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Choosing Between Burnishers and Buffers

June 21, 2023 9:12 AM by Tennant Company

Posted in Cleaning Solutions

Choosing Between Burnishers and Buffers

To the untrained eye, a buffer and a burnisher look almost identical and perform similar jobs. In truth, the machines are very different and confusing the two could be disastrous for your floor care routine.

So, what is the difference between a buffer and a burnisher? Read on and we’ll take you through the differences as well as the various types of systems that are available from Tennant.

What is a floor buffer?

A buffer performs two primary functions: stripping and scrubbing hard floors to maintain a floor’s appearance. The machine is comprised of a motor and a large, round, pad driver that's attached to a handle.

A floor pad, oftentimes red in color, spins on the floor during operation. The pad must be periodically flipped/changed as it wears. To scrub the floor, the operator moves the buffer from side to side, which leads some people to call the machine a side-by-side. Other names for a buffer include floor machine, a swing machine, low speed or a stick machine.

Most buffers operate at relatively low speeds of 175 revolutions per minute. However, some buffers are available at speeds up to around 400 rpm (often called dual speed machines) and can offer a light shine to a floor.

A buffer results in a cleaner scrubbed appearance to a hard floor.

Tennant has two types of floor machines—a dual speed and a single speed. The FM-20-DS Dual Speed Floor Machine can polish, scrub and strip almost any floor, including uneven surfaces. This heavy-duty floor machine provides versatile cleaning power and chemical-free floor finish stripping. The FM-20-SS Single Speed Floor Machine polishes, scrubs and strips floors in a 20-inch path for smaller, more focused applications.

What is a burnisher?

Burnishers look similar to buffers, but they are a completely difference floor care system. What is the best rpm for buffing? Most spin at between 1,500 and 2,500 revolutions per minute. A burnisher has one primary function: to make hard floors extremely shiny, also known as the "wet look." Burnishers can be used after buffing a floor to produce the maximum amount of shine.

The operator moves a standard burnisher forward and backward, not side to side like a buffer. And since the motor spins the burnisher head much faster, floors can be polished to a high sheen. A “buffer” does not really polish a floor.

Some models, like Tennant's B10 Ride-On version or B5 / B7 Walk-Behind Burnisher models, are capable of polishing large amounts of square footage quickly. However, unlike a buffer, some dust may be generated during the burnishing process.

A dust-control model like the Tennant BR-2000-DC delivers outstanding shine while controlling dust. It polishes and dusts floors in a single step. The free-floating head contours to surfaces—even thresholds and other transitions between rooms and different floor types.

If dust isn’t a concern but price is, consider the Tennant BR-1600-NDR Floor Burnisher. It provides a high-gloss finish on solid surface floors and is made of a durable, corrosion-proof polyethylene construction.

What is better between floor buffers and floor burnishers?

Buffers and burnishers are each highly effective tools to include in floor cleaning routines. They are essential for keeping a facility’s hard floors always looking their best. Buffers and burnishers should both be key components of your hard floor care routine. Plus, if you select the right systems, they can make floor cleaning easier, less time consuming and potentially even reduce cleaning costs.

To improve your hard floor cleaning game with buffers and burnishers, contact your Tennant sales representative to learn more.


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