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Which manual mop type is best?

We reveal the pros and cons of different mop types including spray mops, cotton mops, flat mops, spin mops and more.

mopping hardwood floor with regular string mop
Last updated: 24 June 2024


Checked for accuracy by our qualified fact-checkers and verifiers. Find out more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Need to know

  • We've compared different mop types to see how they work, how well they remove stains, and how long it takes for the floor to dry after mopping
  • Manual mops usually require more elbow grease than steam mops, but their simplicity and lower cost can be appealing
  • You only need hot water and a good mop to clean your floor

When it comes to keeping your floors sparkling clean, there's no end of gadgets to choose from.

CHOICE has reviewed steam mops, hard floor cleaners, liquid floor cleaners and robot vacuums that mop to see which ones actually work.

But what about the traditional, regular mops that have stood the test of time? These manual mops are a relatively cheap way of keeping on top of your household grime and there are many types available. 

To find out how well they all work, our tester, Matthew Tung, reviewed several mop types including spray mops, cotton mops, flat mops, spin mops, strip mops and squeeze mops. He assessed how easy they were to move around, how well they removed stains and how wet they left our floors. A readily-available model from each category was chosen to use for the comparison.

 These manual mops are a relatively cheap way of keeping on top of your household grime and there are many types available

When assessing stain removal, Matthew placed a teaspoon of jam onto a laminate floorboard and counted how many back-and-forth motions were required to remove it. He also timed how long it took for the floor to dry, while in a climate-controlled lab. It's worth noting that in general, manual mops require more elbow grease than steam mops to remove stains. 

We've mentioned the typical prices for these mops and their associated refills, and these may vary if you shop around.

All you need to mop the floor is hot water and a good mop. Although CHOICE tests liquid floor cleaning products designed to be used with mops and water, we don't actually recommend any, and in fact, we gave the entire category a Shonky Award in 2020.

spray mop

Spray mops have a small tank to spray small amounts of water or cleaning solution on to the floor.

Spray mop

Spray mops come with a reservoir for cleaning solution, and velcro-style hook and loop pads that stick onto the mop head. Simply press a trigger on the handle which will spray some of the solution onto the floor. You then mop over it with the pad, no water bucket required. They are fast, handy and best suited to "maintenance" cleans or picking up small spills immediately (before they go dry), like coffee or muddy footprints. They also require less water for cleaning, so will dry quickly.

Koh Spray Mop

The Koh Spray Mop comes with three green "rough" pads (for removing dirt), two blue "soft" pads (for polishing) and a mop brush for tougher stains. It weighs 900g.

What's good about it?

The mop pads can be washed by hand or machine-washed in warm water.

On the Koh Spray Mop, the tank was very easy to fill with cleaning solution and there was no problem attaching the mop pads to the mop head.

It can be used on a range of surfaces including timber, hybrid, tiles, vinyl and laminate.

What's bad about it?

This mop is expensive compared to other options, and although water can be used in the tank, the Koh cleaning solution costs $19.95 (you can read our review of the Koh Universal Cleaner to see if it's worth it).

The green pads, designed to lift and grip dirt, can also be difficult to move on the floor. 

How much is it?

The Koh Spray mop is $79.90, plus $19.95 for the Universal Solution.

How well does it remove stains?

In our test it took 18 strokes using the green mop and 20 strokes with the blue mop for us to remove the jam. The instructions only recommend spraying the area once, but for this tough stain we needed four or five sprays, and the area still felt sticky afterwards. The Koh did not seem ideal for removing jam.

string mop

The traditional cotton mop is cheap and simple to use.

Cotton mop

The traditional cotton mop uses a basic rod for the handle and a head made of absorbent cotton string. Sometimes the mop head is made with a cotton-polyester blend. The mop head screws on and off for machine-washing and easy replacement.

Before using a cotton mop, it's advisable to sweep or vacuum the floor in preparation. After soaking the mop in hot water, you'll need to wring it out, either by hand (not an easy process) or using a wringer or press bucket designed for the purpose (there are different styles available).

Some cotton mops come with a cone or sleeve that can go over the head to squeeze out excess water, meaning there's no need for a special bucket. Excess water is a trip hazard and will increase drying time, not to mention add to the weight of the mop, making it more cumbersome to use, so wringing the mop out is important.

Cotton mops are versatile and suitable for all kinds of hard surfaces, and their flexibility means they can get into various corners and crevices easily.

Sabco Premium Cotton Mop

This is a traditional-style cotton mop weighing 700g (including the handle) when dry. Comes ready to use.
What's good about it?

It's simple and cheap. Prepare a bucket with water and/or cleaning solution, rinse the mop head in the bucket, wring the wet mop head of excess water (either by hand or with a wringer bucket) and away you go. When finished, rinse and leave to dry.

Using the Sabco was very good effort-wise, although there is a bit of weight on the mop head.

What's bad about it?

The mop head is a bit big, some people may struggle to wring the mop head by hand.

Note that if you are using the same bucket, you will be re-using dirty water and wiping it around, so it's important to replace the dirty water in the bucket regularly, especially if the floor is dirty.

It also took a while for the floor to dry after mopping (almost 22 minutes).

How much is it?

The Sabco costs around $16 for the head and handle, and around $10 for refills, depending on the style.

How well does it remove stains?

It took around 18 back and forth strokes to remove the jam stain.

After rinsing the mop, a few more strokes removed the sticky residue on the floor board. 

squeeze mop

Sponge squeeze mops have refills that screw on to the head.

Squeeze mop

These mops consist of a thick rectangular sponge that attaches to the mop head (sizes will vary).

On the handle is a lever you pull that folds the sponge in half, squeezing out the excess water without you needing to touch the mop itself. To replace the mop once the sponge is worn out, unscrew the posts and attach a new one.

