Kicking the bucket

15th of September 2017
Kicking the bucket

Early mopping systems used to consist of an unwieldy mop and a heavy metal bucket. How far has the cleaning industry moved on from those days asks Ann Laffeaty?

The clanking sound of a metal bucket used to be the soundtrack to any cleaning operation. In fact the ubiquitous mop and bucket were the main tools of the floor-cleaning trade for years.

But this situation was less than ideal. Lugging a metal bucket around was hardly a sustainable activity since a full bucket can weigh up to 18 kilos. The action required when filling or emptying a
bucket also requires the cleaner to bend or squat, both actions that could lead to a strained back.

And there were other problems associated with the mop-and-bucket solution according to IPC’s tools division general manager Michele Redi. “Around 20 to 30 years ago, floor cleaning was one of the most tiring cleaning activities – one that took up a good part of every day,” he said. “Cleaners would use rags, mops and buckets which were usually heavy and not at all ergonomic – and this led to a great deal of back pain.

“And even worse was the inefficiency of the system. Even if the dirty water was often replaced, the same rags or mops were used each time. And with a single bucket there is nowhere to wring out the dirty water.”

This led to cleaners having to put their dirty mops into clean water, he said. “In the end they would simply be pushing dirty water around the floor rather than picking up the dirt and removing it.
Buckets had other potential health and safety issues besides causing stress to the cleaner’s back and shoulder muscles, according to Redi. “Moving buckets full of dirty water around can cause dangerous slips while the risk of contamination is always present,” he said.

Two sections

An early improvement was the bucket comprising two separate sections, says Redi. These provided a space for the dirty water to be wrung out without contaminating the clean water solution. “Microfibre mops have also become increasingly popular because they are ergonomic and lightweight,” he adds.

According to Redi the chief benefit of modern mopping systems is their portability. “Whether they are soaked in water for damp applications or used dry for dust mopping, you can now easily fit many mop heads on to a janitor cart,” he said.

IPC offers a Smart Disinfection System for instant mop impregnation. This has a dedicated control panel that allows the user to fine-dose the amount of cleaning product required. There is also a top-of-the-range version that enables the user to switch between different detergents and disinfectants. “Pre-impregnated mops turn the heaviest of floor cleaning operations into an easy activity,” said Redi.

New from IPC is the Triggy, a mop equipped with a tank that supplies detergent on demand. The system requires no bucket and no chemical bottles and the Triggy Detachable has a 500ml removable tank for fast operation.

The new generation of mops will improve productivity even further, says Redi. “IPC’s latest mops have electronic tags knitted into them that can be read using a radio-frequency identification system,” he said. “This enables the cleaner to keep a record of the number of mops that are being used. This technology can help to achieve considerable labour savings.”

Crisp Clean also offers a system that does away with the bucket. The patented Solo is said to ensure the right amount of solution is evenly distributed over the surface of each mop. “This controlled dosing system removes the need to carry around large buckets of cleaning solutions or wringers,” says international sales manager Judy Toes.

The company offers a range of floor cleaning solutions including single-bucket flat mopping products and multifunctional enclosed flat mopping and dosing systems. According to Toes, systems involving buckets and wringers will still be required in certain areas for the foreseeable future. “However it is the environment and hygiene requirements that determine the method of cleaning,” she said.

“Mopping systems need to be functional, hygienic, efficient, aesthetically pleasing and ergonomic in order to assist operators and improve productivity. The weight and manoeuvrability of the system, its height and size plus the height of the pushing handle are all key considerations during the design process.”

Size used to be everything in the mopping industry 30 years ago according to Filmop’s export area manager Paolo Scapinello. “Cleaning was based on the concept that the bigger the mop, the better you cleaned,” he said. “This is opposite to the modern principles of cleaning. Flat mopping was rare and the most important thing was to have a big mop combined with heavy water buckets.”

Heavy equipment

These systems had a significant effect on working conditions as well as on labour and health costs, he said. “The equipment was so heavy and unwieldy that accidents were frequent and productivity was hit due to tiredness and chronic muscle conditions,” he said. “Most cleaners spent eight hours a day carrying buckets containing more than 25 litres of water and kentucky mops that weighed more than half a kilo each.”

He says kentucky mops have gradually been replaced by microfibre flat mops that are more lightweight and offer better performance. “We are increasingly receiving requests for plastic materials that are lightweight but also strong and durable,” he said.

According to Scapinello, water buckets are being used much less extensively than in the past. “The aim is to produce more ergonomic handles and frames and to limit the amount of water in the buckets to no more than 15 litres,” he said.

