Floor scrubbers and polishers are rotary and orbital floor cleaning machines that clean or polish the floor using cleaning pad with or without cleaning agent or protective wax. Some models can be even used as rotary and orbital floor sanders, if appropriate pad is used.
Rotary vs Orbital Scrubbers and Polishers
There are basically two types of floor scrubbers and polishers - rotary and orbital floor machines.
Rotary floor machines use circular pad which rotates at certain speed and clean, scrub, polish or sand the floor. Speed of rotation depends on the scrub model, required work, floor type etc. and it ranges from just 2-3 rotations per second up to, or even more than 20-30 rotations per second (1200 - 1800 rpm).
Of course, floor cleaning machines for gentle and sensitive floors use soft cleaning pads, relatively low RPM, low pad's pressure and cleaning agent suitable for the floor type.
Orbital floor machines use circular or rectangular floor pads to clean, scrub, polish or even sand the floor. Floor pad is moved in every direction in small increments at high speeds.
Cleaning pad moving in all directions easily reaches and loosens the dirt and helps remove it. Also, using rectangular cleaning pads helps reach corners and other hard to reach areas, unlike circular pads which are unable to reach corners and similar areas.
Vacuuming Scrubbers and Polishers
One of the disadvantages of common scrubbers and polishers is that they require vacuuming to be done before actual polishing. Also, floor scrubbers remove plenty of the dirt from the floor, which is trapped in the pads, requiring pads to be occasionally replaced and washed.
To speed things up, certain models combine vacuum cleaner with rotary or orbital scrubber and polisher, all-in-one.
This is especially important if the floor machine is used as the floor sander - don't, but really don't even consider buying a floor sander which is not vacuum cleaner too!
For cleaning only purposes, vacuum cleaner combined with the scrubber/polisher can be very helpful, especially when cleaning and maintaining busy areas like small hotels, buildings, halls and similar areas. As the machine advances, vacuum cleaner, with the help of the scrubbing pad, removes the dirt off the floor, keeping the pad operational for longer period of time.
However, even such models require pads to replaced and washed from time to time.
Special category of carpet and hard floor deep vacuum cleaners/scrubbers use brushes of various designs in order to loosen the dirt in the floor and help remove it using suction with or without additional help of various cleaning agents.
Walk-Behind and Ride-On Floor Scrubbers
Walk-behind and ride-on floor scrubbers are large, wheeled, cleaning floor machines with wide cleaning track, capable of cleaning large areas rather quickly.
During operation, operator of walk-behind scrubber 'walks behind the scrubber', while the operator of the ride-on floor scrubber 'rides on the scrubber' - hence the names.
There are several things to consider, before buying walk-behind and/or ride-on floor scrubber:
- operator training - most of these units are rather simple to use, but in order to perform at required level, operator should familiarized him/herself with the operation of the unit.
- cleaning area - type of the area and surface area. If you have large hardwood floor area which can withstand 1000 pounds unit (scrubber, operator, cleaning water/liquid) and this type of cleaning, then you should consider ride-on scrubber as possible cleaning solution. If your floors are sensitive, such unit and such cleaning can damage it rather quickly.
- tank capacity - in gallons/liters. Some units have one water/cleaning liquid tank, while other units have two tanks or even three tanks: one for clean water or cleaning solution, second tank for dirty water and third tank for cleaning agent. Units with tank for cleaning agent enable operator to choose water/cleaning agent ratio during operation, depending on the situation. Units with dirty liquid tank remove dirty cleaning liquid almost entirely off the floor, leaving the floor practically dry or almost dry.
- noise levels - quiet floor scrubbers can be used for cleaning in educational facilities, noise-sensitive healthcare facilities, hotels and similar. Depending on the model, some floor scrubbers have special 'quiet mode', which enables them to operate quietly, sacrificing cleaning speed.
- cleaning track width - the wider the scrubbing deck and cleaning track, the larger the area that can be covered in single pass. Combined with scrubber speed, it can give pretty good estimate of the area which can be cleaned during, for example, one hour. This area also depends on the water tank size (larger the tank, less time lost for refills), maneuverability of the unit and power source.
- power source - walk-behind and ride-on floor scrubbers can be corded, cordless or combined. Corded floor scrubbers have long power cords in order to cover as large as possible area using single power outlet. Cordless floor scrubbers use deep-cycle, spill-proof, AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) or Gel Cell VRLA (Valve Regulated Lead Acid) SLA (Sealed Lead Acid) batteries (sorry for all the abbreviations, but they are commonly used to describe such batteries). For more on the batteries - check Vacuum Cleaner Battery Types article. Combined power means that scrubber can be used as corded and as cordless unit. During corded operation, power is drawn from the cable and is used for cleaning and for charging of the batteries. When used as cordless unit, batteries supply all the required power.
Good cordless/autonomous/battery operated walk-behind and rind-on scrubber can be fully recharged within 8-10 hours (over night, or during single shift) and can operate at least 2-4 hours on a single charge. Hint: since sealed VRLA batteries don't have memory effect and they don't tolerate full discharge, charge the unit whenever you stop for a refill or during the breaks. Even better, check the manual and follow manufacturer's recommendations.
Of course, there are many other things to consider when buying such units, so think twice before doing that. After all, they are not cheap - some units cost more than 15.000 dollars/euros and that is substantial investment.
Handheld Power Scrubbers
Handheld power scrubbers are small, battery operated scrubbers, suitable for cleaning smaller areas like tile grout in the kitchen, bathroom and similar places.
They are powered by rechargeable AA, AAA, 18650 or similar batteries. When not in use, batteries are charged separately, or the unit is placed on charging station, ready to be used when required - very similar to cordlesshandheld vacuum cleaners. In fact, some handheld vacuum cleaners even come with optional scrubbing cleaning attachment.
Some models combine scrubbing with vacuuming, while some models can be operated fully submerged.
Such units are small and rather cheap (below $50) and can come very handy.
If you have cordless drill, cordless screwdriver or similar power tool, instead of buying handheld power scrubber, you can buy just a scrub brush kit.
Carpet scrubbers are special type of floor scrubbers, optimized for cleaning the carpets. They can be used for dry carpet cleaning or for carpet shampooing. For more on these topics, please check Dry Carpet Cleaning - How to Dry Clean at Home and Carpet Shampooer articles.
Cleaning Pads and Surfaces
Cleaning pads rotate or oscillate on the floor and clean the surface. When the pads get dirty, they are replaced with the clean pads and washed.
Pads should be used according to the cleaned surface - there are different pads for sensitive food floors, hardwood floors, tiles, stone, marble, carpets etc. Some scrubbers even accept pads of floor sanding, but that is another story.
Scrubbers and polishers are very handy tools when trying to keep your home and other areas clean and pleasant to live in and be around. Just be sure to buy what you actually need.