“Quarancleaning” became a major trend as the COVID-19 pandemic forced people to shelter in (and in many cases, work from) their homes. As stressed-out people traded “hacks” for keeping living spaces clean, mopping with powdered Tide became a sub-trend popularized by Instagram account @GoCleanCo:
Tide as a mopping solution swept (or mopped) a social media world that was newly obsessed with cleaning, and the practice spread more or less through evangelizing. @GoCleanCo’s “mopping with Tide” instructions actually came before the coronavirus pandemic that took over the world in early 2020, however, as evidenced by a November 2019 “how to” post shared by the account:
In that post, instructions advised readers to use a “spin mop” (Vileda brand in Canada, O’Cedar in the United States) to achieve sparkling floors:
Here is your chance to role with the cool kids while your house shines like the top of the Chrysler Building.
Our recipe for clean floors:
1. @vileda.ca spin mop
2. 1 teaspoon of @tidelaundry detergent
3. Hot, HOT, HOT Water.
4. Pump the mop until it’s almost DRY (7-10 times) and then mop your little heart out.
5. Change water as needed, if you are a dirty bastard, you will need to mop 2-3 times to get the grime level back to normal living conditions.
That trajectory of posting and commentary also showed the account’s lockdown-related popularity spike. A February 11 2020 post celebrated @GoCleanCo reaching 10,000 followers with a giveaway; as of February 15 2021, @GoCleanCo had more than 1.7 million — and it was perhaps best-known for its advocacy of mopping or cleaning in general with powdered Tide laundry detergent.
GoCleanCo’s website (bleachpraylove.com) did not provide information on the origins of its popular method of mopping with Tide.
Tide’s Purported History as an All-Purpose Cleaner
In the above-linked Reddit r/cleaningtips thread, one user’s comment reflected a common theme in discourse about mopping with Tide — that the product was once marketed as an all-purpose cleaner, and mopping with Tide was a housecleaning hack known to grandparents:
Tide used to be more of an all-purpose cleaner but I wouldn’t try it on anything like that now.
That comment included what appeared to be a vintage advertisement for Tide detergent, recommending its use in dishwashers. A reverse image search did not return any other variations:
We did locate an unrelated listicle featuring purported Tide advertisements from the 1950s. Incidentally, those ads largely described Tide solely as a laundry detergent; they did not mention use of Tide for mopping or cleaning dishes. Only the image at the top (which did not look like an entire advertisement and lacked the text of the examples on the page) depicted a box which read “sparkling dishes … cleaner clothes.”
Likewise, an old box of Tide from the late 1960s uploaded to Flickr did not mention purposes other than washing clothes. An Etsy shop offering reproductions of mid-century advertisements also featured a purported Tide ad mentioning dishes, but its provenance was unknown.
An undated page on Dollar General’s website recommended using powdered Tide for mopping, but it did not attribute the tip to @GoCleanCo despite using the exact same method (spin mopping and ratios of water to Tide):
For hard floors of all types, use a spin mop. Just fill the bucket to the line with hot water and 1 teaspoon of Tide Powdered Laundry Detergent. Then, mop the areas of the floors you have already vacuumed. Remember to let it dry before you put the furniture back.
A March 2020 listicle by TheKitchn recommended mopping with liquid laundry detergent, but not powdered Tide specifically. An older page published at some point between 2010 and 2017 on Hunker.com advised mopping with “laundry detergent,” but recommended the use of liquid, not powder (and the use of a quarter cup versus a teaspoon):
A large bottle of liquid laundry detergent fulfills most of your cleaning needs. Its many uses include mopping your tile or vinyl floors. With two buckets, a mop, and a little elbow grease, even the worst spills are easily cleaned with only 1/4 cup of laundry detergent.
On April 15 2020, Calgary’s CTV News profiled GoCleanCo and spoke to director Sarah McAllister about the general newfound popularity of cleaning during lockdown. McAllister alluded to Tide outperforming other methods, but did not disclose how @GoCleanCo discovered Tide for mopping floors:
McAllister is a firm believer in the cleaning power of a simple concoction made up of hot water, bleach and Tide powdered laundry detergent.
The bleach kills bacteria and viruses, while the Tide pulls dirt out.
“That stuff can clean a bathtub, it can clean a shower, it can clean a wall, it can clean countertops, it cleans floors — it’s the best floor cleaner we’ve ever used,” she said.
@Tide Has Largely Skirted The Issue
If Tide was once marketed as “more of an all purpose cleaner,” the operators of Tide’s social media presence were either unaware of it or unable to endorse mopping with Tide powder.
One of the only times @Tide acknowledged the virally popular practice was in a response tweet on July 25 2020:
Twitter user @JWiggs87 (Jenna Wiggins) tagged Tide and tweeted:
I just bought a spin mop and cleaned my floors and then basically entire bathroom and kitchen with powdered @tide and hot water (+bleach on a few germy areas) and I am in heaven!! So clean and the smell is a dream. So, I’m a person who enjoys cleaning floors now #Swoon
In response, @Tide said in part:
We’re so happy we’ve got you swooning [emoji] But we want to mention that we’ve never tested Tide Powdered detergent for use on the floors, so we can’t recommend it. Thank you for being a Fan.
