by Rick Meehan, Marko Janitorial, www.MarkoInc.com
Mops and mop handles are the staple tools of the contract cleaning industry, yet many janitorial and maid folks do not know how to choose the right combination for a job. Strangely enough, as with most tools and equipment, the right mop can mean the difference between mediocre and great performance.
For this article I will use the terms for “mops” and “mop handles” fairly interchangeably to reduce confusion and verbiage. After all, it’s hard to use a mop head without a mop handle. Suffice it to say that getting the right combo can mean the difference between profitability and breakeven, backache and heartache.
Ergonomics is a big word that became trendy in the 1980s. I was enamored with the backless secretary chairs that came out. Hook your knees under the stirrup and sit comfortably straight for typing at a desk. What wasforgotten in the design was the need to rest periodically – slouch in your chair. You simply couldn’t, and forget extricating your legs in a hurry. You’d end up tumbling in the floor with the chair on top.
That’s the way it is with incorrect mops for the task too. Ergonomics actually translates into the ability to work longer with less strain. A properly matched mop-to-job ratio allows janitorial staff to work more efficiently without getting hurt.
Let’s break down the moving parts. A mop consists of a handle and a head. When choosing the right combo, several factors must be considered: Length – handles come in a variety from 54 to 64 inches. Width – handle frames come in widths of 6 to 7 inches. Diameter – handle diameter ranges from 1 to 1.25 inches. Weight – handles combined with heads can top out at about 5 dry pounds. Style – handle and head styles directly affect ergonomics and efficiency. The Person – the size and strength of the person using the mop determines the style of handle and mop head, not the job size.
While we have always been told that bigger is better, not so with mops. A custom fit is far more important than size. If you wear out the janitor, work stops; therefore, it is always best to fit the mopping equipment to the person.
Let’s begin a custom fit by considering handle length. The rule of thumb is this: if the person is 5.5 feet or less in height, choose a handle of less the 60 inches long; if the person is greater than 5.5 feet tall, choose a handle longer than 60 inches. When the mop hits the floor, as shown in the picture at right, there should be approximately a 45 degree angle formed by the handle, the floor, and the janitor’s body.
Next, the size of the mop head itself is a weight issue. While my next article will discuss the materials used to make mops, in general it is
a good idea to use a lighter mop head for a smaller person and conversely a heavier mop head for a larger person. A 12-ounce rayon mop head together with a 54” tall handle only weighs about 1.5 pounds dry. Once wet, the weight increases to about 2 pounds. A 32 ounce cotton mop head together with a 64” tall handle weighs about 3 pounds dry and 7 pounds wet. Placing a 7 pound combo in a 98 pound lady’s hands would be like hanging that much lead weight from her neck at the start of the job. By the time she finished mopping 1000 square feet, every muscle in her body would ache. Remember, she not only has to push the mop, but rinse and wring it out constantly in the mop bucket. Lifting, pulling, tugging – one can only get used to so much exercise. Lighten the load to 2 pounds and get twice the work done in less time before she poops out.
Handle thickness can cause issues too. The same small lady most likely has hands to match her stature, so a thick handle would mean that her grip would have to be stronger to control the extra weight. To prevent undue strain from an improper grip, tennis players have their rackets customized. The same principle should be applied to a mop handle. A proper diameter relieves pressure in the hands so a person may work longer with less fatigue.
The width of the mop frame at the end of the handle determines the size of mop head that will work well for that handle. If the frame is 5 inches wide and the mop head is 8 inches, there’s going to be some cramming going on. Generally, the width of the frame needs to be slightly wider than the mop head for easy installation and removal. This is just another little time factor that adds up toward less getting done on the job.
Another time eater is the ability (or lack thereof) to remove an old mop head quickly and easily. Handles are offered with a variety of framework choices: straight bar, swing-away bar, claw gripper, and threaded post.
The straight bar handle is the least expensive monetarily but most expensive time-wise. A string mop will most likely have to be cut away from the straight bar, while all other handle types allow for easy frame access. In order of speedy head replacement, the threaded post is quickest followed by the claw gripper, swingaway bar, with the straight bar in last place.
Consider the human factor too. A big mop is daunting to a small person; a small mop is frustrating to a large person. If a janitor is not very conscientious on the job, meaning he or she tends toward laziness, then choosing an incorrect mop may be a way of going slower, getting less done in the time allotted, or simply becoming fatigued faster so as to take a longer break. On the opposite end of the spectrum, someone wanting to get done quickly would be quite upset using a 6-inch-wide mop on a large area. They may never get done with the job! So remember, mop size must be matched to the person and the purpose, not the overall job size.
Get a handle on job costs by controlling the ergonomics behind simple mopping equipment. Prevent injury and undue fatigue by matching the right length, width, weight, diameter, and style of handle to the person slinging the mop. Next time I’ll address how to choose the right mop head for the job, but for now, access your handle situation and be prepared for the “wow” when the correct handle is put to use.