The Swiffer mops -– and other similar products inspired by the Swiffer -- have been all the rage in recent years, stealing the spotlight from those old-school sponge and strip mops.
These cleaners are known in the housewares industry as "quick cleaning mops." Their signature feature is the disposable cleaning pad that fits on the rectangular attachment at the bottom of the mop.
But this new breed of mops has spawned even more versions, including models from such brands as Bona, Rubbermaid and Libman that have attached canisters that hold cleaning solution. The myriad choices can make your head spin.
So how do these mops stack up when it comes to cleaning your floors? And how much money are you really shelling out to use them? Find out as we describe the variety of ways they work and offer tips to help you get your floors clean without being taken to the cleaners. The First Generation of Quick-Cleaning Mops
What put the Swiffer Sweeper mops on the map? Their convenience appeal and the no-mess factor. "They're just more convenient than a mop and bucket," Carolyn Forte, the director of the home appliances and cleaning products department of Good Housekeeping Research Institute, told WalletPop. With these mops, there's no cleaning solution to mix up in a bucket or dirty, wet mop head to deal with, Forte adds.
The Swiffer Sweeper purports to trap, lock and remove dirt and dust from virtually any home surface -- from wood to tile to vinyl floors -- with its dry cloths. A wet mopping cloth is then used to dissolve and remove any other dirt and grime.
The Original Swiffer Sweeper, which comes with just one mopping cloth, recently sold for $12.99 at a Bed Bath & Beyond store in New York City (prices will vary depending on where you live). Extra mopping clothes were priced at $4.99 for a box of 12.
The Glyder, Casabella's disposable cleaning system, works in much the same way as the Swiffer system. The biodegradable cloths work wet or dry to pick up dirt and dust and hold it until you throw the cloth away. But unlike the Swiffer, the $9.99 Glyder includes two built-in squeegees and a long pole designed to clean windows and large mirrored surfaces. You can get a pack of 16 cleaning cloths, to be used wet or dry, for about $9.99.
The difference between the Glyder and the Swiffer systems is that the Glyder can also be used with microfiber cloths or any standard dry or wet cloths sold by a variety of manufacturers.
Quick Mops With Built-In Compartments for Cleaning Solutions
The Swiffer WetJet is the next generation in the Swiffer product family. It includes a prefilled bottle of multipurpose cleaning solution (about 17 ounces) that's loaded into the dispenser compartment. Additional cleaning fluid -- made by Swiffer and sold separately -- costs $5.99
A disposable pad fits onto the bottom of the mop. Via a battery-operated switch on the handle, you spray solvent on the floor, then pass the mop over the sprayed area to clean up.
The Swiffer WetJet recently sold for $19.99 at the same Bed Bath & Beyond in New York City. It also includes one scrubbing strip, designed to tackle tough, dried-on spots and messes. Cleaning pad refills were priced at $6.99 for 12, and a four-pack of scrubbing head refills costs about $2. The mop also requires four AA batteries.
The Swiffer WetJet has been in a head-to-head competition with the Bona Hardwood Floor Mop since Bona released its competing product (which, at $39.99, is about double the cost of the Swiffer WetJet).
The Bona system includes a cartridge that holds 28.75 ounces of Bona's floor cleaner. Cleaning fluid refills cost $8.99 on Mybonahome.com. But Bona's distinguishing feature is its machine-washable cleaning pads, which are reusable up to 300 times, according to the company. And because the system dispenses cleaner with a trigger mechanism, there's no need for batteries. Replacement pads cost $7.99.
Going Head to Head on Value: Bona Vs. the Wet Jet
Yes, the Bona costs twice as much as the WetJet. But the Bona's machine-washable pad means you don't have to purchase disposable pads. That's an immediate savings of $7 (for a 12-pack) of your mopping costs.
What's more, unlike the Swiffer WetJet, the Bona doesn't need batteries, noted Forte. A four-pack of AA batteries, which you'll need for the Swiffer model, will cost you about $4.