Positive cost impact

“Modern flat mopping systems are more ergonomic which means they improve the operators’ quality of life and therefore have a positive impact on costs. They also remove the need for using the same water from one room to the next which reduces the risk of bacterial transmission.” Filmop offers various systems for soaking flat mops such as the Top-Down system, the Equodose dosing device and the new Sprinter handle tank.

Hygienteknik managing director Stefan Johansson confirms kentucky mops and buckets used to be the most common cleaning method 20 to 30 years ago. “There were a lot of non-ergonomic work positions and the mop and the water in the bucket quickly became dirty which meant they had to be changed many times,” he said. “It was an ineffective way to work compared with today’s methods.”
Hygienteknik has developed a spraying system that enables the cleaner to impregnate the mop directly on the trolley. “This removes the need for lifting buckets and you only use the amount of water and detergent required for each surface,” he explained.

Modern systems result in cleaner floors, less unnecessary wetting and time and money savings, he says. “And since water consumption is significantly decreased, today’s cleaning is also better for the environment.”

Many of us are still using the mop-and-bucket systems that we did 20 years ago according to Vileda’s floor cleaning business development director Steve Barber. “The 25-litre kentucky bucket on wheels is a perfect example,” he said. “There have been tweaks with the use of different yarns and the inclusion of microfibre but the fundamental principle of a geared press that you push downwards to wring out the fabric hasn’t changed.”

However these systems used to be particularly heavy in the past, he says. “A fully loaded cotton kentucky mop could weigh as much as 2.5kg so if you were using this for several hours there would be an obvious impact on muscle strain,” he said. “And a great deal of force was required to wring it out.”

He says today’s flat mopping systems such as Vileda’s UltraSpeed Pro incorporate lightweight mops and more efficient presses. “The growth in flat mop systems has revolutionised the mop-and-bucket market in terms of cleaning speed, performance and ergonomics,” says Barber.

UltraSpeed Pro is claimed to cover floors more efficiently and leave them dryer in order to reduce slip hazards and downtime. The weight of the combined mop, frame and handle is less than a kilogram while the design of the bucket and press incorporates a “piggy-back” second bucket. This is said to make it easy to switch from single to double-bucket cleaning.

Besides being more productive and ergonomic, modern systems also have more uses, says Barber. “Traditional mop-and-bucket systems were only suitable for mopping floors whereas systems such as the UltraSpeed Pro allow the operator to clean walls and staircases as well,” he said.

Another reason for the reduction in mop-and-bucket usage is due to the introduction of many new floor types, says Barber. “For example safety floors have always been an issue for mop and bucket systems so we have created a mop specially designed to scrub and clean these difficult areas,” he said.

Limited storage

Buckets are not generally the best option on sites with limited storage, according to Barber. “They are also inadvisable in the entrances to offices where dirty footprints need to be cleaned away quickly, or in shops where there is a risk of merchandise being damaged by water,” he said. Vileda offers the SprayPro Inox for this type of situation. This incorporates the cleaning solution inside the handle. “The SprayPro Inox removes the need for wringing out mops or filling or emptying heavy buckets,” he said.

New from Vileda is the UltraSpin Mini which is said to one of the first spin mopping systems on the professional market. “Mopping is always evolving,” said Barber. “I think everyone in the industry is excited about the way digital and the IoT can be linked to cleaning products and processes. In the next couple of years developments in these areas will bring major changes to the market, but the key is digitising those areas that bring benefits both to users and to site owners.”

So, is the industry planning to kick the bucket any time soon? IPC’s Michele Redi believes it has already done so - in some areas at least. “Buckets have undeniably become obsolete when it comes to the professional cleaning of large floors,” he said. “Today’s professionals use ergonomic, lightweight, super-equipped trolleys that house all the equipment they need.

Still being used

“But for relatively small surfaces, it is still fairly common to use traditional wringers and double buckets while string or Kentucky mops are still a good solution for ceramic tiles and corrugated floors because they absorb the water from between the tiles.”

Hygienteknik’s Stefan Johansson believes buckets will always be needed in some situations. “For example when there is a spill of a substance such as bodily fluids this will need to be removed straight away,” he said.

Paolo Scapinello concurs. “There is still a place for the traditional bucket in non-sensitive areas but the trend is to avoid buckets that are too heavy,” he said. “For example in Nordic countries it is already forbidden to lift buckets that are more than 20 litres.”

And Steve Barber adds: “There will always be a need for mop-and-bucket systems that use water -  but there is no need for that water to be heavy. A lightweight mop and an efficient press will allow you to clean the same floor using less water, making the whole system lighter.”


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