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I'm not a native English speaker, but my wife is. She doesn't know either. I think I've heard people use words "rag" and "rubbish", but I'm not sure how precise and widespread this is. If this matters, I'm interested in the word one would put on a package in a supermarket rather than use in plain everyday speech.


After some trial and error I found this article on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Floorcloth which suggests "floorcloth". But when I search Google for images, all I find is sorts of carpets, and nothing about cleaning.

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    A cleaning cloth? A mop? A microfibre mop? Probably not rubbish. Not rug either, unless it wasn't kept as one any longer. A rag, perhaps. But rags tend to be old clothes - it sounds odd to buy a new rag. – Lawrence Nov 13 '17 at 8:38
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    @Lawrence ouch, I meant rag, not rug. That was a mistake. I'll fix the question. Also, I thought that the mop was the entire tool (that is a handle and a bar attached to it to fix the cloth on), I didn't know one could use that to mean just the cloth. – wvxvw Nov 13 '17 at 8:48
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    You can mop a floor with a mop, or you can mop a floor with a bucket and an old rag. Which are you referring to? Or both? – Arm the good guys in America Nov 13 '17 at 8:58
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    @Clare I didn't know there was a distinction :) My two native languages are Russian and Hebrew, and none of them has separate concepts for this. However, when you translate "mop" to either language it means different tools, the action performed is the same. – wvxvw Nov 13 '17 at 9:00
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    Yeah, depending on the type of mop, the thing you stick at the end of the mop is a mop cloth or a mop head. Google those two terms and you might get some packaging examples. Especially if you click on "shopping" when you search. Or on images. – Arm the good guys in America Nov 13 '17 at 9:16
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Hardware stores in the U.S. sell packages of "new rags." Not surprisingly, they are often named "bag-o-rags" or "box-o-rags." Colloquially, "rag" is what the majority of native English speakers would use to describe a "cloth used to mop the floor".

I'd never use "floorcloth" and wouldn't have thought of it in 1,000 years. When I first read the compound word in your question, "rug" was the first thing that came to mind. A rapid search on the internet confirms this perspective. It's the wrong rabbit to chase.

To my knowledge, there is no formal word for what you're looking for. Colloquially, you will hear:

  • Mop the floor with this rag.

  • Mop the floor with that cloth.

  • Mop the floor with a towel.

Therefore, I'm not surprised to find that Proctor and Gamble invented a brand name to take the place of these generally-negative words: Swiffer. The name, like aspirin, kleenex, xerox, and a host of other brand names, has become so commonly used that it is losing its brand status and becoming the defacto way of describing something-with-which-you-mop-the-floor-that-you-don't-want-to-call-a-rag.

However, if you tried to use it in a commercial context, I'd expect P&G to sue you for trademark infringement.

In a commercial context...

  • Mop cloth

  • Mopping towel

would do, especially since the context already exists with paper towels.

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    "Rag is what the majority of English speakers would use to describe the cloth used to mop the floor"? Not in the UK it isn't. It's a floorcloth. A rag here is a piece of scrap or waste fabric, usually with at least one fraying edge where the original garment or sheet has been torn (hence ragged). Rags are used for cleaning but, when used like that, are regarded as single-use and disposable, unlike a floorcloth. Obviously an example of two nations divided by a single language! – BoldBen Nov 13 '17 at 13:02
  • @BoldBen you've described the American version of rag also. A torn-up piece of clothing. We use 'em for all sorts of things, such as mopping the floor. – Arm the good guys in America Nov 13 '17 at 16:31
  • Isn't "swiffer" used for sweeping the dust off floors? Does one soak a "swiffer" in water and detergent to "wash" the floor, I think not. But in Italy, we have the brand Vileda, whereas mocio is the name of the broom with the strips of cloth bundled together. – Mari-Lou A Nov 13 '17 at 20:19
  • Aah, "swiffer" can be used both wet and dry. – Mari-Lou A Nov 13 '17 at 20:23
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    @Clare We use rags for all sorts of things as well. It's just that we don't call a cloth made specifically for a purpose (like a dishcloth, a duster or a floorcloth) a rag. JBH seems to do that. – BoldBen Nov 16 '17 at 10:25
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Cuban Mop Cloth

I think this is the description you are looking for. When you google Cuban Mop Cloth you see: enter image description here

and this is what you were looking for since this is what is used in Israel (where I come from too) I think that would be the word סְמַרטוּט or in more accurate and posh Hebrew סְחָבָה or even מַטלִית which are all shown when entering mop into google translate.

The general term is just mop which can be used as the whole tool but also just as part of it, to be more specific a mop cloth and a mop stick (I presume) are a mop but a mop cloth can also just be called a mop. Since this is confusing there are apparently many brand names which are used instead (e.g. swiffer sweeper) - like mentioned in JBH's answer.

It seems to me, there are many different ways of mopping the floor and some of them are more common in other countries than others - this is a whole topic for perhaps another question I'll try summing it up a little but it really should be done more extensively and probably on a more fitting website.

Some people use this kind of mop cloth (I have seen this a lot in Germany): ![enter image description here

whilst others use this kind:

enter image description here

The first has been referred to here as a mop cloth, floor cloth (or floorcloth) or rag(new rag) depending on where you come from this might sound weird, wrong or is just not really in use.

The second has been referred to here as a mop head or a dolly mop(the handle and mop-head together).

Many thanks to all of you who commented all the comments were very useful! especially @ArmthegoodguysinAmerica, @AndrewLeach and @Spagirl

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    Thank you for the mention. To be honest, the ones you are calling mop cloths or floor cloths may not even have a single common name in British English, being a somewhat novel product. The picture shows covers that fit proprietary folding mops. Internet searches variously call those ‘mop pads’, ‘mop refills’, ‘washable mop-heads’ and ‘replacement mop covers’. A ‘dolly mop’ would be the handle and mop-head together. The Cuban affair with a cloth a separate handle and bar construction is not at all familiar to me as a UK dweller. – Spagirl Mar 2 '20 at 10:18
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You are right an old pice of cloth is called rag

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  • add a reference to your answer please – lbf Jul 16 '18 at 13:22
  • I've no idea what anyone meant and how could it not be clear that neither cloth nor rag has to do with age, please?| – Robbie Goodwin Jul 17 '18 at 1:12
  • It seems none uses a unique product to clean; most people use the old, unusable ones to mop. (On a lighter note, cleaning is not such a serious thing it seems.) – Ram Pillai Mar 2 '20 at 9:54

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