One more strike against the Swiffer WetJet: According to FindAnyFloor.com, a flooring information website, it's difficult to regulate the amount of fluid that's sprayed from the mop, thereby wasting the solution. But with the Bona system, the mop's spring-activated trigger "sprayed the cleaning fluid evenly," the website noted. "Bona's spray pattern...and the fact that no batteries are used gave Bona the clear advantage over Swiffer," the site concluded.
Cost Comparison: Original Quick Mops Vs. Built-In Cleaning Compartment Models
The mops with cleaning solution dispensers are pricier than ones that use the wet cleaning pads. For instance, the original Swiffer Sweeper runs $12.99, while the newer Swiffer WetJet costs $19.99 and the Bona costs $39.99.
But the disposable pad models end up costing you a bundle, says Bob Shelton, a retail and consumer packaged goods consultant, and the former senior vice president and general manager of non-foods for Safeway.
If you mop once a week, you'll need more than 50 cloths for about a year's worth of mopping. Using Swiffer's mopping cloths, which cost about $4.99 for 12, as a gauge, you'll get approximately a year's worth of mopping from four boxes, which will set you back about $20. You'll quickly end up spending any money you saved by buying the cheaper systems.
Manufacturers call mops that require the wet cloths "value added" for a reason, Shelton explains. The replacement model is designed to generate more revenue for the manufacturer, he says, "and they're going to be less economical for the consumer in the long run."
The Newest Generation of Quick Mops
The latest version of these quick-cleaning mops eliminates the need to purchase both the disposable pads and brands' cleaning fluid.
Libman's Freedom Spray Mop comes with a detachable cleaning solution bottle and a removable deep-cleaning pad that's machine washable up to 50 times, the company says. It recently sold for $22.99 on Kmart.com. Refill pads cost $7.49 on Kmart.com.
Another option is the Rubbermaid Reveal Spray Mop, which also comes with a reusable microfiber pad and a refillable spray bottle that allows moppers to use the cleaner of their choice. On Rubbermaid.com, the mop, spray bottle and wet mopping pad recently sold for $29.99. The reusable microfiber pad can be washed up to 100 times, according to the company. A single replacement pad costs between $5 and $6.
And the Most Cost Effective Quick Mop Is...
It comes as little surprise that the most recent iteration of quick mops is the most cost effective, experts say. That's because you're not required to buy any of the expensive add-on features, such as the cleaning solution or the wet cleaning cloths. "These additions drive up the price on a per-use basis," says Shelton.
In addition, the newer mops are designed to use generic, all-purpose cleaners as opposed to the older mops (the Swiffer WetJet and the Bona), which require cleaning fluids that are designed for use with those mops only. The all-purpose cleaners tend to be less expensive and can be used for all types of cleaning tasks, Forte says.
For instance, all-purpose cleaner Pine Sol costs about $2.50 for a 28-ounce bottle. By comparison, Bona's hardwood floor refill cartridge, filled with 28.75 ounces of cleaner, costs $8.99.
And the savings are even more pronounced when you include the dilution factor. For the mops that can be filled with the cleaner of your choice and can be diluted to the strength of your choice, you're getting a lot more bang for your buck, Shelton says. By using, say, just one capsule of your desired cleaning solution in one gallon of water, you're spending just pennies for a single mopping, explains Shelton.
By contrast, the mop manufacturers' instructions will guide consumers to use more cleaning solution than is necessary to get the job done. "The manufacturers are smart: They want you to under dilute," says Shelton.
Quick Mops Vs. Regular Mops
But how do these newfangled mops stack up against their old-school brothers? It turns out that good old-fashioned mop is the most cost effective way to go.
That's because, as a general proposition, the classic sponge mops and strip mops are built to last longer, Shelton says. "For a once-a-week-mopping, which is what most people do," says Shelton, your old-school mop will last you roughly two years or more. The life of a quick mop? Just about a year, he says.
If you don't want to deal with that messy mop and bucket, however, and you put a premium on convenience, opt for the quick mops that let you use your own cleaning solution and don't require the purchase of wet pads.