Oates Massive Four Post Squeeze Mop

This is a squeeze mop with a replaceable sponge mop head. Comes with one head and weighs 800g when dry.

What's good about it?

The Massive Squeeze Mop claims to be 100% natural sponge, and 30% wider than standard squeeze mops. There's an extra scourer strip at the end if you need to focus on tougher stains.

It was very easy to wring the sponge by pulling the lever and there was no problem moving it around the floor.

What's bad about it?

The handle felt a bit short for our tester and some bending was required when using both hands to mop.

Although we didn't test how easy the sponge was to clean, it needs to be rinsed with water and left to dry and is unsuitable for machine washing. The sponge will wear down after time.

It also took a while for the floor to dry after mopping.

How much is it?

We paid $28 for the mop which comes with one sponge. Refills cost $12.

How well does it remove stains?

Removing the jam stain took about 30 back-and-forth strokes, but it was easier to go over the stain compared with other mops.

A few more strokes after rinsing the mop removed most of the stickiness on the floor board. 

flat mop

Flat mops let you easily change a range of mop pads onto the cleaning head.

Flat mop

Flat mops let you attach a range of cleaning pads to its head, often using a velcro-style mechanism. The pads are commonly made of microfibre cloth for general cleaning, but you can also get abrasive ones suited to scrubbing or even single-use microfibre mop pads for public places like hospitals.

Like the spray mop, they don't require as much water or cleaning solution as a traditional cotton mop, and some of the pads can even be used dry for tasks such as sweeping, dusting, and collecting spills.

Oates Triple Action Flat Mop

This is a flat mop that lets you sweep, mop and dry using the various pads. It is supplied with an orange pad for sweeping and attracting dust through static charge, a microfibre mopping pad and five disposable pads for drying.

To use the mopping pad, you prepare a bucket with water or cleaning solution, rinse the mop pad in the bucket and wring it out before attaching it to the mop head.

What's good about it?

The unit feels light (it's 500g when dry), the handle is a good length, and the moveable head means it's easy to reach different areas and gaps. Attaching the hook and loop mop head was also rated as excellent.

The Oates Triple Action Flat Mop is also suitable for a range of surfaces including tiles and polished timber floors. The pads are machine washable.

What's bad about it?

It can be annoying to pull the pad off the head every time it needs rinsing and you'll need to find a storage place for the various mop heads it comes with. It also took a lot of effort to remove the dried-on jam stain; more than most.

How much is it?

The Oates Triple Action Flat Mop is $32 with the set of mop pads. A refill for the microfibre wet mop is $10, the sweep and dust refill is $13.50, and a pack of ten disposable refills is $8. 

How well does it remove stains?

While the unit was easy to move over the jam stain, it took double the effort compared to the cotton mop and spray mop; around 36 back and forth strokes to remove the stain and another few more were needed after rinsing the mop to remove the stickiness on the floor. 

spin mop

A spin mop is used with a special bucket equipped with a spinning wringer.

Spin mop

A spin mop is used with a special bucket equipped with a basket. You place the wet microfibre mop in the basket and press the foot pedal to activate a spinning motion which helps to wring out excess water. This eliminates the need for hand-wringing or pressing it through a wringer bucket. They often have separate dirty and clean water reservoirs to prevent having to reuse dirty water when tackling large areas.

Vileda Easy Wring Rinse Clean Spin Mop & Bucket System

This is a microfibre spin mop combined with a special bucket that comprises the spinning wringer basket, as well as dirty and clean water compartments. The pedal lets you spin the basket and mop to attain your desired level of mop wetness without having to hand-wring it.

To use it, fill the clean water chamber with water and/or cleaning solution and place it in the bucket. Rinse your mop in the clean water and wring it using the mop wringer basket on the side. The whole mop will spin with the wringer basket.

What's good about it?

Once you get used to the spinning mechanism, the process of using the mop and bucket feels easy. Moving the mop head on the floor was rated as very good. The mop heads are also conveniently machine washable and when dry, the mop only weighs 400g.

What's bad about it?

Stepping on the pedal too fast may cause the bucket to shake and the pedal itself felt a bit small and too high when we tried it out. The handle also felt a bit short. Sometimes the mop head's plastic cover could potentially make contact with the floor when in a forward-facing orientation, so some care is needed during use. It's also expensive compared to other options.

How much is it?

The whole Vileda Easy Wring Rinse Clean system including mop and bucket costs $79. A refill mop head is $14.50.

How well does it remove stains?
To remove the jam stain, we needed to perform around 20 back and forth strokes before rinsing the mop and continuing for a few more strokes to remove the sticky residue. 
cloth microfibre mop

Microfibre strip mops are a modern twist on the traditional cotton mop.

Microfibre strip mop

This is a different take on the traditional cotton mop that uses strips of microfibre as the mop head. These are absorbent and light, and can usually be machine washed. Some brands have associated wringer buckets.

Vileda Supermocio 3 Action

At just 400g when dry, this is one of the lighter mops we've looked at. It claims to be suitable for tiles, hardwood, vinyl and laminate. The head is made up of absorbent microfibre strips, a scourer for tougher stains and red 'dots' designed to pick up hair and crumbs.

What's good about it?

The Vileda Supermocio feels light, easy to manouevre, with a good handle length. The mop head's size is good, and is not too difficult to wring. Plus, the mop heads are machine washable in a laundry bag.

What's bad about it?

It did take more effort to remove the tough jam stains than many other mops we tested.

How much is it?

It's $23 for the Viledia Supermocio 3 Action mop and $13.90 for the refills. You may need to purchase the additional wringer bucket ($23).

How well does it remove stains?

It took around 28 back-and-forth strokes to remove the jam stain, and some more strokes after rinsing to remove most of the stickiness on the floor board. 

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.