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Gina Mace |

When you walk into a new business, retail joint, or office building; what’s the first thing you notice? Is it the cleanliness of the countertops? Is it the color temperature of the overhead lighting?

Here’s one thing you’ll notice if it hasn’t been cared for properly - the floors. Whether tiled, carpeted, or made of hardwood, floors that have not been cared for or properly maintained create a sense of general dinginess and disrepair.

Because of the impact that a clean floor has on the overall feel of a building or a business, maintaining their cleanliness and appearance takes on an important role. Fastidious business owners and conscientious janitorial crews work day in and day out maintaining the floors of businesses and other common spaces, often by the aid of specialized floor cleaners and  floor machines.

Don’t be fooled by the name, though: two floor machines can be as different from each other as you might imagine. These are some of the common forms of equipment used to keep floors around the country spotless.

Floor Scrubbers

One of the first forms of equipment to which the term floor machine may be applied is known as a floor scrubber. Floor scrubbers consist of a unit that rides on wheels and contains a floor cleaning solution as well as a form of vacuum. Towards the front of a floor scrubber machine, there will be an arrangement of spinning floor pads, discs, or brushes.

A floor scrubber, which is the iconic floor cleaning machine, can be worked back and forth over a floor. As it proceeds, it releases some cleaning solutions onto the floor. The pads or brushes at the front of the machine work this solution into the floor in order to dislodge dirt, oils, and other unsavory elements.

After the floor has been “scrubbed” in this manner, this type of floor machine will vacuum up any cleaning solution that remains on the surface of the floor, helping to dry it in the process.

More often than not, if you’ve ever seen one of those big cart-shaped devices with pads or brushes in the front at the bottom, you were looking at a floor scrubber. These machines are also often referred to as automatic floor scrubbers because they provide the ability to dispense and retrieve cleaning solutions in addition to the physical action of scrubbing the floor.

Floor Sweeper-Scrubbers

A type of floor machine that is superficially similar to a floor scrubber is known as a floor sweeper. Somewhat like a floor scrubber, floor sweepers often ride on wheels and have brushes at the front of them, near the outsides of their frames. These specialized brushes often whirl inward as the machine moves forward, directing dust, dirt, and other debris toward the center of the machine. Then, as the machine passes over them, it collects or vacuums up the debris to clear the floor. While they do gather physical debris, they do not apply cleaner to the floor and are only useful for clearing particulate matter from the ground.

However, there are some machines that are known as floor sweeper-scrubbers, which provide the benefits of both types of machines. A sweeper-scrubber, which may also be known as a combination machine, is able to dispense cleaning solution, gather dirt and dust with the aid of brushes, and vacuum both these and the spent floor cleaner up after scrubbing the floor.

Because many floor machines perform both functions of a scrubber and a sweeper, you may hear the term used interchangeably. However, there are some distinct nuances that exist between the two in terms of their components and functions.

Ride-On or Walk-Behind

Many floor scrubbers and combination machines are ride-on machines, which means that the vehicle powers not only the brushes, application, and removal of cleaner but also supplies drive to the wheels it rests on. These types of floor machines are suitable for covering very large areas where it would be impractical or inefficient to push a conventional walk-behind model.

On the other hand, walk-behind scrubber machines are typically smaller than ride-on models and are therefore easier to control and manipulate, especially in tight spaces. That makes walk-behind models more suitable for smaller spaces where the extra power and convenience of a ride-on model might actually prove burdensome.

Floor Buffers vs. Floor Burnishers

Floor cleaning and maintenance extends beyond the realm of the floor scrubber, especially if the floor surface is tiled or hardwood. For any floor finished with these materials, you may find yourself in need of a floor buffer or a floor burnisher.

Some floors are finished with wax or other composites that trap dirt and other debris. From time to time, these finishes need to be stripped and then reapplied to keep the floor looking and feeling clean. For these jobs, you’ll need a floor buffer.

A floor buffer is a specialized piece of equipment, also known as a rotary floor machine , that consists of a motor that sits on top of a pad or a brush that is in contact with the floor. These machines typically have wheels at the rear by which they can be guided, but since they sit on top of the rotating pad, they can typically be worked side to side.

Buffers, unlike the burnishers that we will address in a moment, often operate at low speeds. This makes them useful for clearing some floors of dirt, and depending on the type of pad or brush they use, for stripping old waxes and finishes. Some buffers also provide the ability to apply a cleaning solution or a new finish.

By a slight contrast, floor burnishers operate at speeds that are typically much higher than floor buffers. Because of this, they are sometimes known as high-speed floor buffers in order to differentiate them from the former item.

