It has become common knowledge that mops and mop-and-bucket cleaning are not the healthiest ways to clean floors. Very simply, they spread almost as many germs as they pick up and there is very little the user can do about it.
But we should also note that mopping is not too healthy for our bodies either, especially when it comes to our backs. Some of the biggest health problems among cleaning professionals are what are termed repetitive motion injuries, or RMIs. As the name implies, these are injuries that occur as a result of repeating the same movement over and over again.
And the main cause of RMIs in the jansan industry is mopping. According to a University of California study, mopping is the second-leading cause of cleaning-related injuries (after trash handling) in our industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics adds that once a cleaning worker has suffered an RMI, especially to their back, the likelihood they will reinjure themselves is very high.
So why do mops and the mopping process cause so many RMIs? The following are the 10 most common reasons:
- Mops weigh about 16 to 24 ounces; when wet, mops weigh 3 to 5 pounds, sometimes more. The heavier the mop, the more effort required to use it.
- As the mop is used, especially if it is used to clean up spills, it can become another 1 to 3 pounds heavier.
- Mopping is slow. According to recent studies by the University of Hawaii, one worker should be able to mop 1,000 square feet in 30 minutes if there are no obstructions; if there are obstructions, the time jumps to 40 minutes or longer.
- Most workers are never taught how to use a mop correctly. Most people mop floors by reaching out from their bodies and arching their backs, putting their backs at risk for injury.
- The handle that attaches to the mop is typically five feet long. This one-size-fits-all handle does not work well for a very short or a very tall worker.
- Cleaning workers must bend over to wring the mop, often using considerable pressure to wring out gallons of soiled cleaning solutions.
- If a cleaning worker has injured their back, they will compensate by using their shoulders for mopping, which is one of the leading causes of shoulder injuries in our industry.
- A five-gallon mop bucket typically must be picked up after it is filled and again to be emptied. Five gallons of water weighs approximately 42 pounds. The mop bucket, depending on what it is made of, can add another 5 pounds or more.
- Mopping leaves the floor wet, and if used to clean a spill, may leave the floor “slick.” This represents a slip-and-fall hazard, a common cause of back injury in the industry.
- A heavily soiled floor may need to be mopped two or more times creating fatigue; the chances for a back injury increase with fatigue.
The best way to avoid all these problems is to automate the floor-mopping process. Kaivac’s OmniFlex cleaning systems use no mops in the cleaning process; the systems clean as effectively as a traditional autoscrubber, and they are three to four times faster than mopping. Save your back, and your bottom line, with better and faster cleaning technologies.
Robert Kravitz is a former building service contractor, having owned, operated, and then sold three contract cleaning companies in Northern California.
He is the author of two books about the industry and continues to be a frequent writer for the industry.
Robert is now president of AlturaSolutions Communications, which provides communications and marketing services for organizations in the professional cleaning and building industries.