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What Is a Floor Burnisher?

By D. Grey
Updated May 17, 2024
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A floor burnisher is a device that cleans and polishes uncarpeted floors. This kind of appliance has a wide base that houses a burnishing pad that rotates at high speeds in order to clean the surface. It is pushed over marble, linoleum or hardwood — the kinds of surfaces that will not be damaged by the rotating pad — using a handle to guide it. Floor burnisher machines vary in size, from home sized units to large burnishers that use propane to power the motor and are suitable for industrial sized areas. These large floor burnisher appliances are commonly used in office buildings, supermarkets, hospitals, and school facilities.

The rotating pad on a floor burnisher usually spins at 1,500 to 3,500 times per minute, depending on the specifications of the unit. The faster the burnishing pad rotates, the faster the floor is cleaned. Since the surface can be cleaned faster with a floor burnisher than with a traditional floor buffer, the cleaning staff is freed for other tasks sooner. The larger versions of floor burnishers that are used in industrial settings can weigh 200 pounds (90 kg) or more. They often have powered wheels to assist the operator in moving the appliance.

Floor burnishers have a number of different power sources, including propane, battery, and corded electric floor burnishers. Each type has benefits and drawbacks and, so, are generally selected for the area that the unit will be used in. For example, a cordless floor burnisher may be a better solution than a corded electric burnisher for spaces that are larger than the cord or that lack electrical outlets. Additionally, some types of flooring can be damaged by burnishers that rotate too quickly, so users should match the correct type of burnisher to the flooring.

Certain preparations are needed before using a floor burnisher. Floors usually need to be mopped before the machine is used to limit abrasive elements that could damage the floor or the burnisher. The units also need to be properly maintained to avoid break downs and malfunctions which could damage the burnisher or the floor. All types of floor burnishers have replaceable parts, including the cleaning pad, that need to be replaced after repeated use.

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Discussion Comments

By Drentel — On Aug 23, 2014

@mobilian33 - I haven't used a floor burnisher, but I have spent more hours than I want to remember operating a floor buffer. My friend has a floor care company and one summer years ago, I helped him do the floors for all of the schools in our county. Anyone who has used a buffer for any length of time knows how they can wear on your body, especially your hands and arms. That was one of the longest summers of my life.

Anyway, back to your comment. As I said, I have not used a burnisher, but because the speed is so much greater, I think the attachments would not be compatible. If you put a regular buffer pad on a burnisher at that high speed then the machine would burn up the pad. I'm sure there would be other problems as well.

By mobilian33 — On Aug 23, 2014

The burnishers would save a lot of time, especially with a bigger floor space. Since they are so similar to the traditional buffer machines, I wonder if you could use the pads from an old buffer and attach it to the faster burnisher.

By Feryll — On Aug 22, 2014

I didn't rent a regular buffer to clean and refinish the old wood floors in our house because I was afraid I might damage the floor. I would definitely not want to use a floor burnisher as fast as this article says it rotates. I would probably eat through my entire floor before I learned how to operate the machine the right way so I wouldn't damage the floors.

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