Floor burnishers can be used to apply a finish to the floor or to polish the finish that is already present on the floor (after it is cleaned, of course). Burnishers can be used to give a floor that “shiny” appearance; for this reason, burnishers are often used on tile, marble, and wood floors, along with other flooring media and synthetics. The key difference lies in the fact that burnishers are able to give the finished, polished look for floors so that they really shine.

Power: Propane vs. Electric

Generally speaking, and as might have been expected of the name, propane floor burnishers use propane as fuel for operation whereas electric (and battery-powered) burnishers use electricity for power.

What may not have been obvious is the fact that there are some generalities about these different types of floor burnishers that can help you make a purchase decision.

In general, battery-powered and electric burnishers lack the power of propane-powered burnishers and are very heavy. As a result of their weight, they cannot be easily moved when removed from power, when the power fails, or when the battery dies. Obviously, electrically powered burnishers need to be within reach of a power source in order to be used.

By contrast, most propane-operated floor burnishers are light and powerful and can be fairly easily moved even without power. In addition, they’re considered a green power source because the propane they use burns cleanly; it can also be easily carried around with you in case you run out of power while working on a floor.

Other than these generalities, the specifics of your work environment might make one or the other form of floor burnisher more suitable than the next. For that, you’ll need to consult the establishment for which you operate, although you can feel free to reach out to us for information on the strengths and weaknesses of the different types of burnishers.

Carpet Extractors

While we’re on the subject of floor cleaning, we’d like to address another form of “ floor machine ” that is known as a carpet extractor, since these pieces of equipment are highly useful for the purposes for which they were designed.

A carpet extractor is a machine that is specifically intended for the cleaning of carpets, which is evident from the name. They do this by applying a cleaning solution to the carpet over which they are run, sometimes working it into the fibers or weave. After the carpet has been irrigated with cleaner (and sometimes scrubbed) the extractor then uses suction to remove the dirty liquids, in which dirt and oils have become suspended.

In this way, carpet extractors and carpet cleaners are like floor scrubbers, but for carpeted floors.

Which Should You Choose?

For many janitorial crews, the question will not be one of “which” floor cleaner to choose, but which “ones.” The fact of the matter is that these machines often work in tandem to clean the floor and then polish it, and some of them perform more than one function while doing so. Keep in mind, in addition, that many venues contain rooms and spaces that are finished with a variety of different flooring, so one machine may not be able to clean and maintain all of them equally.

That being said, JaniSource is not just a provider of these vital machines. We’re also a consultative resource for our customers, and if you have any questions about the differences between these types of machines, or on the fine points of a specific model, get in touch with us and we’ll clear it up. You can direct any questions you have to 877-MOPHEAD - we’re waiting for your call!

Why Does It Matter?

In case you were wondering, keeping clean floors is not just a necessity. It impacts the experience of all who come through the doors of the building in question, from visitors to customers to business partners.

Regardless of the building in question, whether it’s a mall or a school, here are some reasons that keeping clean floors is not just a matter of course.

1.Create a good customer experience

For the purposes of this argument, we’ll refer to the customer experience as the experience of anyone that visits a building. Not all visitors are customers, necessarily, but all visitors to a building will be impacted in one way or another by the cleanliness of the floors.

Dirty floors let the imagination run wild and conjure up suspicions of other areas in which the building is lacking or falling behind. Plus, it’s just bad publicity and easy to circumvent, and clean floors will prevent it. Besides, clean floors give the impression that the rest of the building is well-kept.

2.Prevent trafficking dirt, debris, and pathogens

When the floors are dirty, the rest of the building gets dirty as well. Additionally, while carpeted floors can trap dirt and oil and make them more visible, all floors are susceptible to this. Once dirt gets introduced into the flooring, there’s nothing to stop it from spreading around the rest of the building - nothing, that is, except keeping the floors clean.

3.Maintain the value of your flooring

You might step on the floor constantly, but that doesn’t make the floor valueless. In fact, some stone tiles and hardwoods are not only monetarily expensive but also beautiful; that is when they have been well-kept.

Keeping hardwood and stone floors clean is instrumental in preserving their luster and maintaining the value of the location.

4.It’s a good safety practice

Finally, dirty floors can present a distinct safety hazard. Whether the floors are slick with oil or tracking dirt and mud becomes a matter of cleanliness, dirty floors diminish the quality of life for everyone. Fortunately, keeping clean floors can prevent this unfortunate circumstance entirely.

Now that you’ve parsed some of the fine details of the different types of commercial cleaning equipment out there, take a look through our floor machines and other products for floor cleaning and maintenance, which includes many floor care cleaners and treatments. If it brings any questions to mind, give us a call at 877-MOPHEAD and we’ll answer your questions!

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