Too many mops?

15th of September 2010

Flat mops, pocket mops, Kentucky mops – why are there so many different types of mop available for the simple task of floor cleaning? And with the advent of microfibre products, is there still a place for the traditional cotton mop? Ann Laffeaty finds out.

The mopping industry has been witnessing a microfibre revolution over recent years. Microfibre has been hailed as something of a miracle product since it can absorb several times its own weight in fluids and can also hold and trap dirt, which makes it an ideal material for mop heads.
But the traditional mop is alive and well and is still in use all over the world, according to manufacturers. And in any case microfibre does not solve every mopping problem, says Vermop’s product manager Petra Schmitt.

“If you are in a production hall or an assembly line, there may be oil spills or a lot of metal or dirt on the floor,” she said. “Here you would probably prefer not to use a material that is too expensive as you might need to throw it away.

“When there are chemicals or large quantities of water to clear up, too, you won’t use a microfibre mop because traditional cotton mops will absorb and release more of the water and the chemical.
“There is definitely a market for traditional mops because there are certain tasks where you need to use them and microfibre mops can’t be used on every floor.”

However Schmitt admits that the company has seen a decline in traditional products whereas microfibre alternatives have been on the up. “The reason for this could be that we as a company have always focused on microfibre mops,” she added.

Country divides

Vermop manufactures Kentucky mops plus a range of flat mops in microfibre, cotton and a polyester mix for both wet and dry mopping. According to Schmitt, the type of mop you use is likely to depend on the country you come from.

“There is a North-South divide, with Kentucky and traditional mops used more widely in Greece and other parts of southern Europe while microfibre flat mops tend to be used more in the North,” she said. “You won’t find cotton mops very often in Scandinavia, and Kentucky mops are not used much in Germany.”

She admitted the vast array of different mops on the market could be bewildering for customers. “Mops differ in many ways but customers don’t have to understand all the different types of mop – it’s our job to find the right mop for their needs,” she said.

CEO of Avet Roland Sacks agreed that the type of mop used varied from nation to nation. “Different countries have different needs,” he said. “Kentucky mops are used widely in the UK and Holland, for example, while cheaper versions with a single bucket and wringer tend to be used in Spain and Portugal. “In Switzerland, Scandinavia, Germany and Austria we virtually sell only flat mops.”

According to Sacks this division between the nations reflects the role that cleaning plays in each. “The choice of mop depends partly on how they train the cleaners in that country,” he said. “Kentucky mops are easy to handle and no instruction is needed on how to use them. Flat mops on the other hand are more accurate and precise and require the use of a more sophisticated cleaning technique.

“This is why they are widely in use in countries such as Germany, for example, where cleaning is very advanced and can be taken as a profession.”

Suited to different industries

According to Sacks, certain types of mop are also specifically suited to different industries. “Hospitals tend to use flat mops for hygiene reasons while Kentucky mops – which absorb a lot of liquid - are often used in mechanical plants where there are very oily floors,” he said. “And McDonald’s uses only Kentucky mops because that is the American way.”

He claims that the flat mop market is growing – but this is largely due to the advent of microfibre. “You can have flat mops in either microfibre or cotton/polyester and what we are finding is that people are leapfrogging over the traditional cotton and polyester mop and starting with the microfibre flat mop,” he said. “This is taking business away from traditional flat mops.”

However, he feels there will always be a place for traditional Kentucky and flat mops in the market. “If a manager has the right mop at the right price and it provides good performance while also reducing labour costs, he or she will give instructions for their staff to work with that mop alone,” he said.

“The market is quite stable and people will continue to use what they are comfortable with. People don’t change their habits easily, which makes it very difficult for us to move in on the competitors' field.”

Crisp Clean makes a range of tufted and microfibre flat mops as well as dust control mops. These come in various sizes and use different types of construction such as tufted and sew-on
loop varieties. Flat mops are the company’s best-seller according to international sales manager Judy Grundy.

“There has been an increase in the use of microfibre mops over the last few years and this has impacted on volumes of other mops. But there is likely to be a continued demand for all types of mops,” she said.

Stadsing export manager Henrik Stadsing disagrees. “I think traditional mops will die out,” he said. “In Scandinavia they only use microfibre mops and in Germany and Italy – where they still use traditional mops - customers are also changing more and more to microfibre.”

The company sells microfibre flat mops and traditional pocket mops made from a polyester and cotton mix. Stadsing agrees that traditional mops tended to be used more widely in southern Europe but feels this is partly due to cost.

“A lot of people would like to change to a microfibre system with Velcro fitting mop heads but they still have the old trolleys for Kentucky mops. With a microfibre and Velcro system you have to change all the trolleys over to this system which in a large hotel or hospital is costly thing to do.”

Unlike other mopping manufacturers he feels there are no areas in which traditional mops are required any longer. “There are now so many different types of microfibre flat mop with various membrane systems that some microfibre mops can now hold even more liquid than traditional mops,” he said.

IPC Ready Systems manufactures all types of mops but has focused increasingly on microfibre products over the past 10 years. President Michele Redi says: “Kentucky mops are the oldest mop available in the market; flat mops are the present and future and microfibre mops are the future.”

Regional choices

He also feels that a customer’s choice of mop tends to be regional. “We sell to around 70 countries in the world and every country has different systems and habits,” he said. “German customers for example prefer flat pockets mops while in France they go for flat mops with flaps while in Italy they prefer Kentucky mops, etc.”

He said customers do not always understand the difference between mop types and may choose the cheapest option regardless of quality, durability and the potential hygiene levels that can be achieved by the mop. However the advent of microfibre has led to a decline in the use of traditional mops, he says.

“More and more people are deciding to buy a microfibre mop rather than a normal cotton-polyester mop, but in some countries they are reluctant to change,” says Redi.

“There is still a market for traditional mops and in my opinion there always will be because
of factors such as price. Also, people need time to change from a system they have used for a
long time.”

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