The mop is one of those things that seem to do the job efficiently but don't.

I am referring to the ubiquitous sponge mop for cleaning the kitchen floor. In principle the design is rational. The mop handle is held at an angle to a full mechanical advantage for pushing with the full weight of the user's upper body. The wet sponge head scrubs the floor with such resistance as to remove the surface dirt. It is, in principle, an efficient use of effort. It is, therefore, believed to be labor saving. It is much easier on the back than getting on hands and knees to scrub.

I have used the mop for cleaning the kitchen floor a good number of years and still do occasionally. But I like scrubbing with my hands on the floor. I get the floor much cleaner that way; and I don't find the task any more strenuous than cleaning with the sponge mop.

There are, for me, three problems with the mop. First, It doesn't scrub well. The force applied on the handle is dissipated when it reaches the broad face of the sponge; and, moreover, the scrubbing motion is uniform over the area covered by the run of the sponge head. With a rag, either with both hands or even one, the pressure of the elbow grease is more fully used; and, instead of an even pressure, the force is applied more in the manner of scraping -- that is to say, we scrub. Secondly, the mechanism for wringing water out of the soaked sponge has never been as efficient as manual wringing of the the rag. Then, thirdly, the mop doesn't clean the corners and edges very well. In fact, the sponge head pushes the residual water into the baseboard area. Working with hands, edges are scrubbed, too, as clean as the open area of the floor.

Furthermore, from the standing position of pushing the mop stick, it is hard to see and verify, as I clean, how clean the mop actually cleaned the floor. Working with hands, I can see the dirt and stains better, and discern, too, those areas that needed extra scrubbing.

Scrub Mop was the name given to this kind of mop when it was first introduced in Sears and Roebuck Fall 1948 Catalogue -- so I was told oby Michael Williams, who wrote a paper on the subject in my course, Everyday Things. Before that the mop was a cotton rag type consisting of strands of cotton attached firmly to a stick. It is still in use today, not so much in homes but in institutional buildings. The way it worked was different The mop dipped in soap water was wrung and run on the floor back and forth, more coaxing the dirt off the surface than rubbing and scrubbing. It is less strenuous to work with, I think, than the scrub mop.

The advantage of the sponge mop seems to me a wishful thinking. Its appeal is the stand-up posture as opposed to the stoop of the hands-and-knees position. Stooping sounds lowly; and scrubbing on the knees is practiced by those considered backward or lowly. That's why it is disliked; and herein lies the commercial success of the sponge mop. I don't mind the lowly position myself. I do house cleaning in my privacy; I don't scrub the floor under the watchful eyes of unkind bystanders. Actually, I don't get down on my knees, either. I like my knees and want to protect them.; my skirts are short. So, I squat on the balls of my feet, and scrub. Getting up and down is an excellent lumbar exercise, too. True, I don't have a large kitchen; it is only about 90 square feet. Even adding two bathrooms to that, it is a manageable area to squat and scrub.

The dry mop with bristles that one pushes along the floor to collect dust and dirt, that is widely used in cleaning institutional lobbies -- that I find very efficient. I like it. The huge one that is almost as wide in its span as the length of the handle is magnificent. But I can't use it; it doesn't fit in my house. Maybe I should take up a janitorial position.

There is no Japanese word that corresponds to mop. It is used; but the dictiionary says: a long-handle rag or moppu.

T. Kaori Kitao, 30 August 1998

link to
The Seen as Text
Photo Album>

return to
Kaori's Webbsie