 3M Certified Carpet Cleaning Instructor. Certified flooring inspector for major mills 1985-present.

Floor Covering Inspector Training School; FCITS Floor Covering Inspection Technical Services; FITS Certified Claims Inspectors Association; CCIA

Hartford Courant

B.S. Chemistry 1971 A.S. Physical Science 1969 Armstrong Certified Installer 1972 3M Certified Carpet Cleaning Specialist 1976 FCITS Certified in Carpet and Hard Surface, Commercial and Residential

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