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Five Types of Floor Cleaning Machines and Their Purpose

January 06, 2022 12:55 PM by Tennant Company

Posted in Cleaning Solutions Staffing & Personnel Best Practices

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Today, floor cleaning machines are more powerful and sophisticated than ever — empowering your cleaning team to achieve better results and improved cleaning efficiency while ensuring greater safety for both machine operators and facility users. But there’s no one-size-fits-all cleaning machine. The right machine for the job depends on the type of floor you’re cleaning, the types of soils you’re dealing with, the size of the space, the setup of your facility and more.

Here’s a quick guide to the basic types of floor cleaning machines — and when and where to use them:


Dirt and debris can accumulate quickly on floors of all types. Floor sweepers help you remove this dust, dirt and debris efficiently and effectively — on both hard and soft floors. From battery-powered walk-behind machines to industrial ride-on machines, sweepers can be used to keep carpeted and hard floors clean indoors — and to sweep sidewalks, walkways and even parking lots outdoors.


Frequent sweeping is great for removing dust and debris, but floor scrubbers are used to remove other soils that have built up or adhered to the hard surface. Scrubbers are almost always used indoors and only on hard flooring surfaces. Smaller walk-behind scrubbers are ideal for small spaces and tight areas, including bathroom stalls. Larger ride-on scrubbers can be used to clean much larger areas — up to tens of thousands of square feet.


Many hard flooring surfaces are designed to provide a high-shine finish that communicates clean at a glance. Floor burnishers bring out that shiny, lustrous finish. Burnishers are generally only used indoors and only on hard surfaces. Because every facility is unique, burnishers come in a variety of sizes, both walk-behind and ride-on options and power system configurations.


Cleaning carpet with a vacuum is likely the most familiar floor cleaning task for most individuals. But commercial grade vacuums deliver significantly enhanced performance and durability — and come in a variety of types to suit your need. Lightweight upright and backpack vacuums are highly mobile and maneuverable for stairways and small, tight spaces. There are two power source options, corded and battery. Battery vacuums increase productivity and help prevent trip and fall hazards. For larger lobbies, hallways or aisles, an upright vacuum — wide area, single- or dual-motor — delivers the simple usability and powerful performance you want. To manage small debris, spills, oily residues and even floods, you can use a wet-dry vacuum. Canister vacuums can clean hard and soft floors efficiently with their easy maneuverability. 

Carpet Extractors

Soft flooring surfaces like carpet can present additional cleaning challenges. Carpet extractors make it easy to keep carpet clean and dry with powerful soft-floor cleaning capabilities that can be deployed for regular, fast-drying interim cleaning in high-traffic areas — or spot-cleaning to address stains, spills and moisture that is tracked into the facility.

Specialty Cleaning Machines

No two facilities’ cleaning challenges are exactly alike. Fortunately, several types of specialty cleaning equipment can help tackle specific and unique floor cleaning demands. For tile flooring with grout lines, multi-surface cleaning machines provide adjustable-pressure jets to clean without damaging. And standalone industrial blower fans can quickly and effectively dry hard floors, carpet, and other wet surfaces

Machine Type Application Style Functionality
Sweeper Indoor & Outdoor Walk-Behind or Ride-On Sweeping up dirt and debris
Scrubber Indoor Walk-Behind or Ride-On Using water or cleaning solution to scrub dirt and other grime from hard flooring
Sweeper-Scrubber Indoor & Outdoor Ride-On Sweeping dust and debris; scrubbing dust, dirt, and grime
Burnisher Indoor Walk-Behind or Ride-On Achieve gloss-like results on hard flooring
Vacuum Indoor Upright, Canister, or Backpack Remove soils from carpeted surfaces
Carpet Extractor Indoor Walk-Behind or Ride-On Cleaning, stain removal, and drying of carpeted flooring
Specialty Cleaning Machines Indoor & Outdoor Walk-Behind Specialized floor cleaning and drying needs

Tennant can help you put the right machine to work in your facility

The summary above should get you started on choosing the right floor cleaning machine or machines for your facility’s needs. But you don’t have to tackle this challenge alone. Tennant’s experienced floor cleaning experts can help you identify the exact right machine for the job — including providing on-site consultation about your flooring types, soil challenges and other cleaning needs. With the full Tennant line of trusted and proven floor cleaning equipment, we can put the right cleaning machine to work to keep your floor confidently clean, dry and safe, day after day.


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