The mop is a patented invention that is part of social history as well as the evolution of house wares. Thomas W. Steward, an African-American inventor, was awarded Patent Number 499,402 on June 13, 1893, for inventing the mop. His creation joined a long list of household equipment invented by African-Americans. The roster includes the eggbeater, yarn holder, ironing board, and bread-kneading machine. Steward's deck mop, made of yarn, quickly became well used for household and industrial cleaning. A wringing mechanism made the process of mopping and cleaning the mop easier and faster.
Another pair of inventors, brothers Peter and Thomas Vosbikian, fled Europe just before World War I and patented over 100 inventions in 30 years. In 1950, Peter Vosbikian developed a sponge mop that used a lever and flat strip of metal to press against the wet mop and squeeze it dry. This automatic mop eliminated the need to bend over and wring the mop repeatedly by hand. Its development was aided by the many technological improvements in the plastics industry that grew out of World War II and made absorbent plastic mop heads possible.
Other modifications have made mops even more adaptable to different cleaning chores. In 1999, Scotch Brite released a new wet mop made of natural cellulose and reinforced with internal polyester net. The cellulose does not leave lint like a cloth mop and absorbs 17 times its dry weight.
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Dust (dry) or wet mops consist of the same three basic parts: the mop head including a frame, a mechanical attachment (linking the head and handle) that may be fixed or may swivel, and the handle. The head of a dust mop is typically made of yarn consisting of natural or synthetic fibers like cotton or nylon. The yarn is attached to a carrier substrate, which is almost rigid and holds the shape of the mopping surface. The carrier substrate is fabric, vinyl, or molded plastic. Heads for wet mops are either made of loosely woven yarn or sponge. Like dry mops, the yarn for wet mops may be made of natural or synthetic materials. Sponge mops usually have rectangular heads made of a natural material like cellulose or a synthetic such as polyurethane foam.
The mechanical attachment fixes the mop head to the handle, but the attachment varies widely depending on the type, shape, and use of the mop. The mechanical attachment for a dust mop is made of steel wire, plated metal, or plastic that supports the shape of the head and carrier substrate. It also usually supports a swivel, also made of metal or plastic, that fastens to the frame and handle. Plastic is the most common material for mechanical attachments and swivels on household dust mops, and the plastic attachments are made of durable resins that are injection-molded.
The frame for the wet mop is also made of stamped metal. Steel is commonly used, but it is plated with zinc to protect it from water damage. The mop head does not swivel, but the mechanical attachment linking it to the handle may be a single plate, a double hinged plate that folds like a butterfly to squeeze the mop dry, or a roller mechanism that squeezes the head between two rollers. The mechanism is integrated into the frame along the major axis (the widest portion) of the sponge and has a lever that parallels the handle so the person operating the mop can activate the hinge to squeeze the mop without bending down. Attachments on wet mops also allow for removing and replacing the mop heads when they get dirty.
Handles for dust and wet mops are similar. Dust mops are made with tubular steel or wood handles. Sometimes fiberglass or aluminum is used, but these are less common and much more expensive. Historically, wood handles have also been used in making wet mops, but tubular steel coated with plastic or chrome-plated is the preferred material today.
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