A search for “mopping” on Tide.com primarily returned incidental laundry-related uses, as well as primarily reviews from individuals mentioning the practice:
I use it to mop daily in a house with terrazzo floors. When you care for others as much as I do, Tide Free and Gentle is a workhorse friend, and a good value, …
However, review site Influenster.com maintained a listing for “Tide Box Floor and All-Purpose Cleaner,” with reviews dating back to August 2017. A September 2017 review mentioned foodservice usage of Tide to mop floors:
I started using these floors packets managing a restaurant and fell in love with them. They smell AMAZINGGGGGGG and manage to clean heavy soiled dirt and messes! I always keep some in my cabinet for deep cleaning my floors!
Even further back (in September 2008), a user on the ThriftyFun forums indicated their spouse also discovered the practice of mopping with Tide powder while working at a restaurant, hinting at a broader and long-standing industry practice brought home by some workers:
Use your Tide the next time you mop your floor instead of “special” soap for your floor. My husband worked at a fast food place for over 10 years and they used Tide w/Bleach to clean their floors. It’s an excellent cleaner and degreaser and it will make your whole house smell fresh.
@GoCleanCo’s “recipe for clean floors” effectively involved three components:
- The use of a “spin mop”;
- “Hot, HOT, HOT Water,” and;
- Tide detergent, in powder format.
When the method exploded in popularity, a number of popular mops had a flat head with disposable or reusable flat pad –such as the “Swiffer WetJet.” Mopping with a wet pad contrasted with using a mop and bucket suggested different processes — the “Swiffer” or reusable flat mop method was closer to wiping down a surface, whereas mopping with a solution and wringing out a mop involved more agitation.
@GoCleanCo also advised replenishing water as it became dirty, whereas Swiffer-style mopping entailed replacing a pad and discarding or washing it without adjusting the solution to match the level of soil present on floors. The Tide mopping method also specifically called for the use of very little Tide, water, and optional bleach solution — picking up dirt and mopping until the water was no longer “dirty.”
A MarthaStewart.com entry, titled “Mopping Basics That Everyone Needs to Know” and updated in February 2020, advised readers to first sweep or vacuum, and described the ideal process for mopping. (Similar tutorials for mopping like professional cleaners recommended the use of a bucket of solution and a string mop.) The site recommended a “small amount” of cleaning solution to avoid residue and emphasized well-wrung mop heads to prevent spreading dirt around floors:
Fill a bucket with warm water (unless your floors are waxed; in this case, you should use tepid water) and a small amount of cleaner—generally, a squirt or two is sufficient. Using too much can leave behind a residue, which will make floors look dull.
Start in the corner farthest from the entrance and work your way backwards, towards the door. Keep the bucket on an unwashed portion of the floor. Immerse the mop in the bucket, remove it, and wring it out well. No floor benefits from copious amounts of water, which can seep between cracks and under baseboards, causing serious damage. A mop that’s too wet will also merely swish the dirt around, instead of lifting it off the floor—and will leave water marks as it dries. You’ll know you’ve wrung the mop sufficiently if the mopped areas dry almost immediately.
In other mopping tutorials (such as a late 2020 Reader’s Digest article about Swiffer-style mops), cleaning professionals routinely described their mechanism as ineffective for routine floor cleaning:
Plus, it might not be the most effective option, says Amanda Weatherholt, crew leader with Housekeeping Associates of Ann Arbor, Michigan. “The Wet Jet leaves the floor streaky and just moves the dirt around—it does not clean the floor,” she says.
“Swiffer Wet Jet is a very poor choice,” says Dean Davies, cleaning and maintenance supervisor for U.K. home service company Fantastic Services. “It takes a lot more effort to scrub tough spots, and it won’t be as effective as the regular mop.” What’s more, says Davies, you will need at least four pads to clean a regular-sized kitchen. “It’s an environmental and economic disaster!” he says. “And the floor can end up sticky and even dirtier because their cleaning solvent tends to dry very fast, leaving a sticky residue if not cleaned fast and well.”
In addition to the somewhat novel application of Tide laundry powder for mopping, @GoCleanCo further recommended a specific product (the Vileda or O’Cedar spin mop, or spin mops in general) to clean floors. In doing so, it was likely people following the advice switched from popular flat mop systems to one which happened to inherently encompass all the steps and pieces of advice proffered by professional cleaners — using a small amount of cleaning solution, wringing clean mops before mopping, rinsing and wringing mops after several “passes,” and replenishing the water and cleaner solution as it became dirty.
By recommending the spin mop style of mop, @GoCleanCo directed followers to a product that executed all the steps used by professionals — inadvertently demonstrating the difference between mopping methods. Simply following the instructions would likely produce cleaner floors regardless; that said, we have tested the use of laundry detergent for mopping laminate floors, and found that this method cleans floors extremely well.
The popularity of @GoCleanCo as well as more time spent in the home thanks to measures to slow or end the COVID-19 pandemic led to a viral trend involving the use of Tide powder and spin mops to clean floors. Readers sometimes claimed that Tide was initially marketed as an all-purpose cleaner, but we only located advertisements mentioning laundry (primarily) and dishwashing (infrequently). Tide’s official @Tide account acknowledged Tide mopping at least once and did not discourage the practice, but said the company had not tested the product on floors; we were able to find a powdered commercial version of Tide marketed for floors. Finally, at least two pre-2020 internet commenters recommended Tide for cleaning floors, both attributing the practice to commercial cleaning routines in restaurants or fast food establishments. Although “quarancleaning” participants praised Tide for its ability to get floors cleaner, the incidental introduction and usage of spin mops likely contributed to the cleaner floors overall.