Mopping is simply no longer recommended for cleaning floors. While this may still be the most common way to clean hard-surface floors, enough reports have been published documenting the problems mopping causes that many administrators of daycare centers are starting to turn their backs on this old cleaning method.
In fact, if your daycare consulted with a healthcare expert, the expert might go as far as to say that particularly when it comes to the health of children, mopping a floor is the worst thing we can do.
So, why would someone in the healthcare industry advise against mopping floors? Very likely they have read studies, such as a very recent one published in the American Journal of Infection Control. *
In this study of 160 patient rooms, a Cleveland, Ohio research firm reported, 'we found that the floors in patient rooms were frequently contaminated with pathogens' and that 'contact with objects on floors frequently resulted in the transfer of pathogens to hands.' This is how cross-contamination and the spread of disease begins.
But, can we compare nursery room floors to patient room floors?
No, they are not the same, but nursery room floors, like all floors, do get contaminated. For instance, spills, dropped food, children getting sick or having 'accidents' on the floor, shoe bottoms collecting and then carrying outdoor contaminants on to the floor, can all cause a nursery room floor to become a depository for germs and bacteria. And cleaning them using mops can make the situation worse; here's why.
A 1971 study investigating microbial contamination on floors found that mopping floors can cause harmful pathogens to spread from one area of the floor to another. In other words, the cleaning tool we have traditionally used to clean and maintain floors is the same tool that is spreading disease.
A Closer Look at the Spread of Floor Pathogens
So, let's analyze how those researchers in the 1971 study came to this conclusion. They started by cleaning the floor with a clean mop and fresh cleaning solution. Then:
- As the mop was used, it collected soils and pathogens from the floor, which were absorbed into the mop.
- When the mop was wrung out and then dipped back in the cleaning solution, many of those soils and pathogens were placed in the cleaning solution.
- At this point, both the mop and the cleaning solution were contaminated.
- The mopping process continued; the mop steadily collected more contaminants as did the cleaning solution.
- A saturation point was reached; it was at this point that the mop began spreading pathogens to other areas of the floor instead of removing them.
- Once the contaminated mop was stored, bacteria growth continued because the mop was typically left to air dry or worse, left in the cleaning solution or a damp bucket.
We should add two more points. First, when the mop is used again, it will began spreading contaminants from the start, as soon as it is used.
Second, in a nursery room, children play on the floor. So, if pathogens are on the floor, they will collect on a child's hands, easily finding their way into the child's mouth, nose, and eyes.
We started this posting by writing, "mopping is simply no longer recommended for cleaning floors." Hopefully, you now understand why this is true.
*"Are hospital floors an underappreciated reservoir for transmission of healthcare-associated pathogens?' Published in the American Journal of Infection Control, March 1, 2017.
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.