My mop bucket connects me to my childhood. For the bulk of his career, my dad Jim Bronner, younger son to Dr. Bronner, was a chemist and inventor, and at one point he was commissioned to create various floor care products. To test these out, he had all manner of floor cleaning tools, including this super industrial, blue, wheeled mop bucket that would look at home in a high school’s custodial closet. It’s bulky as all get out, but it reminds me of Dad, and the nostalgia makes it beautiful.
When it comes to cleaning hard floors, there are many methods that work equally well so long as the floors end up clean and free of residue. For the most part it comes down to personal preference. I recently did a reader poll on my Going Green Facebook page to get a sense of the prevailing mopping trends, and the responses were wide ranging: traditional mops and buckets, spray mops, spin mops, flathead mops, string mops, steam mops, and even a few motorized robot mops. Some even mentioned crocheting their own pads for the flathead mops, which is pretty next-level. I haven’t gotten to that point yet, but I do go for microfiber string mops and flathead pads I can wash and reuse. They’re super easy to throw in the washer with my load of cleaning cloths.
In my house, I have engineered tile in the highest traffic areas, engineered bamboo in the living rooms and office, and carpet in the bedrooms. Carpet cleaning is its own topic which I’ve covered elsewhere. For the tile and bamboo, I bring out the earlier-mentioned blue wheeled mop bucket. I use the microfiber string mop for the tile which does a great job getting in the uneven surfaces of the grout lines, and the flathead mop for the smooth bamboo floors.
Two Dr. Bronner’s products work excellently on hard floors, be they wood, laminate, vinyl, all manner of stone, or some engineered material. I don’t have a preference between these two when it comes to floors: the Pure-Castile Soap and the Sal Suds Biodegradable Cleaner. The differences between them are that the Castile is a soap and the Sal Suds is a detergent. For those of you who will ask, read about their differences here. Use whichever one you prefer. Note that Sal Suds is more concentrated and so you’ll need less of it.
Your choice of scent is where you can express yourself. Sal Suds is scented with essential spruce and fir needle oil. The Pure-Castile soaps come in eight scents. Combining the Tea Tree with the Eucalyptus Castile Soaps makes a convincingly clean smell, or you could opt for something soothing like Lavender, or even create your own by using the Unscented Castile Soap with your own essential oil blend or leave it scent-free.
Vacuum or sweep
The first step to cleaning hard floors is to get rid of loose debris with a good sweeping or vacuuming (without a beater brush). Then pick the following method that works best for you.
Feel free to double or triple this batch to fill your bucket as needed. Since I have a lot of floor to mop, I use a triple batch.
- 1 gallon (4 L) water
- 2 ½ Tbsp. (37.5 mL) Pure-Castile Soap OR 1 tsp. (5 mL) Sal Suds
- Optional: 20 drops of Tea Tree pure essential oil for some extra antibacterial power
Put the water in the bucket first so that when you add the soap, you don’t get an overflow of bubbles. (That’s my fancy tip for this recipe.) Submerge the mophead, whether it’s a string or flathead, and wring out until damp. Mop the floor. With this dilution, no rinsing should be necessary. However, if you see bubbles on the floor, go over it once again with plain water.
Squirt or spray bottle
For the squirt bottle, you can reuse a Dr. Bronner’s quart bottle, an athletic bottle with a push/pull lid, or you can refill the bottle that came with your spray mop. To remove the spray mop lid, first fill a small saucepan with 2-3” of water and bring it to a boil. Once it’s reached a boil, remove it from the burner. Taking care not to burn yourself, hold your empty spray mop bottle upside down in the water with the lid fully submerged for 90 seconds. Using a pot holder, give the lid a firm but short twist and the lid will pop off. Clean out the bottle with hot water and a few drops of Sal Suds or Castile Soap. Rinse.
- 1 quart (1 L) of water in a squirt bottle
- 2 tsp. (10 mL) Castile Soap OR 1/8 tsp. (.6 mL) Sal Suds
Combine this solution in your squirt or spray bottle. Dampen your mop with plain water. Squirt or spray the floor and mop over with the mop. Again, rinsing should not be needed, but if you see bubbles, go over the floor again with plain water.
Be sure not to leave any soapy residues on the floor. For one thing, they would make the floor incredibly slippery. Second, soap attracts and holds on to dirt, making your floors dirty faster. It is also very important not to leave standing water, which could warp wood or etch stone. If needed, absorb any excess water by pushing a dry towel over the floor with your mop handle.
Solving your mopping quandaries
Help! I spilled a large amount of Castile Soap or Sal Suds on the floor. I can’t get the bubbles/suds up. What do I do?
You could invite the neighbors over for a slip and slide bubble party, or to clean it up, absorb the liquid with a large towel. Then, if it’s soap, use the foam cutting power of alcohol. With a solution of 1 cup of isopropyl alcohol (70%) in a gallon of water, remop the floor. (Take care to have a window or door open to vent the room as alcohol is flammable.) If it’s Sal Suds you’ve spilled, do the same with a solution of 1 cup of vinegar in a gallon of water.
Help! I added vinegar to my Castile Soap mopping solution and now I have an oily goopy mess. How can I clean that up?
Is it safe to mop with Castile Soap or Sal Suds around cats and pets?
I have three cats and a dog myself, so this is certainly something I’ve thought about. The concern for cats in particular is that ingesting or absorbing pure essential oils can be harmful to their sensitive systems. However, in this situation, not only are the essential oils in both products a relatively small amount–less than 2%–but they are extremely diluted by the water in each of the recommended dilutions. Further, per the method above, there should not be soapy residues left on the floors. Residues are detrimental in many regards. If you have remaining concerns, use the Unscented Pure-Castile Soap which is free of essential oils.
I prefer to use the bar soaps. Is there a way to mop with them?
Yes! The Bar Castile Soap is just as versatile as its liquid counterpart, though it takes an extra step or two. For mopping, add 1 Tbsp. (15 mL) grated bar soap or ¼ c. (60 mL) soap cream to 1 gallon (4 L) hot water. Stir with the mop handle to dissolve. Soap Cream is a fun little GIY* that you can learn how to make from my article on the Bar Soap Cheat Sheet.
To wrap it up
Our floors are the single largest horizontal surface in our houses. Cleaning them is a quick route to making the whole place feel bright and cared for.