Floor scrubbers and polishers are rotary and orbital floor cleaning machines that clean or polish the floor using a cleaning pad with or without a cleaning agent or protective wax. Some models can be even used as rotary and orbital floor sanders if the appropriate pad is used. Today, we will discuss the main differences and similarities of these devices, to help you make the best choice for your home or business.
Do not forget to check out our complete guide on how vacuum cleaners and other cleaning machines work! Understanding the tech specs and features that you need in accordance with the type of machine you want and the budget you have set for such investment are the first steps towards a great choice!
Rotary vs. Orbital Floor Scrubbers and Polishers
There are basically two types of floor scrubbers and polishers – rotary and orbital floor machines. We will explain how each of them works, helping you make the better choice!
Rotary Floor Machines
They use a circular pad that 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
These devices use circular or rectangular floor pads to clean, scrub, polish, or even sand the floor. The floor pad is moved in every direction in small increments at high speeds.
The 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 the tech specs of a 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, a 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, the vacuum cleaner, with the help of the scrubbing pad, removes the dirt off the floor, keeping the pad operational for a longer period of time.
However, even such models require pads to replaced and washed from time to time.
A special category of carpet and hard floor deep vacuum cleaners/scrubbers use brushes of various designs in order to loosen the dirt on the floor and help remove it using suction with or without the additional help from 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 their 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 and we will lay them out for you right now.
The Operator’s Training
Most of these units are rather simple to use, but in order to perform at the required level, the operator should familiarize him/herself with the operation of the unit.
The Cleaning Area
The type of area and surface area matters a lot. If you have a large hardwood floor area that can withstand 1000 pounds unit (scrubber, operator, cleaning water/liquid) and this type of cleaning, then you should consider ride-on scrubber as a possible cleaning solution. If your floors are sensitive, such a unit and such cleaning can damage it rather quickly.
This is measured 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 a cleaning agent.
- Units with a tank for cleaning agents enable the operator to choose the 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.
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 a single pass. Combined with scrubber speed, it can give a 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), the maneuverability of the unit, and the power source.
The 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 areas using a 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 information on the batteries, we recommend you check our Vacuum Cleaner Battery Types article.
Combined power means that scrubber can be used as corded and as a 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 units, 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 (overnight, or during single shift) and can operate at least 2-4 hours on a single charge.
Since sealed VRLA batteries don’t have a 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 the 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 a 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 a charging station, ready to be used when required – very similar to cordless handheld 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 a cordless drill, cordless screwdriver, or similar power tool, instead of buying a handheld power scrubber, you can buy just a scrub brush kit.
Carpet scrubbers are special types 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 our guide on 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 clean pads and washed.
Pads should be used according to the cleaned surface. As you probably can figure out, 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.
Best Floor Scrubbers and Polishers: FAQs
Next in this guide, we want to answer some of the most frequently asked questions regarding floor scrubbers and polishers and also give you some product examples so you have some ideas about where to start.
1. Which is the best floor scrubbers and polishers and how to choose the best item for your needs?
The most relevant criteria to follow when you compare floor polishers with the intention of purchasing one are:
- Tank capacity;
- Accessories (brushes, pad, pad holder);
- Scrubber speed;
- Cleaning/polishing track;
- Cord length;
- Maintenance, etc.
Here are some of the best floor scrubbers and polishers on the market right now that deserve your attention. Keep in mind to read carefully the manufacturer’s specifications, users reviews, and other experts’ opinions before you purchase such machine for your home or business.
1. Bissell Spinwave, 2307 Cordless Hard Mop, Wood Floor Cleaner and Buffer
2. iNeibo Cordless Electric Adjustable Handle Polisher Scrubber for Hardwood Tile Marble
3. Gladwell Cordless Electric Mop, Spinner, Scrubber, Waxer, Polisher for Hard Wood, Tile, Vinyl, Marble, Laminate Floors
2. How do you clean tile floors that are really dirty?
Most experts recommend you clean your tile floors and surfaces regularly with the help of a regular vacuum cleaner. Sweeping and using a mop also helps. However, we recommend you take a look at our guide on best steam mops and steam vacuums, as such machines are some of the best allies you have when you need to sanitize tile floors that are really dirty.
3. What is the best solution for laminate floors?
When it comes to laminate floors – the most common type of flooring in most apartments and homes across the world, you may need not so much of a floor scrubber or polisher, as they may ruin laminate surfaces, but a stone, tile & laminate floor premium spray mop. If you don’t want to invest in such a mop, at least consider getting a cleaning solution capable of sanitizing and protecting sealed hard surface floors such as laminate, vinyl, no-wax linoleum, terrazzo, un-glazed tile (ceramic, Mexican Saltillo, quarry), stone, sealed porous marble, and more. Without a doubt, some of the best such products come from Bona. Let us tell you what we are talking about!
Bona Stone, Tile & Laminate Floor Premium Spray Mop
Bona Stone, Tile & Laminate Floor Cleaner 160 fl. oz
Floor Scrubbers and Polishers: Conclusion
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.
With a degree in engineering, Kathryn Hansen loves to write about how things work. Having her own dilemmas on how to pick the best vacuum cleaner for her large family (with a handful of furry four-legged members as well), Kathryn decided to help others in the same situation. After all, vacuum cleaners are critical to a healthy lifestyle and people have a hard time choosing the best one for their needs.