Making the right choice need not be a problem when selecting which buffing / polishing machine you need.
The main things to consider when choosing your new rotary buffer are the brush speed (rpm), the brush head size and the machine weight along the accessories most suitable for the cleaning task intended, including the correct choice of floor pad.
Slow speed (150rpm – 300 rpm)
Slower speed rotary buffers are best suited for wet scrubbing, floor stripping and for carpet shampooing.
The best guideline is that is the dirtier the floor, the need to perform a heavier / deeper clean means that you should use a slower speed machine. Lower speeds up to 300 rpm should be used for stripping floor polish, sanding wooden floors using a mesh screen and for heavy duty floor scrubbing.
High speed (300rpm – 450 rpm)
Higher speed machines are better for spray cleaning, buffing and polishing.
Around 300 rpm there is a transition between performing a scrubbing action on the floor and a floor polishing action. So a machine of between 300 and 450 rpm is ideal for spray cleaning, where you want a cleaning action on the floor but require a polished appearance upon completion.
It is recommended to use a neutral cleaner when spray cleaning a polished floor to avoid removing too much floor polish.
Ultra-High Speed UHS (1000rpm -1500+ rpm)
UHS machines are designed for high quality polishing of floors to leave a mirror-like reflective finish on the floor.
To produce a higher shine and more polished appearance on the floor, the higher the speed of the machine the better.
There is another transition at about 1000 – 1500 rpm where the high polishing action called burnishing takes over from a cleaning action. At these speeds the intention is to burnish the floor where you are aiming to leave a highly polished, near mirror like finish.
Smaller sized buffers are best suited for restricted or congested areas such as changing areas, toilets etc, whilst larger machines are better, and more productive, in more open spaces such as corridors, halls and large rooms.
Machines can vary in size dependent upon manufacturer and model type, with brush heads ranging from 10/11” (28cm) to 20” (50cm), and in some cases such as with certain propane powered and ride-on machines the brush head size can be even larger.
A heavier machine at a slower speed will apply a more assertive clean in a more concentrated area, making slow speed machines and darker coloured, more aggressive pads better for stripping old polish and for heavy duty scrubbing.
A higher speed machine will generate more heat, creating a better polymeric reaction to harden the floor polish and therefore leave a higher quality finish.
Ultra-High speed machines take this process to an even greater level leaving floors with superior mirror-like finishes.
Manufacturers such as Truvox, Victor and Numatic produce wide ranges of rotary buffer machines, some with the ability to add additional weight for heavy duty tasks and others that have a lower down force but much faster speed for producing a deep shine.
It is worth noting however that whilst some rotary buffer machines may feel heavy and in some cases do actually weigh a great deal, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the machine has a large amount of down force and is going to remove marks and dirt effectively.
Manufacturers engineer their products so that where a machine is designed to remove heavy marks and dirt, the weight of the machine is converted into down force over the pad to deliver maximum cleaning impact onto the floor. This philosophy has the added benefit of making heavy duty machines not only effective but also very light on the operator in use.
Rotary buffers can be used as machines only in conjunction with pad holders (drive boards) and suitable pads, or brushes depending upon floor type and cleaning method.
Additional accessories are usually available to enhance the machine performance.
One of the most important accessories when using a high speed machine for polishing is a vacuum attachment.
The dust generated by polishing a floor at high speed can be a hazard and it can be a serious problem in hospitals where even small amounts of germ laden dust can affect the well-being of patients. In computer rooms and other room environments where sensitive machinery is located, an otherwise dusty environment can lead to numerous and serious complications.
Collecting dust has the obvious benefits of lowering the risk of cross contamination and eliminating unsightly skirting edge discolouration as the dust is never allowed to build up.
When active vacuumation is used it eliminates the dust control mopping sequence before and after spray cleaning or buffing and it also reduces the regularity of shelf, counter, pipe-work and high level cleaning and extends the life of floor pads as the dust is taken directly into the vacuum bag and not absorbed by the pad.
For slower speed scrubbing machines, fitting a rotary buffer with a solution tank can reduce the cleaning time as it is not necessary to mop a floor before using a machine as the cleaning solution can be put straight on to the floor whilst the machine is in operation.
The same principle applies to fitting a spray kit attachment to a high speed machine for use when spray cleaning, as a suitable floor maintainer can be used, sprayed on to the floor and then buffed over by the machine in a single pass.
A full range of pad holders (drive boards) and brushes can be fitted to rotary machines to meet any floor cleaning task.
Bassine and Gumati brushes are suitable for polishing floors, whilst polypropylene brushes are suitable for scrubbing floors clean. Tynex brushes are coated polypropylene and are used for heavy duty scrubbing in tough environments.
Sanding screens are available for wooden floors whilst scarifying brushes and attachments are used for cleaning concrete.
Bonnet Mops can be used to effectively and quickly clean carpets or hard floors with very short drying times as they don’t leave much moisture on the floor.
Choice of Pads and Polish
When buffing or burnishing a floor the polish surface is abraded and heat is generated. The relative amount of each is determined by the pad and the equipment used.
Coarse pads (e.g. green, black) are very open and primarily abrade the polish, while softer pads (e.g. white, red) will have more surface area and will generate more heat. This heat will cause some movement of the thermoplastic components of the finish. The polish formulation will determine which type of pad and buffing equipment produce the best results.
Buffing with an overly aggressive pad can result in “micro scratches”, usually in a semicircular pattern. The end-user should evaluate a softer pad, and/or a lighter pressure setting on the machine.
Occasionally a polish will develop a buffing problem over time. This can be due to excessive use of a floor maintainer, or an aggressive detergent cleaner which alters the surface of the finish. Proper maintenance procedures which include following the manufacturer’s instructions will avoid this type of problem.
Black pads are aggressive, durable and consistent, for wet stripping applications.
Green pads are for heavy-duty wet scrubbing and remove the toughest scuff marks in heavily soiled traffic areas.
Blue pads for general duty scrubbing or heavy spray cleaning jobs.
Red Buffer pads are generally used where a high gloss finish is desired when dry or spray buffing. They can also be used for light cleaning applications.
White non-abrasive polishing/buffing pads, used dry or with a fine mist, to yield a mirror gloss shine.