Electric-Powered Floor Machines Date Back to the Early 1900s

Coincidentally, this was the same time vacuum cleaners were introduced that were light enough and inexpensive enough for professional cleaners to consider buying.

Pushing and Pulling

First Floor Machines Were Known as “Divided-Weight” Machines

With these machines, the bulk of the weight of the machine was on its rear wheels, which remained on the floor during operation.  The buffer rolled in a push-pull fashion over the floor for both scrubbing and polishing.

These Machines Used Brushes Made of Tampico and Bassine

Brushes made from vegetable fibers were used for centuries to scrub and polish floors.

Carnauba Wax was Used to Polish Floors

To polish floors, carnauba wax would be applied to the floor and polished by going back and forth over the floor with the buffer.  Divided-weight machines lacked sufficient speed, weight, and pressure over the brush to produce a high-gloss shine.

Centrifugal Force Dictated Ideal Rotational Speed of 175 RPM

The obvious benefit for the user was that these machines were easier and faster to use than polishing a floor by hand.  These early machines reached speeds of 175 rotations per minute (RPM), the speed often found on low speed floor machines (buffers) today.

Early tests indicated that speeds above 200 RPM caused the cleaning solution to spray from the brush because of centrifugal force.  The spray was marring customer walls and furniture, while the effectiveness of the scrubbing solution decreased as it was sprayed beyond the machine.

Swinging into the 1920s

It wasn’t long before manufacturers realized that more pressure on the brush increased the scrubbing and polishing action of the machine.  This led to the “swing” machine, which centered its weight over the brush while the rear wheels lifted from the floor during operation.

Getting Accustomed to Swing Machines Took Some Time

Often the cleaning professional’s first time on a swing buffer was more like riding a bull at a rodeo.  These machines seemed to have a mind of their own.  Because using the swing machine was a completely new technique, it was met with considerable reluctance.

Improved Floor Finishes Required Versatile Swing Machines

As new floor finishes were introduced, cleaning professionals realized that swing machines were necessary.  They also found that they could substantially improve worker productivity with the new swing machines—once workers got the hang of them.

Customer Demand More Floor Sheen

Variable Speed Swing Machines Introduced in the Late 1950s

Throughout the mid 1900s, floor chemical manufacturers were driving the need for faster and heavier floor machines that would work better with their new products.  By the late 1950s, equipment manufacturers began producing variable speed floor machines.  Operators could adjust these machines to rotate at 175 to 350 RPM, depending on their needs.

Floor Machines and Floor Finishes Continue to Evolve

New Polymer Technologies

Floor machines have evolved into quiet, smooth, dependable machines.  New polymer technologies have been created to produce higher quality floor finishes and floor machine pad technologies have greatly improved as well.  These advancements have made it possible to achieve a brilliant level of shine.

Wet Look Requires Regular Burnishing

It’s All About “Build”

To achieve a high level of shine, floors need to be properly scrubbed and coated with a high quality floor finish that is compatible with your flooring material.  The “wet look” that all businesses desire, can only be achieved by starting with 3-4 coats of floor finish and regular burnishing (high speed buffing).  Periodic deep scrubs and additional coats of finish will need to be applied to keep a good base (film) of floor finish, so buffing/burnishing can be done.

Why Buff or Burnish the Floors?

The friction caused by burnishing, heats the floor finish film and allows it to “melt” over the floor and re-bond when it cools.  This process also removes scuffs and ground-in soils and extends the life of the floor’s finish between re-coats.

Cleaning professionals and facility managers readily recognize the increased safety, appearance and overall savings of a regular buffing and burnishing program.

The Future May Be Cylindrical

While there will likely, always be a need for rotary floor machines, cylindrical machines are becoming the machine of the future.

Cylindrical floor care machines have counter-rotating brushes on each side and rotate at 1,000+ RPM at 3.5 psi (pounds per square inch).  This is five times the contact pressure provided by a rotary machine and works well in most floor care situations.

Contact us to discuss your situation.  We can help!